Earlier this year, I had to take a road trip for work to Richmond, VA, which is two hours away from my house. I was supposed to sing the national anthem at a semi-pro football game and then write about it for the website I usually write for, Deadspin
. That was the plan. Apart from me butchering the anthem and defecating myself at the idea of singing in front of a crowd, I expected it to go off well.
But it didn't. I got to the field and immediately God's wrath commanded the skies to open and unload a Pacific Ocean's worth of rain on the stadium. Lightning struck down all around us, and the game was delayed because you can't play football in lightning because that's dangerous, as opposed to playing football in normal conditions, which is PERFECTLY SAFE.
Once the lightning ended, game officials checked the weather reports and saw another storm system was bearing down on the area, so they needed to get the game played quickly, before they risked having to cancel it altogether. That meant no time for Mr. Dipsh*t Writer to go out and do the anthem for the sake of a vanity piece.
So, essentially, I drove four hours and stood around in the pouring rain for nothing. Which is mildly aggravating, except for this. I can still use that experience. Sure, it didn't work out the way I wanted to, but that happens all the time in life. I used to get pissed when things happened that were far out of my control, but I quickly came to realize that virtually all the experiences I have — good and bad — are useful to my particular job, which is to write stuff like books and blog posts and what not.
You need material to be creative. You need things like research and life experiences and opinions. Those are the scrap materials you use to write things, or to paint pictures, or to exploit whatever outlet suits you best. And so there's a certain comfort in knowing that, even when something lousy happens to you, there's still something to be salvaged from it. You could bitch about it online. You could write a song about it. You could make the bastard mechanic who screwed you over a character in your next screenplay that no one buys. Everything is useful, and once you understand that everything is useful, well then life gets a whole lot more tolerable. Sure, sitting in a rainstorm blows. But how does it blow? What makes it so blow-worthy? Suddenly, you're making the best out of bad situation.
And so I try to keep that in mind any time my world goes to crap, and perhaps it would serve you well too. Because while it sucks to pay $150 for that speeding ticket, your eventual hip hop song cursing out that officer by name will pay you back a hundredfold.