A Futile Disagreement
I consider the work I am doing now, whether it is the interviews and essays in Author, or the conversations on Author2Author, the best work I have done in my life. By which I mean it feels the most honest and offers the most to other people, both of which are achieved with the least effort from me. I suppose every writer – or every working person, for that matter – would always prefer to say this about their current endeavors, but I mention it here because it is poignantly so for me. For years before starting this magazine I wrote novel after novel that I could not sell. I would come to call these experiences of not publishing failures, and I often treated them like a secret life, as if I had spent fifteen years in prison or had been homeless. I believed they revealed a weakness in me I hoped success would heal.
Sometimes, after I had begun doing the work I am doing now, I would write an essay I particularly liked, and I would think, “Why, Bill? Why hadn’t you just started writing these all those years ago? Think what you’d be doing right now.” And I would try with my writer’s imagination to allow the Bill of fifteen years ago to write these essays, but I could not. He could not. Because he needed to have what he called failure.
I do not believe I could do the work I am doing now had I not written and then not published all those books. Something in me was broken down by the experience, something that allowed compassion through to a degree I had not before. Compassion is more important to me than craft or networking. Compassion is the foundation of all understanding, is life without the blinders of judgment, and my work’s value is always in direct proportion to the compassion with which it is pursued.
Failure, meanwhile, is another way of saying that we disagree with life. We place a requirement of time or event on life, and when what we require does not occur we call this failure, for now we resent both life and ourselves, as we are one-in-the-same. It is futile to disagree with life; it is like disagreeing with the sunrise. Better to remove the requirements, these arbitrary endings to a story that has no end. I am here now because I declined the ending I myself had named, and accepted instead all that I could see, and began learning how to call that success.
Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.