Get Thee Behind Me

From the Peace Fountain (artist, Greg Wyatt) in the Children's Sculpture Garden-St John the Divine

From the Peace Fountain (artist, Greg Wyatt) in the Children’s Sculpture Garden-St John the Divine

And take hope with you, while you’re at it.

Why yes, I do kind of feel like the above. I mean, he’s just one piece of a sculpture representing the conflict between good and evil, but there he is, upside down–defeated.

My temptation?  Still dreaming of literary offers, believing it could happen. The American way, right? Don’t give-up, never accept defeat, blah blah blah.  If you work hard enough, success will come your way.  Except when it doesn’t, in which case you accept defeat gracefully, shake your opponent’s hand, and try harder next time. Otherwise, you’re a loser–capital L. A quitter.  Here’s where it gets tricky: because the general advice is never give up, unless you have delusions of grandeur.  In which case take your pill, and sob quietly by yourself in the corner.

In order to pursue any art form though, you kind of need those delusions, just to try. Just to have the big brass ones to say yes, others will want to see me perform, read my words, view my paintings, my photos, even pay a dollar to do so. If you’re a follower here, you know I’m trying to figure out where my line is, how to shift my goals and what they could/should be shifted towards, how to accept defeat with grace.  A downward mobility of expectations, if you will.

Because it has to be time. I can tell, because when I went to the store the other day, the young woman behind the counter gave me a great big smile when I got to the register, and announced it was “senior day.” That’s right, 20% off all purchases for seniors.  Hmmm.  40,000 years old and countless miles? Check. Senior citizen?  Nope. I wasn’t offended, probably because of my experience writing fiction. I’ve put a lot of time into thinking about perspective, point of view, who would notice what and who would think what, to have characters ring true.  18-20 year old woman?  Not seeing a whole lot of difference between 40,000 and 65, especially when the woman standing in front of her has hair that’s more salt than pepper, no makeup, and bags that store a ten year sleep deficit under her eyes.  So no. I wasn’t shocked by her assumption.  Besides, 20% off toilet paper that’s 40% overpriced.  Thank you dear, now get off my lawn.

Then there was a thread running on the writer’s site, about critiquing–the value of, giving up, and several fun and generally silly derails.  Interesting to me (though the thread was slanted towards query crits, which are not my thing) since I’ve remained in that “What do I know?” state of mind.  So I asked those who’ve been at this a long time without tangible (and measurable by others outside the writing community) success, their thoughts on giving up, when it’s time, etc.  And am as confused and dissatisfied now as I was before the thread.  I still believe my writing is good enough. I just don’t believe it’s going to “happen.” I don’t see my writing as a hobby. My tank is a hobby. Cooking, for me, is a hobby.  Taking pictures, for me, is a hobby.  My words? Not a hobby.  See? Delusions.  And hubris.

One kind and smart friend wrote a thoughtful response.  A phrase that he used has stayed in the forefront of my mind. “There’s an opportunity cost for everything.” That’s reality.  My time, energy, and resources are finite. Because writing isn’t cooking dinner, or baking a dessert, all to be enjoyed by family and friends. Writing is hours and hours of solitary work, time when I withdraw from family and friends to pay attention to imaginary characters and lives that exist only in my own mind. Time when I don’t get the laundry done, walk an extra few dogs, cook a nice dinner, pay attention to Husband, or figure out what’s really going to be next for me in life. Please don’t misunderstand me when I say this, I’m not crying about how difficult it is to write.  It isn’t nothing, I don’t just sit down and vomit out 350 pages in two months and call it a novel–but it isn’t scrubbing public toilets or working in a coal mine, either.

I should grow the fuck up, accept that in the eyes of a young girl I’m a senior, on a crowded train I’m now offered a seat by a well mannered young man about half the time and I appreciate it.  When I was a little girl, I was certain my real mommy was a princess who would show up to rescue me from the evils of sitting at the table until I finished my dinner, and I would grow up to be Laura Ingalls Wilder–except I’d live in a beach house, instead of the prairie. I gave up the princess fantasy long ago, and the 80 gallon saltwater tank that holds center stage in my living room is my beach house. Maybe it’s time to truly accept and be okay with the fact that people won’t be reading my words for generations to come. Except, of course, for what I have posted and will continue to post on the blog, because the interwebs R 4evr.

