Today, I’m washed up on the rocks of my creative resistance and trying to ease myself back into deep water. I’m super mad at myself for being a terrible and nonproductive writer! A bad person! A nincompoop! A ———- (choose your favorite self put down!) I wrote this draft wrong so am stuck with a stupid final 45 pages after a reasonably readable 75 page beginning. I know I have to tear this thing apart and simplify in the next draft if I’m to get anything out of this except a learning experience. I’m deeply aware of how much better, richer, deeper, and more insightful are the imaginations of every artist I respect than is mine! In other words, I’m trapped on the rocks of ego.
So hard for us to accept our own peculiar genius in the light of our admiration for the insight, beauty, and talent of others! I’m in awe at the constant reinventions of form and genre that I see others commit daily in making their work and in creating an audience for it.
My father was an extraordinarily difficult man who left me a legacy that’s like nesting bombs—inside each bomb is yet another smaller bomb—exploding regularly inside the protective concrete bunker of my crumbly brain. But one smart thing he was clearer on than I am: the only audience for our work may be ourself and that’s ok. Unfortunately, I thought his work was mediocre, but what do I know? It did something for him. Maybe I’m doing what he did. Maybe that’s ok? Maybe. Seems self indulgent. Like reading a book in the middle of the day while others are building the Brooklyn Bridge.
I take consolation in this: our lives never quite mean what we think they do; our contributions tend to be unseen by us in the privacy of the minds of others we may have touched, not through our big achievements, but through less intentional acts and through character. ‘Character is fate’ is not just an aesthetic dictum, nor an epitaph for the individual self; it’s how we transmit good from one to another, ‘fate’ created by one character effecting change in another, in a profluent chain reaction.