Saturday, March 25, 2023

Giving Up on Being an Author

 I've pretty much given up on trying to be an author.

Ten years, I was at it, bumping out manuscripts like a feral sow birthing piglets.  For a brief while, things seemed to work.  The words flowed in a stream, living, burbling, playing across the surfaces of life.  It was a joy.  Easy.  Delightful.

Over the last year, that flow has dwindled to nothing.  I start a manuscript, and it stalls.  I start another, and it withers.  The river, as the musical Songs for a New World once put it, don't flow for me, no no no.  Part of that has come with a shifting of my life into middle age, as more and more of my energies have been redirected into caring for my aging parents.  Dad was in the hospital five times last year, as his congestive heart failure continued its inexorable advance.  He's past the point where he can function on his own, and Mom's memory failure and osteoporosis mean that she can't care for him either.  Managing caregiving and doing caregiving myself takes time and bandwidth.  That's a factor, without question.

That's not all of it.  A substantial amount of my writing output was, if I am honest with myself, stimulated by having briefly succeeded.  My first novel wasn't a bestseller, but it did well, as books go.  It felt like there was a real possibility of ongoing publication, of being not simply a writer, but an Author.  It was an ego thing, and not necessarily in a bad way.  Having one editor and then another say, hey, you know what, this ain't bad?   That validation stirred a sudden burst of confidence that there was a point to my writing, that it wasn't simple solipsism, that there was a purpose to taking the time to pour out the stories and reflections and insights of my soul.

It stirred me to aspire.

There's a fine line between aspiration and self-delusion.

The struggles to publish anything since that novel have quite effectively deflated that sense of external validation.  I am not what the industry is looking for.  My insights are not relevant, are not trending.  My imagination is not correct.  I, personally, am not interesting, in ways that I cannot change and cannot modify.  My efforts are meaningless, toil that is chasing the wind.  If you write a story, and love that story, it's hard to tell that tale and have it received with disinterest, or not received at all.

"Here is my heart, the work of my life, months of my focused toil, years of my dreams," says the writer, laying their words on the altar.  Then, from the heavens of industry, nothing but silent reproach.  When your sacrifice is ignored or rejected, it's easy to become as resentful as Cain, simmering murderously as Abel's bacon sizzles in the nostrils of God.  

Or to despair.  To simply give up.  Which, I think, I largely have.

That's why I've returned to this writing for a while.  Because this was where I'd journaled, where I'd turned my thoughts into words.  It primed the pump.  There was pleasure in the simple act of writing.  

Blogs were once a place for conversation, too, before Facebook and Twitter killed them.  Now, they're nothing but a place of content vomit, a medium to establish platform, a way to drive ad based revenue.  Or to record thought.  I don't need to publish those thoughts.  Why contribute to the cacophonous din?  Why "produce content?"  Why invite the bobbleheaded nodding of lazy groupthink, or the reflexive offense of the censorious?  Simply have thoughts, and write them down.

I do not need to be an author.  But that does not mean that I should not write.