One more down. With four tales left, the finish line is right there.
Why do I feel like I have wasted two years of my life.
Note: This feeling is not unusual. With the exception of my kid, most of the time I feel like I have wasted a great deal of life’s joy.
Today’s anxiety is normal in my universe. It is a dark wicked place inhabited by mysterious old age pains, annoyingly habitual communication issues, and the constant companion of self-loathing. (Which looks quite like a Dementor, if you are wondering. Damn you J.K. Rowlings!!!)
Having descended from a clan of worrisome and more than slightly neurotic ancestors, I am well trained in the art of screw yourself a.k.a masochistic mental masturbation. My whole life having been an exercise in crisis management; I should be, in theory, used to this.
I truly do know these moments are transitory. It’s as certain as science.
Why, then, does today make me feel like I’m Captain Quint from Jaws? Struggling mightily, thrashing about in Bruce’s robotic grip moments before becoming a piece of human sushi?
Is it the paranoia over my rapidly declining health and lack of resources to take care of it?
Could it be the widening chasm between myself and the vast world around me? Knowing it still exists and yet unable to find a way to participate comfortably?
You know what’s a better question? Why now?
Why now, when I’m so close to completing my greatest life-goal, am I letting the ordinary issues of life overwhelm me so entirely?
It is because I am a writer.
Life is a universe of distraction, the key is knowing how to block it out at the right moments. Without that, there is no way to ever do anything worthwhile in the world.
My problem is, recently, I seem to have misplaced that key. Life’s issues are distracting me and I’m where I am at right now as a direct result. So creatively, because I let the neurotic monster out of its box, I suffer.
Example: The longer I work on the final edit for these stories, the more my faith in them wanes.
While prepping the final PDF documents for KDP and CreateSpace over the last few days, I keep catching glimpses of work that rankles my creative vibe. Work that has been gone over with a magnifying glass, held not just by my hands but those of a professional copy editor, and I’m still not happy with the final product.
I had hoped by this point in the process, I would have come to some middle ground with my self doubt. Alas, that seems to have been too much to hope for but I’ve gone too far to turn back and abandon it now.
Real cash has been invested into this project. Endless hours lost to isolation. Dedication to an idea only I can see. Suffering endless mutterings and innuendo of how I have “given up on life” or “how I refuse to face the world.”
The word AGORAPHOBIC has been banned from my house.
Some days I want to go to the top of the Wells Fargo Tower and scream, “Don’t you think I wanted to do something else?! Have some form of ordinary life?! Would anyone go through this if they had any other choice?!“
I’m reminded of Bukowski’s poem, “So You Want To Be A Writer“:
“If it doesn’t come bursting out of you in spite of everything, don’t do it. Unless it comes unasked out of your heart and your mind and your mouth and your gut, don’t do it.”
“Unless it comes out of your soul like a rocket, unless being still would drive you to madness or suicide or murder, don’t do it. unless the sun inside you is burning your gut, don’t do it.”
Almost two years of my life are just gone.
I’m broke, downtrodden, and in large part, a forgotten figure in everyone’s life but my daughter. This has been a hard row to hoe, and yet I have made it through.
Through the lonely frozen nights, I have sailed across a sea of missed moments. A laundry list of life’s lost luxuries runs like a stock ticker in my head, keeping track of everything sacrificed to make it to this moment.
This one vainglorious instant when all the work suddenly means something.
There are but minutes left before t-minus zero on the clock to drop this bomb on the world. So, it would make sense that serious self-doubt would resurfaces now.
What if the reason no one ever talks to me about my work is because it really is shit?
What if all these years I have been fooling myself with a pipe-dream that never had any real chance of succeeding because I don’t have the chops?
What if that scholarly old professor who dressed me down in front of his class at the University of Cincinnati so long ago, was right?
What if I’m not destined to be a real writer?
Back story break…Cue out of focus flashback:
When I was twelve years old, right after my parents marriage ended one oddly quiet and slightly confusing, warm Texas morning; I had this terrifying dream that has haunted me my whole life.
A self-fulfilling prophecy, if you will.
In the sub-conscious reaches of my pubescent mind, I watched lonely and lost as all my friends went off; each familiar face abandoning me to happily go live their lives. It was only a dream but the loss was so palpable when I awoke that I have never forgotten it.
Flash forward to today: I look at my life and I realize that is exactly what happened. Most of the people I have known and called friends in this world have gone on to success in their lives. Financial, emotional, spiritual; it all varies from person to person.
Not all of them are happy, mind you. Mostly because completely understanding or fully realizing what we have and enjoying it is a natural human flaw. But deep down, most of them realize they are on the right path.
Not me. I still feel lost everyday.
I continue to struggle down a path that was handed down to me as a child. Still reaching for a goal that has always seemed beyond my reach.
I am and have always been a writer. It is in my blood. Those ancestors I spoke of before, they were and are writers. Failed writers.
Example: My Grandmother Jean along time ago gave me a hand illustrated book she created for me and my sister named “Mystery Island”. Who knows how long it took her to create it, who cares? She was an intensily creative person and sometimes she created things just because she could.
And yet “Mystery Island” with all its glorious map pencil colored drawings and pre-teen exploits were never destined for anywhere but my hands and you know why?
Because she didn’t believe in herself enough to commit the time and effort it would take for her to become a success in a craft she obviously had skill at. Life would not let her.
Husband dead. Two kids left to raise. Three other adult kids to worry about. Property taxes due on a house about to fall down around her… The world of literary repute was just beyond her fingertips. Why? Because she could shut life out long enough to just believe in herself.
That didn’t mean she stopped writing.
Seeing her write is one of the truly wonderful memories I have of her. Sitting in that little kitchen, sipping a half empty cold cup of coffee, scribbling away on her endless supply of spiral bound notebooks.
And what happened to all those notebooks when she died? Nothing.
Passed on to another generation of writers that life has already shut the door on their hopes and dreams. They lie dusty in a box, never to see the light of day.
I refuse to let that happen to me.
Thankfully for the internet and this blog, I know that at least some people see the words I write (even if they only come to snag one of the many images I pilfer from the net to accentuate my points).
This is not enough for me.
I made the leap of faith. Everything in my life has been tossed on the pyre to make this work: friends, family, health, money. Nothing has been safe in my quest for this golden grail of publication.
So again I ask, why now?
Why do I have to look at what I have created, at this late stage and go, “This is shite…”
Is there something else I just don’t know? Has my whole life been a conspiracy of friends and family telling me what I want to hear just to protect my feelings. Or am I in the midst of pre-release jitters accentuated by a neurotic need to leave some form of real legacy? Probably a little of both.
Is it going to stop me?
No and now you know why.
I am a writer. I can’t do anything else.