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.