The Deadlifts of Success

by Nic Olson

My person has been threatened. By another person that is greater, more successful, wittier than I. I mean, a clever writer that also enjoys spending time on the floor? Goddamn. Talk about identity theft, man. If only I had been lucky enough to get a useless arts degree and have to move home to my parents’ farm, where hilarious, pathetic, obstacle-surpassing events could have occurred. I got dealt a shit hand in the world of semi-original writers of essays.

My roommate Bryce, the one who spends his days doing ‘dead-lifts’ (whatever the hell those are), weighing his turkey bacon, the household vegetable, down to the gram, and bench-pressing pizza pops, a very motivated and determined man, told me that the best thing we can all do is to give up. Several times in a day, even. If this is what a soon-to-be provincial record-holder says, then what on earth would an unmotivated wiener like me do? He would agree, of course.

Once we hit seven billion, I knew it was over. The chances of being an original, one-of-a-kind individual when there are that many people in the world are slim. Not-worth-putting-a-dollar-on-it slim. There is someone out there that looks a lot like you, only with smaller ears and a nicer gum line. There is someone out there with your exact mannerisms, only far easier to tolerate and definitely more charming. There is someone out there that wrote what you wrote only with bigger words, less swears and more marketable jokes. So you might as well give up. So says Bryce, my personal trainer in the game of life.

My dad gave me a copy of The Globe and Mail, “a newspaper with decent writing”, he said as he looked at the copy of the Leader Post in our mailbox. Compared to our local publications I would tend to agree with him. However, compared to real, actual, impartial, worthwhile writing, I would disagree. Regardless, there was a section on CanLit, he told me, and being a potential part of the CanLit scene, albeit an unestablished, unimportant, mostly inutile one, I figured I’d look it over. One of the ‘up-and-comers’ (a term I loathe) that the article mentioned, Iain Reid, author of ‘One Bird’s Choice‘, seemed like that one-or-two-out-of-seven-billion successful versions of myself. Published as opposed to self-published. Writing a second book in the shadow of success and already under contract, instead of writing a second book already planning on how much money I will lose in self-publishing again. Looking good with short hair instead of like a fresh-out-of-juvie gang member. And I guess I’m jealous. Of his accolades. Of his ability. Of his newspaper-worthiness.

But I don’t want to give up. I write because I enjoy it, at least that is I tell myself when I am editing/staring at the wall trying to distinguish between the off-putting odours arising from my body. I do it because, although I cannot make everything happen that I want to happen in life, despite what real life-coaches and the successful tell you, I can make it happen on paper. (Only the successful tell you that you can do anything you put your mind to, when I bet most of them just got really fucking lucky.) The day I discovered that writing can be absolutely anything, that it doesn’t have to be done to please a teacher, that it doesn’t have to be real, logical, simple, or formatted, was maybe the day that instead of giving up on writing, I gave up on writing for others.

And I’ve finally learned exactly what my life-teacher meant. That I should give up so much, that I give up on giving up. I’ve given up on mostly everything I’ve started, so why not try giving up on that. Goddamn Bryce, you genius.