Dead Mentors: Franz Kafka — no explanations needed
The mythical suffering artist and which god your body is a temple to depends on lifestyle
The trouble is that the image of the lonely writer is a little bit of a lie. When we write, none of us write in isolation. Not quite. We’re all joining an active conversation as old as literacy itself. By having an opinion and putting it out there, you join the great big literary hive mind in the sky. We are the voice of humanity, and we speak all together.
Strange, but true.
I think of a handful of significant voices out there in the ether as my dead mentors. You probably have some too. I have a bunch of lessons that feel like I learned them from these people once when I ran into them fussing around with their notebook at a chintzy coffee shop once. The lessons feel that real to me.
Today’s dead mentor: Franz Kafka.
Here are several lessons I learned from him.
That whole suffering artist thing is self-imposed anyway.
Kafka sold insurance for a couple different companies in his life. This much is easy to confirm. Kafka spent a lot of energy complaining about how much his job interfered with his writing, which was apparently kind of lame because he had as much talent for wasting time as any other writer. He’d work twelve hours of the day, then dawdle around town, hanging out with friends and complaining about how awful it was to have such a dumb job getting in the way of his writing. Then he’d finally set down to write at 11:00pm.
I totally get ALL of that. I mean, it’s a huge part of my process to wander around and be alive out in the world, complain to people, and get coffee with my friends or, you know, not, as the muse dictates.
I’m having more trouble finding the quote I read once about this whole thing, because there was a specific quote that I repeat to myself. It was something like Kafka was grateful to have a job that wore him out physically but left his mind active for stories. I get that too.
He was ALSO a depressive person with mental issues who would have benefited from some therapy. But in his life as a writer, the…