In case you missed it, there was a Presidential debate recently where one candidate warned that the coming election was rigged. When I heard this, I thought to myself, “Anyone who’s in a contest and thinks that contest is rigged against him has already lost.”
It is easy to sit in my living room and judge someone else’s paranoia; it’s another thing to live my life without ever believing The System, whatever that system may be, is rigged against me. It certainly has seemed so from time to time. Why, I used to wonder, weren’t people publishing the stories I sent them? While I didn’t really believe editors and agents had formed a dark cabal bent on keeping good-hearted writers like me from sharing a little light, the publishing world did seem impenetrable sometimes, like a club whose rules of entry were kept secret.
I should mention that I was never one to join clubs. I worried that to join a club I’d have to conform to that club’s notion of what or whom I should be. I am what I am! The problem was that I wanted to be in the Published Author Club. Of course it wasn’t a club, I mean I knew intellectually it wasn’t a club. Only, the first question anyone asked you when you told them you were a writer was had you been published. How you answered that question seemed to place you in one of two categories. You were in or you were out, which felt a lot like a club.
Oh, it was confusing. One day I found myself talking to a writer friend. As it happens, this friend, when he wasn’t writing, was very interested in changing societal systems. He didn’t feel they were fair to everyone. He was a good-hearted writer like me, you see. On this day, my friend was complaining about the publishing world. He felt it was closed to new writers, to writers with new ideas, to writers who were unknown to the publishing world.
To be fair, every complaint he shared with me I’d thought of at one time or another. But there is something so helpful about hearing someone else air my complaints. And so I heard myself saying, “I’m not going to complain about those people. I want to work with them. If I sit here and tell myself they don’t want me, I’ll never work with them.”
I think that was the moment I decided I needed to learn how to make friends with these people who seemed rather unfriendly much of the time. Systems, whether they are societal, educational, or publishing, are never perfect. I sometimes muse about how those systems could better serve us, but I am not the sort of person who is going to spend his time changing systems. I am, however, deeply interested in how I can change what I do to live my life as I wish to live it.
But the moment I conclude that nothing I think or do or say has any effect in the world, the moment I decide what other people think of me is more important than what I think of me, I have lost all my creative power. I decline the notion that any system is more powerful than any individual. No system has the power to tell me what to think. The moment I make friends with my own thought, I make friends with life, and the doors to the only club there is swing open.
“A book to keep nearby whenever your writer’s spirit needs feeding.” Deb Caletti.
You can find William at: williamkenower.com