18 comments

  1. I hear you, and feel your pain, mrs. f! I was just calculating how much of my savings have sustained me through my dream and now I pretty much have no choice but to get a regular job, barring a miracle!

    Most likely, I will save again and when the time is right, go back to my dream. Can’t help myself…My heart wants what it wants. ❤
    Diana xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That whole reality and rent thing sucks, doesn’t it? 😉 I DO want you to know I find your continued willingness to search out different approaches for your goals and happiness are inspirational for me. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I too once thought I was going to have a lovely beach cottage. Maybe after that first novel sells? ;p

    I enjoy reading comment threads of that sort, which may or may not have anything to do with me. It’s interesting to hear peoples’ experiences, perspectives, all that good crunchy stuff. It’s good to have assumptions confirmed, worries banished, etc. without having to add any words of my own (sometimes).

    Like

    1. I hope you get that beach cottage. I’ll keep dreaming into my tank 😉 I go back and forth when it comes to reading those types of threads, sometimes it does feel affirming, other times, too frustrating. Life, yanno?

      Like

  3. It’s hard to comment pn your post. I like what you say about the American way. It remains a positive way of life, much more fun than the old European one, too pragmatic in my opinion. On the other side, it is also true that it gets almost impossible to not pursue some kind of unreachable dream when we are Americans. However it has probably contributed to the extraordinary literature born on this land. So perhaps we must sweat and bleed in order to write one good book. As always I like your sense of humor with the right dose of cynics. Don’t give up too soon, okay?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Evelyn! ❤ It's always interesting to hear your perspective, as a European who now lives in America. As for me and giving up, for the moment I'm thinking of it as changing the plan, not necessarily completely giving up. Cause when ya gotta write, ya gotta write, right? 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You know I am 52 now and I don’t feel like it most of the time although there are times when my body feels like it is falling apart most of the time I think I am much younger then I am, my mum says she doesn’t think or herself as being on the old side she will be 75 next week but then mum is active and doesn’t look like she is 75

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mostly, I don’t mind getting older. It’s those occasional moments of oh! who is that in the mirror? 😉 And of course, those days the body won’t let us forget 🙂 But I believe it’s true, attitude/outlook is everything.

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  5. When I work out, it’s not about the 45 minutes spent on my elliptical or the measurement of each hand weight. It’s all about my heart: keeping it healthy, guaranteeing the maximum number of pumps before she gives up and quits on me. I think of your writing like that. It’s not so much about the time it takes or even the actual exercise of writing. It’s about longevity and what keeps your heart going.

    In that way, it’s neither a hobby not a vocation. But if we see side benefits (me the gorgeous body I’ve always wanted and you the name on the streets of the publishing world), then we will feel a more ultimate fulfillment.

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  6. I was at Salvation Army the other week. The sweet young thing behind the counter was kind enough to let me know it was Senior Day.

    What. The. F**k.

    I am not ready to hang it up, mrs fringe. I just can’t. We go back and forth on this most tender of subjects. Back and forth. Jubilation when somebody requests a full. Down in the dumps when that same somebody summarily rejects our work. Hours spent writing at the detriment of everything else; moments of pure joy, even wonder, when we read something we wrote that surely came to us from the wellspring of the Divine. It is a crazy thing, with plenty of costs, and no guarantees.

    We don’t know if it’s going to happen and meanwhile, days are marching by. Days, weeks and months and years slipping by, for real. That’s going to happen anyway. So, either we keep trying, on the outside chance that something’s going to break for us, or we gracefully give up, and give ourselves no damn chance at all.

    I can’t help but think we should go with the former, if only because it can happen. And if it does, it will be

    fucking

    glorious.

    🙂

    Oh, btw: If it makes you feel any better, I’ll always be older than you.

    xoxo kk

    Like

    1. Ah, those sweet young things. 😉 You will have your glorious moment, I’m sure of it. I’m not so sure for myself, and I’m rambling about this because I have to figure out how to make that ok, kwim? ❤

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