Wednesday, March 22, 2006

I fell apart in a Buick Century.

We went for gouda and grapes, parked perfectly between two faded yellow lines, and there I cracked open my case of insecurities, exposing them to the Mazda to my right, to the chocolate bar wrappers and coffee cups and old receipts swirling in the wind around us, and to my husband, still strapped into the driver's seat, still fondling the emergency parking brake.

I cried, quite accidentally, big fat tears in a grocery store parking lot. I stared ahead at the bulk store, where mounds of tumeric and mounds of jelly beans waited to be taken home in nondescript containers, and I saw none of it, not even my fellow shoppers pushing heavy carts who must have wondered what terrible tragedy unfolded in our parked car.

There was no tragedy. I simply cried for the reality that had taken to following me everywhere, even out for fruit. It talked to me in time: 3 years, it whispered. 3 years since you took your degree, and what have you done?

I've done nothing. I have nothing to show for these 3 years. I put aside that career, the practical life, the sure thing, the safety net, and I did this instead: I wrote. At first I wrote for pennies. I took what work there was, and I wrote words I did not believe, but gratefully. Then I wrote for dollars, writing bigger lies and feeling worse for it. And now I write for nothing, for no audience and for no pay. I write because I don't know how not to. I write because there's a story in me that wants out. I write because I believe it will make me happy, if it doesn't kill me first.

I don't want to work for pay; I want to be paid for my work. I have lofty dreams and no reason to expect that they will ever come true. Every year, thousands of us pursue an unattainable goal, overestimating our talent or appeal. Every year, thousands go hungry waiting for the big break that never comes. In the history of books, maybe 3 authors have made a living writing them. The rest of us will try, and fail.

I will spend the next 18 months putting my soul to paper, hoping it will come back to me as readers liberate it one word at a time, but more likely trapping it forever on the hard drive of my computer. Several years after that will be spent querying indifferent publishers, none of whom are ever thrilled to take a chance on an unproven name. Maybe hundreds of appeals will be made, and my heart will break one rejection letter at a time. Logic tells us that no book of mine will ever see the light of day.

I cried while still buckled into a stationary vehicle, not for the futility of my words, or the wasted years, or the frustration. I cried because this is the future I have chosen for myself. This is my life. And even knowing that failure is the only reasonable outcome, still I write, because I must.

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