It has been almost two months since I wrote a word. The pressure of what I have not done weighs on me like an exhaustion: an insomniac’s fitful, unattainable sleep. I have always said when I am not writing that something is wrong, that something must be changed in my life, and now I delve silent into the veracity of that statement.
I say I want to be a writer. I say that it is the one true passion in my life, and the truth of these things I do not doubt. But at what cost? The success of my blog, which if you are reading this right now you are one of the few who even know of its existence, seems to be at a cost too great. The marketability, or lack thereof, of my winding, verbose narratives was made clear to me as soon as I began trying to turn my passion into a paycheck. In order to make money your posts must be short and searchable. “The Top Ten Things Every Traveler Needs in Their Backpack.” Post these three times a week, spend your life self-promoting on twitter, following and commenting on every other blog you can find in the hopes that they might follow you back and maybe you’ll make enough to get by. Was it so crazy of me to want people to read my work on its merits alone, to be moved by my words and not motivated in the midst of some incestuous community of half-successes?
But if my writing cannot make a successful blog, if my stories are meant to be enclosed cover to cover then why have I made no effort? Three books started, hundreds of thousands of words lie like decaying carrion in journals and hard-drives around my room and I haven’t once tried to sew them all together, to breathe life back into them. If this is the only way I can turn a passion into a living, what is wrong with me to forgo even trying? I fight admitting the weakness to which I can no longer feign ignorance. I would rather never try and never fail than to know I was never good enough in the first place.
Sobless tears start winding down my face as I realize this whole dream has been nothing but a mirage wavering in the distance. And the closer I get, the faster it vanishes into nothing but heat-hazed dust. I could be a writer, I could make money writing what someone else wants me to write, but I refuse to compromise a modicum of who I am. I want my words to live in the honesty of writing for nothing, for no one but myself. And those words just aren’t good enough. The tears tumble as fast as the stones of my defenses are crumbling. I am nothing but a lie.
I have been working so much these days, I say. I will start writing again when I get to Colombia. I will paste together these books from everything I made so far and my story will be an arching overture of life and love, a monumental call to the humanity in all of us, it will change the life of everyone who reads it. But in reality I see only an aged waitress in my future, embittered toward the people she once loved to garrulously entertain. The last happy server turned to stone like all the rest in the wrinkled surrender of twenty years on her feet and nothing to show for it.
But these days I am still young. I smile and laugh as large as the bar and sell whiskeys with as much vigor as I drink them. I save my money for the next adventure and don’t think most days about the decades ahead, of failures not yet set into stone. I may still write that book just to watch it never get published. I will try to silence the voice that tells me it will never matter. That it will never be good enough as I struggle to stay afloat in an ocean of those more talented than I, who are better weathering the winds of rejection. Just maybe.
So what has the reluctant honesty of this self-pitying soliloquy produced for me? What good will come from admitting the one thing no one with a mediocre talent at a great passion ever wants to utter aloud? Absolutely fucking nothing. But at least I’m back in the habit of writing again.