So to everyone who feels like their creative work is futile, pointless because few will see it, and it won’t make enough money to put food on the table, for everyone saddened by the stories that won’t sell and the novels that you can’t even pitch, and the ones that nobody wants to see the whole manuscript and the ones where they pass on the whole manuscript, and the ones that are self-published and do nothing, that sell two copies, to all of you, know that I’m one of you.
I feel this keenly most of the time. I try to be as positive as I can in this space. But I struggle to find positivity.
I always wanted to make a living as a ‘creative.’ This term we invented in the last tech bubble, when I got to be one, for a time, and got paid like a grown-up and everything. I wore a suit and they flew me around the country and it ended in a choking cloud of dust and death on 911. I felt like a fraud the whole time, because hey, I was one. So it’s OK that’s over.
My life has been defined by this sense of failure, this sense of not living up to my potential. It hangs over me, it runs through me, sometimes I think it is me.
The horrible thing I have learned how to do, which I don’t recommend, is to just push through it and do the work anyway. It’s my only positive character trait.
What I recommend is what Michael Swanwick called ‘protecting your head.’ Don’t let the voices in, don’t let them own you, don’t let them define you, don’t be that person.
But if they do get in, and you are that person, somehow detach from yourself, the story of yourself and your failure and work on a different story.
Walking away from it all doesn’t help. Because as Buckaroo Bonzai taught us, “No matter where you go…. there you are.”
So write your stories. They’re yours. Nobody can take them away from you.
I have a big project to finish now that no one will ever see but me, and I suppose the ghost of J.D Salinger. I imagine him now in the shed in the back yard building that towering pile of manuscript none of us will ever read. Like PKDs graphomania, the Exegesis.
Maybe there are better things one could do with ones life. But there are far, far worse things too.
Consider Donald Trump.