Cary Tennis deserves a Pulitzer

I’ve referenced him before and I’m sure I will continue to do so – but, for those of you who don’t know him, Cary Tennis is the life advice columnist over at Salon. He writes eloquently about topics that are hard to even articulate or define, let alone give advice on.

A recent post highlights this perfectly, when a reader wrote in saying
“…I live in constant fear of the Void. Big term, yes, and one loaded with a lot of probably pretentious philosophical baggage…” It was a long letter, so if you’re interested, you can read it here, I fear the Void.

But for the sake of this post, I am most interested in Cary’s response, because I think it’s both applicable to life and writing.

“You can change the basis of your life from avoiding pain to seeking beauty. It’s just a heck of a lot more interesting that way. And if you’re not afraid of dying, then there’s really nothing standing in your way.

It really doesn’t make sense to be afraid of dying.

So I suggest that rather than try to find a life devoid of discomfort, embrace the discomfort. Let it be. Focus on the things that interest you. Allow yourself to feel bad. It won’t kill you. And life will be much more interesting.

Go have some experiences. Endure some discomfort. Get used to uncertainty. Change your principle from avoidance of discomfort to seeking of beauty.

Keep finding beauty. The beauty is worth the pain. There is much in life that can get you through the awfulness. Keep seeking it out. Find music and art and literature that will sustain you. The Void won’t go away. You have to keep filling it. But the more you fill it, the less of a void it is. One day, you may be able to completely avoid it.”

-Cary Tennis,, March 23rd, 2011

In terms of playwriting specifically, this post reminded me to write about situations that scare me, situations that are terrifying or that show human inconsistencies, because maybe that will help someone soothe the fear of the Void, and maybe even fill it a bit…

Seek beauty.


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