Trial By Fire

When I was a boy I sensed something very valuable within me. I first recognized it when listening to songs or reading books and poems that I loved. The song, book or poem would enter me and I could feel what it had to offer burning inside me. Yet even after I put the book or poem aside or the song was no longer playing, I could still feel this valuable thing burning inside me. Perhaps this burning feeling was somehow independent of the work of art by which it had been triggered; perhaps I should seek a way to give it form just as those other artists had given form to their burning. I knew early on that the form most pleasing to this valuable impulse was the written word. Yet no sooner did I recognize this than I found myself distracted by something called publishing. I knew that this valuable thing needed to be shared, and publishing was how one shared it. While still a boy I heard legends of some stories being published and some stories not being published. These legends disturbed me and frequently interfered with the otherwise pleasant business of finding the best form possible for what I believed was so valuable.

For instance, I had heard that luck had a lot to do with whether a story could be shared or not. Why, look at Van Gogh. From time to time certain artists simply lost at the game of life, and there was nothing you could do about it.

There was also the question of attractiveness. One must dress what he finds valuable as alluringly as possible so that, like a beauty contestant, it can stand out from all the other beautiful, valuable things. No matter how valuable what you have to share is, if is not decorated with beautiful writing no one will recognize its value and it will never be shared.

Finally, you might get lucky, and you might decorate what you have to share as alluringly as possible, and yet you may discover it simply isn’t as valuable to other people as it is to you. A pig in lipstick is still a pig.

So went the Legends of Publishing. Fortunately, no matter how disturbing these stories were, and no matter how long I contemplated them and allowed their mazelike non-meaning to confuse my work, the impulse that desired form burned on. Fortunately, the fire only grew hotter as it remained penned up in fear, until I was left with no choice but to release it. My only other choice was to try to douse it, which was really choosing death by drowning instead of by fire.

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