Occasionally a series of events happens at the day job that gets me riled up, incensed to a degree where I’ll run through tasks and phone calls with a vigor not always present on other days. Today, as you might gather, that happened. I made it home a little after six, after burning through emails and other things for nearly eleven hours.
On the drive home I wondered why it was I could churn forth that kind of manic effort for a job that I care about, but certainly isn’t a driving passion like writing. I think, weirdly, the answer lies in the publicity of it. Right now, my writing is largely hidden from view. I don’t have a series of novels getting criticism, I’m not reading about my lack of theme in The New Yorker. There’s nothing pushing me to be better, to be threatening me with some sort of performance assessment.
I think the nebulous distance of failure is one of the most under-rated challenges facing a new author, and it’s one I grapple with constantly. If I were to stop writing now, most of my friends and family might be slightly disappointed, but it wouldn’t be a huge problem. It wouldn’t warrant emergency phone calls, late-night sessions at the hotel, or a flurry of emails. I’m pretty sure, at this point, my writing career would vanish with nary a whimper.
Now, contrast that with an author who’s published a few books. Doesn’t even matter if they only have a few sales, or a few hundred pages read in Kindle Unlimited. That career exists. Someone, somewhere, even if it’s only family, invested some time and maybe some money in that. There’s a relationship there, a contract of sorts between reader and author that’s similar to the one between employer and employee. A service rendered.
Me and my quaint little unpublished life have no contract, no service is really rendered, and thus I could walk into that good night and leave only my dreams behind.
I’d rather not do that. I’m more a fan of fiery failure, going out with a fireworks display. Bangs and pops. Fantastical exuberance. Mutterings of insanity. All that good stuff. And it’s just waiting there – waiting to be grabbed, to be cared about with the same degree of energy that the high-priority email demands.
I’ll get there.