Ultimately, It’s About “Forever”

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Other than writing blog posts, I’ve had my head buried in Distances over the last few days. I’m getting bleary eyed. If I find another stupid typo, I may lose it.

Desperately needing breaks, I’ve tried now and then also to read (catch up with, may be more accurate) some blogs. The other day, I happened on this from Kate Colby:

You are probably not the next Hemingway, either (and that is STILL okay!)

And she’s absolutely right, of course. Yet that’s also a relief. For that’s actually fine by me.

Free Stock Photo: Close-up of antique books on a white background.
Free Stock Photo: Close-up of antique books on a white background.

Why?

I’ve been to his house. (No, not while he was alive. I’m not that old yet.) He was indeed a character, but I’ll pass on the failed marriages and eventual suicide. That’s not what I’d want to emulate in order to achieve that level of literary success.

Similarly, F. Scott Fitzgerald. He was an alcoholic who also died young. Nope, if writing success requires that, I’ll pass on that as well.

Ah, but what of huge selling writers who are still with us and seem “together”?

First of all, don’t even mention that Fifty Shades book. Dear God, that was a commercial fluke of the highest order and more than anything else is likely to be looked back on a decade or two from now as a weird moment in the early 2000s when lots of people collectively briefly lost their minds. I would not want my name on that sort of writing after I’m dead regardless of how much money I’d earned from it while living.

Okay, so how about someone like J.K. Rowling? Now, who wouldn’t want her success?

Yet while her books are generally highly praised, her stories have never really interested me (he whispers on the internet). I tried once: I got through about 5 pages of the first Harry Potter before putting it down. It wasn’t a school assignment due next week, and as an adult I didn’t have to read it.

I couldn’t write like that anyway. I was never one for wizards, funny creatures with unpronounceable names, broomsticks, potions and waving a magic wand and chanting, uh, “Ratamandgawangaooh-ooh-gonga!”…. and someone’s turned into a rat.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a magic wand with stars and text.
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a magic wand with stars and text.

When I was kid, my mother used to accuse me of having no imagination. (We were such a warm family at times.) I never felt that was entirely fair: I loved sci-fi like Star Trek. But when I was dressing up for Halloween with all the other kids, I’ll readily admit now that I was secretly wishing I was curled up with a history or travel book…. or at the dentist.

So we are what we are. One can’t say it enough: don’t even try to be like anyone else.

In its way, writing is certainly a form of immorality too. Hemingway’s screwed up life is now “colorful.” Fitzgerald’s personal demons are largely forgotten. Their best books live on, while their indifferent, or even bad, efforts are now generally overlooked.

It is possible without embracing personal self-destruction that something I do/did could end up “big” in two years, or in ten years. Or maybe not. Commercial success is often definitely a fluke. Lots of writers fall apart also and never achieve success.

Regardless I write as if what’s landing on the page is “forever” – as if someone will be tearing apart my every word next year, or 50 years after I’m dead. It’s certainly not impossible there will be readers who’ll find my work many decades from now and will never have known me as a living person.

Free Stock Photo: Graves at Pere-Lachaise cemetery in Paris, France.
Free Stock Photo: Graves at Pere-Lachaise cemetery in Paris, France.

On that upbeat note, uh, “Sundawahananananbe-be-bam!”

I was trying to wish you a good Sunday and throw you a wizard spell to guarantee one. But I have no idea if I’ve gotten that right. I hope at least you’re still a human being. 🙂

3 comments

  1. I really appreciate your perspective here. On a similar note, I find that part of my passion for writing comes from leaving something (fame/riches-inducing or not) behind. Writing is a way to capture a brief moment in time, a minute part of the human experience. For me, it’s more about creating art and making a respectable living than anything else.

    Liked by 1 person

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