I awoke this a.m. surveying a heart that was (three months ago) filled with the hope of acceptance. The demon voice of accusation taunts me: narcissistic fame seeker. It is the same hissing voice that tells me I can not and will not rise above my not-quite-poverty stricken beginnings. It was this voice I kept at bay months ago with the simple click of the “send” key.
Now, I am beyond asking what the judges saw – grounded down as I am with a self-acceptance of not (somehow) measuring up – yet again. And all the verbal bromides I lavish upon others who’ve suffered this fate are curled and weak in the face my own despondency. I went out to ride my bike and fell before getting out of the driveway. I returned to bed. No, I am not depressed. I know full well the feeling there; the drain-circling miasma that creeps in quietly on small, cat-feet and sets up housekeeping in a brain ignorant of the heart.
I write because I need to – it is and has always been the way I navigate my world – what I see out my window is fodder – all material. Recognition is secondary. I tell myself that I am only in competition with myself – only as good or better than the last essay, poem, or novel written. I strive for better and once I believe I’m there… then what? Does a runner take to her track to be recognized for last place? Does a politician run for office intent on losing? Does one practice the homework in quadratic equations to settle for terms higher than the power of two?
I read new writing in my beloved New York Times and appreciate the stories served up on platters of Modern Love, The Sunday Magazine- Lives, the Book Review, and any number of columns dedicated to the Boomer File. After reading, I always look at the brief author bio and I wonder how the number of published writers who’ve attended the best universities or the best M.F.A. programs, compares to the number those writers who haven’t? Is it always only about the writing? I hope so.
But I know too there are days when the best query letter, the best first chapters, the best submission – all sent to a prospective agent – will not do – for anyone. So what. These words may not satisfy but the need to write remains the same. Is this the juncture in my life where I need to redefine success?
And I am not without my own successes – I’ve made it to a writers’ base-camp or (for me) Everest – having been published in the very Sunday Magazine that I would drive 25 rural New York miles every Sunday to purchase. I have won accolades in local publications over the years. I’ve had an editor of a major literary magazine tell me he was “sorry” he could “not be the editor to get [me] into print.” But that was then.
Now, as I lose any youthful outlook to a dull recognition of life’s sameness, I know I should listen my inner Buddhist – the one that tells me that if I want to end my discontent I have to give up my desire.
Without desire, do I need to write? This question greets me every morning. And every evening I am no closer to an answer. Part of me believes the question moot and wants to respond like the mountain climber who was asked why she continues in her attempts to climb Mt. Everest – There are so many small reasons to turn around and only a couple of personal reasons to continue. And so I write on with hope and desire of reaching the summit.