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Satisfaction -- Writer's Poke #119

For Writers:

"You're never satisfied," my wife tells me, and I know that she's right. But is that a bad thing? If I were easily satisfied, I might still be working in a factory, or I might still be an adjunct instructor in Illinois, or I might still be a full-time instructor in South Carolina. The point is, whenever I've felt unsatisfied, I've tried to do something about it.

But when do the feelings of dissatisfaction end? For some people, never. Some of us were raised to believe that "good" in the enemy of "great," and if we're not striving for perfection, then there's something wrong with us. This is a tough lesson to discard. And for me, just being satisfied with who I am and where I am in life is one of the most difficult problems I deal with on a daily basis.

Part of it is this: I don't want to live a "satisfactory" life. To me, that smacks of living a cliche. But how to avoid being trapped in the cliche is the rub. At 35, I have the wife, the kid, the mortgage. I have the career. And I've worked hard to get where I'm at. So why do I sometimes feel unsatisfied? Why do I feel such a strong urge to be different? To live a life unlike everyone else's my age? How can I avoid living through the regimented stages of an average existence?

Is there such thing as "age appropriate" satisfaction?

"As long as I have a want, I have a reason for living. Satisfaction is death." -- William Shakespeare


  1. Hi, Bret, the best thing I've ever read on satisfaction and dissatisfaction came from William Faulkner. It's something he had one of his character's say in As I Lay Dying. Tull I believe it was.

    Tull said something like this: You've got to a have a tight jar or you'll need a powerful spring, so if you have a big spring, why then you have the incentive to have tight, wellmade jars, because it is your milk, sour or not, becuase you would rather have milk that will sour than to have milk that won't, because you are a man.

    I'm not sure I understand everything Tull or Faulkner behind him is saying here, but I think I have the seed of it. Tull's saying that dissatisfaction is built into you like the longing to love someone.

    If you didn't have this dissatisfaction you'd have, as one of the other characters says, no reason to do anything, no reason to do good, or even die.

    Or as Tull says some where else: People "would risk the fire and the earth and the water and all just to eat a sack of bananas."


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