Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Facing Failure A How-To in Three Parts. Part Three: Waiting

So, my blog is called On the Verge, and for those of you who are just now joining me, let me explain why: because I have been on the verge of book publication for what has been a very looooong time. I had this cute little thought back in the fall that maybe I could document my on-the-vergeness in this blog, secretly thinking that what I would really be documenting was my just around the corner book deal(s). Alas, that hasn’t happened and I find myself doubling down on a dream that seems about to come true and at the same time feels as if it is slipping away.

A few months ago I heard one of those inspirational writer/speakers say at a conference that it was amazing to her how many writers quit “right as they were about to cross over.” I nodded smugly and thought, no way was that going to be me. “I will never quit,” I said. “I will keep writing until I take my last breath. Because if there’s one thing I know about myself it is that I never quit anything. And anyway, I love writing for the sake of writing. Blah blah blah.”

Okay, I didn’t actually say the blah blah part. But I should have. I have had many close calls over the years, many moments when it seemed I was about to cross over. And many many more disappointments. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve given myself a version of this buck up/keep writing pep talk.

I do keep writing. But it’s remarkable to me that each day is just as difficult as the day before. I know I’m going to do it, and yet I struggle each time I face the blank computer screen, wavering between self-doubt (that this exercise is pointless and stupid; never mind that this is the worst writing ever) and elation (that what I’m doing is wonderful, amazing, and sure to be published).

And let me say a word here about how I’ve been defining success as being published. I truly wish I didn’t define it that way. But there it is. I want these books of mine to be edited and published and displayed on bookstore and library shelves (and/or zoomed out electronically to people’s Kindles). I want people I don’t know to read them. I want to get paid for my efforts. I want to be (okay, I’ll say it) praised.

None of this is under my control. I get that. Daily I war with myself about why it matters to me to have this outward recognition, and daily (usually) I make peace and decide that writing for the sake of writing is enough.

I am not writing about this struggle because I want people to feel obligated to respond with encouragement. Believe me, I am long past the need for my friends and family to say: Oh, Jody, we love you. Don’t quit now. The truth is I’m trying to figure out myself what has kept me writing all these years. I have a sneaky suspicion lately that THIS may be all there is. That I may never get that book deal. And what am I going to do with that realization? Can I keep writing anyway?

I honestly don’t know the answer.

My son and I have been having these deep philosophical discussions about the meaning of life courtesy of his 11th grade English teacher who seems to be into these things. He had to write a paper about perception of reality in TS Eliot’s poem “The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock.” It was my son’s thesis that people make their own realities, perceiving the world through a certain lens, and if that is so, then why not choose an optimistic outlook? If you don’t know that poem, the speaker is a depressed, middle aged guy who at the end imagines these mermaids singing but says that he doesn’t think they’re singing to him. My son said, geez, if you’re going to make up mermaids, why not go all the way and imagine that they are singing to you? It’s your dream, right?

I mentioned in my last post that one of the things that kept me writing for so long was the little bits of encouragement I’d gotten along the way. These were signs, I believed, that I should keep going; that inevitably, if I didn’t quit, my dream would have to come true. Okay, many days that little smidgen of hopeful thought doesn’t work for me. But here’s the strange thing: I write anyway. Every day. I set a word count goal and I reach it. Every day. This may not mean anything. In all likelihood I am a silly person writing sentences with a stick in the sand. But on the other hand, it may mean everything. My stubborn inability to quit has gotten me this far. If can shape my reality any way I choose, here is what I choose—

It’s my dream. And I choose to hear those damned mermaids singing.
I choose to hope while I wait.

1 comment:

  1. I'm listening to those mermaids myself. I believe you will make it.