I started reading “The Great Gatsby” downstairs in the recliner this morning, early, and twenty-five minutes later began thinking I really know next to nothing and have paid almost no attention in most of the years of my life, and have forgotten nearly all of the things I did see and half-heartedly committed to memory. In other words, so I’ll never be a writer. This follows the rejection I received last night of my most recent short story, the feedback being very direct and clear, with little encouragement.
So now today beings with me having to push through the mush of ancient stories — stories that say I’m not good enough and I’ll never be good enough and why kid myself of any hope to be a successful writer. Yes, those old as the hills stories, the genre of “who am I kidding”.
So there are two choices — and the older I get the more I am coming to believe that there are only two choices in every situation, kind of a yes and a no thing — in this case accepting that I will never write anything that will engage and entertain a large group of readers, large defined as in the thousands and really in the tens of thousands, and so why kid myself. Go on and do something else at which you will have a better chance for some success — though at this point in my life I have no idea what that might be. Or, door number two, carry on my wayward son. Keep on keepin’ on. Try, as Janis, said, just a little bit harder.
Now, practically speaking, on the one hand I am early morning comparing my writing ability — if there’s really any of that at all — with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s. So there is that. And on the other hand — and as Henry David Thoreau said, I talk so much about me because I know no other subject so well — I have a six decades history of rarely plunging all the way in, with everything I’ve got, to whatever it is I’m on to now. Which now, in this now case, is writing. Being a writer. So give up because I’m just not very good and almost certainly not good enough. Or try just a little bit harder.
Actually the choice feels clear. Since 2011 when I left my somewhat jokingly defined “career” in human services, I have met a guy and co-wrote and created a CD of original music; picked up a paint brush and painted some paintings and had some shows and sold some greeting cards; and taken a creative writing class at Portland State and embarked on a path with some very specific goals to become a successful writer. Maybe not as good or successful as F. Scott Fitzgerald or the authors I like to read, but successful still.
This feels like the last house on the left on a dead-end street. And so, I write on.