“But in the end I understood this language. I understood it, I understand it, all wrong perhaps. That is not what matters. It told me to write the report. Does this mean I am freer now than I was? I do not know. I shall learn…”
Sometime around Christmas 2019, I hit bottom. Not financially, despite my best efforts. Not physically, exactly, though I felt gassed, weak, flabby. Not even emotionally - on my worst days, I’m still heads and shoulders above some of the previous stations in my life.
It was a psychic collapse. I had put off doing what I knew deep down I should be doing, all that stress and self-conscious fear and failure accumulating into the world’s largest, greasiest, most impassable snowdrift.
In short, I was too afraid to even sit down and write. Even to you, here, where the audience is more or less self-selecting to probably enjoy what I’m going to put out. The problem was internal, and always had been. It’s never about my relationship to other people, to readers or or other writers or editors or accounts payable departments, which really keep me from sitting down to do the only work I know I’m really capable of doing with any ability. It’s my relationship to myself. Let me give by way of an example, something that happened to me last summer, on the high desert that was my writing output.
I had gotten called up to the big leagues. Like Lana Turner, I had been discovered by a press agent at the counter of Schwab’s Drug Store. An editor at a major, major publication came calling, out of the blue, and by the time our conversation was over, I’d wheedled my way into not one, but two pieces - maybe good enough to run in the print magazine, if I played my hand right.
This was it. This was what I’d been playing at all these years, working all my crummy jobs by day - call center operator, bank teller, rental car cleaner, wearing my winter coat in the dead of summer to stack trays in a bakery freezer - and pulling all-nighters to pump out unpaid blog posts and then $50 articles and then $200 articles which took forever to get paid on, if I ever got paid, which wasn’t often.
Well, shit, I’d been doing this for a decade now, which seemed like a long time, and though the quality of my day job had massively improved, with good pay and a good workplace, it was still a day job. I was not doing the kind of writing I knew I should be trying to do, and I didn’t have any excuse but that I was tired and afraid.
So naturally when something this big comes along, I thought, here’s my chance. And I did what starving people do when they find food: they eat too much and die. I wasn’t just going to grab this opportunity; I was going to crush it.
The result, nearly six months later: no article, no moolah, no prestige, no vindication, but, finally, a way to sit down and do the work.
To Be Continued…