Via Twitter, read essay about a stranger, a writer, who emailed reporters half a world away about his imminent suicide. The proximate cause for his decision to end his life was that he had received insufficient acclaim for his work over his career, and he didn’t think that was going to change, so there was nothing else to live for.
Every creative person I know — and I know a great many creative people these days — struggles with feeling unheard, unappreciated, invisible, unwanted. Obviously I do too, as I often write about such feelings here.
If society were actually getting more egalitarian, this problem will only increase exponentially: high quality attention to you and/or your work may be the most limited natural resource in the galaxy.
I could despair about this . . . but that’s what I was doing during my “depressive episode”/”existential crisis” of 2009–2014. Despair didn’t improve my experience. It just exhausted resources I could have used for other things.
Why do people write? I can only speak for myself. I write because I need to make sense of things that, under ordinary circumstances, I only dimly perceive. Writing, for me, can pull together threads from many different parts of my life and create a free-form tapestry with them. Every time I address one of these threads, or several of them, the tapestry that is possible . . . differs. Any series I end up doing will be linked thematically or chronologically, but they won’t look the same. (By design. I try to never repeat myself.)
Writing allows me to explain me to me. I often think, if I could find a friend sufficiently like me, to be devoted to me, I would barely need other friends! (I would still want other friends because friends are fun.) Well, through the writing I do here, writing poetry, writing letters to people, and even writing tweets on Twitter, I figure out things about myself, about what matters to me, that probably even the most devoted friend would not be able to figure out. I’m like The World’s Best Therapist, For Me. And I will never be required, for insurance purposes, to limit or stop doing sessions with me. Sessions will never get too expensive (in money); I love the hard work they require [thinking, reflection, analysis, experimenting, assessing results candidly and trying again], so that’s not a limiting factor either. I love thinking about and talking about process. I can be psychologist-me’s own favorite client, without reservation. I can gush about my fascination with me as much as I like. But when that palls, I can stretch my understanding of myself more directly, by doing things.
Poetry, writing poetry, intrigues me because . . . I’m not entirely sure what is happening when I’m doing it. Even when I think I know the proximate reason I’m writing about them, the real reason(s) generally turn/s out to be something completely different. And probably something not in my conscious mind at all. Even fragments of poems — a line or two — are sufficient to point me to elements and motifs and themes that matter very much, and that . . . want . . . more attention than they’ve been receiving.
Yet poems can also be beautiful in and of themselves: they are tangible for other people in ways my own feelings, emotions, and wyxzi are not. So poems become a record of my life as a work of art. Sometimes the only record of process: I know what was essential to me in those moments I put pen to paper.
I rather enjoy the process of more skillfully crafting my poems, but their purpose is not beauty. And in none of my art forms am I a “master craftsperson”. I don’t have the patience. I don’t have the requisite kind of focus. And I find polishing and burnishing . . . profoundly boring.
Like my scruffy poem that I keep mentioning, I’m a “rough and ready” kind of person: I jump in with both feet, and start swimming before I even know what’s going on. I may have had a bunch of amazing experiences, jumped back out, and be on to the next thing, during the time which more-planful-people are still figuring out how to approach the water.
If I ever worked with a professional editor, presumably my output would look different. Maybe I’d even change how I do things somewhat, streamline or something, but I’m not counting on that happening. I’m fine if it never does.
So, my poems are highly unlikely to win awards or prizes. Similar to how my blogging hasn’t won any sort of recognition.
“I don’t market myself enough”, blah blah blah. That’s true, as far as it goes — I don’t market myself at all. But I don’t write for that. I don’t care about that. Auto-tweets for each blog post go to Twitter, solely so people who follow me there but not here know that something’s now here. 99 times out of 100, I don’t directly mention any of my blog posts on Twitter in any way.
Last time I had checked how many people are following this blog, it was something like 28. As of today, it’s 372, which boggles my mind. Why on earth would a bunch of people want to read me talking about myself?
Here I’ve been worried for several years now about “my legacy”. Which might be a function of getting older. Or might be a concept that’s in the zeitgeist presently. Possibly something else entirely.
The thing is… how can you ever have any real sense of what effects you might have had on the world?
If I was JK Rowling instead of me, maybe her most lasting legacy is how many trees were chopped down to be pulped to make her books. Maybe that contributed more to global warming than a million clunker cars, or 100 coal-fired plants, or whatever. And yet, if you’re a writer, she’s one of the gold standards that we’re all supposedly trying to match. And when we, inevitably, fall short, we feel like we’ve failed. Maybe trees like failed authors better than successful ones.
I don’t actually want to write a book. Because trees are my friends. I could just do an e-book instead, but I don’t want to do that either. I don’t know what I do want, but I know lots of things I don’t want. Many of which are things that various cultures and subcultures are telling me I really should want.
The whole point of this post was supposed to be something I haven’t even gotten to yet. And I’m running out of spoons again. Drat.