I had a blah day. It was angsty (is that a word?) and self indulgent. I was lost in my own ineptitude and my own mediocrity. But…it’s okay. These things happen to people who care about their craft. At least that’s my excuse.
It started, I think, from hurdles I needed to get over with the publisher of my forthcoming memoir, October Song. Nothing that can’t be fixed. But issues are issues. And I would rather not deal with them. I would rather just write. I won’t go into all of it here, not necessary. But it comes from the details of modern publishing—trusting proofreaders and copy editors, and believing that your work is worthy when it sometimes is minimized into just another book on the shelf, just another author in a world full of them.
So, that got me thinking about writing and its bigger meaning. Maybe not just for me, but for anyone who writes. This can get us into trouble, you know? If we think there is a bigger meaning and we are not living up to that meaning, well, it could get “angsty.”
Consider this…a quote from the writer Don DeLillo:
“The writer is the person who stands outside society, independent of affiliation and independent of influence. The writer is the man or woman who automatically takes a stance against his or her government. There are so many temptations for American writers to become part of the system and part of the structure that now, more than ever, we have to resist. American writers ought to stand and live in the margins, and be more dangerous. Writers in repressive societies are considered dangerous. That’s why so many of them are in jail.” –Don DeLillo, from the 1988 interview with Ann Arensberg.
Wow. If every writers tired to live up to this statement, we might just all off ourselves. Don’t misunderstand, I love this quote and I love what it stands for. But, seriously, it’s heady. And what happens when we aren’t so “dangerous?” Are we failures? Should be just give it up? Consider ourselves hopelessly mediocre and move on?
Every writer goes through times of uncertainty, self-doubt, believing that what they are doing is unworthy and pointless. It comes with the territory. But I wonder—aren’t most of what we are doing, writing, ultimately forgettable? I’m not being defeatist; I’m being realistic. Aren’t only a handful of us—the truly great—immortal? Aren’t those the only ones that really matter?
Yes, this it getting a bit bleak. But here’s where it turns around.
I was interviewed the other day on the radio about NIGHT RADIO, my novel. The interviewer had pulled quotes from the book that had “moved her.” Really? I had written words that moved someone? And when she read them over the air, I questioned, aloud—did I write that? Not that I was impressed in some way, I was simply astonished that I had put words down that were worth repeating, worth sharing, worth interpreting and considering in some spiritual way, some deeper way.
I’ll carry that with me now through this “angsty” phase. I suggest, as you write and create and find yourself in that “angsty” way when you want to be something bigger and bolder, that you find a piece of your art that you are proud of, or better still, something someone else has been moved by and let it wash over you.