I haven't talked much about that trip to LA, have I? Yeah, maybe not much to recall as a piece. Spent a lot of time solitary, driving or walking around and just recording, taking photos, that sort of thing. Trying not to think because I spend a lot of time doing that as it is.
But one of the things that came up was the concept of recovery and this sort of post underground nuke test level of stress. You've seen the pictures, right? Dig a cave, park the nuke in the cave and detonate it. There's this sort of major upheaval and then a subsidence. The ground doesn't rest like it used to anymore. Building anything on top of it is, well, it's tricky.
You'd think, "But isn't everything great now, Matt? That whole life-changing surgery, everything's working better, it's all good." Well, yes and no. I figured that I'm just now acknowledging the size of the nuke, the depth of the subsidence, the trickiness of the new footing beneath. See, when you keep rolling on things for two or three years and not easing that load, not letting down because you simply can't, well, the load is with you even you think you've put it down.
"How do I relax?" is a stupid question. But it becomes a scary one once it stops being stupid.
Yeah, I know. You'd trade me your problems for mine. Only you really wouldn't.
Anyways, the first step to dealing with a thing is understanding it's there, right? So yeah, it's there. Whatever it is. Scarring, bruising, broken bones, crushed ego, whatever.
But let's talk about something more uplifting. Let's talk about those memes that tell us all to "Buck up little campers! [this celebrity] didn't hit it big until they were almost thirty!"] Roll that one around in your head for a bit. Almost thirty. Let's not even get into the entire goddamn industry of uplifting quote advice. It's there. It's terrible, trading in clicks for patreon tips or selling t-shirts or whatever damn grift is running that week. Maybe it helps people. Maybe it's a tiny little anodyne for long enough to get up and do something. Good for them.
Folks, I'm fifty. I wrote my first novel that nobody bought in 1991 (and you'll be pleased to know that the broad strokes of my political predictions were largely correct, but who's keeping score). I have yet to have even one substantial piece of fiction published (that I did not myself publish.) I know. There's one on deck. It's still on deck, not counting.
So spare me the motivational memes, okay?
Now, I'm nobody's poster boy. I'm not a role model; that much I have in common with Charles Barkley. Nor do I wish to be one. Yeah, I know, that's a major vein of self-promotion for writers these days. Writer as product. Writer as best friend. Writer as head of their special little posse of which you can be a special member of if you get in on the ground floor. Ugh. Of all the things that the Howling Pit has asked writers to become, cheerleader and social director has to be the worst. Bad enough we have to be entrepreneurs (which I'm also really really good at) but this is beyond the pale. Intolerable.
See, for a long time, I believed that quality would win out. It would rise above the noise. And for better or worse, I believed (and still do) that my writing was of quality. That would be sufficient.
Yeah, I was a goddamn moron.
Quality is an issue of some importance, sure. But it may not be as important as timing or luck or catching a wave or reassuring folks, confirming already-held beliefs, that sort of thing. None of which I'm good at. All I can do is the work. And I've never been good at writing comfortable fiction. Comforting, perhaps. I've been knocked for seeming bleak, but that's never been the intent. Believe me. There's enough bleakness in this vale of tears to just go perpetuating it in fiction. Downer endings are for suckers (and they're the hardest thing to pull off effectively – typically they just make me want to throw the work across the room when I'm done.) But quality in the abstract is something that I've always pursued in my work. Haphazardly, perhaps, but such is the risk when you're a feral writer, largely self-taught.
Now when you're presented with mounting evidence, years of it, that nobody else wants the work, you might even let yourself believe that the work is indeed lacking in value, worthless in a word. And that's pure poison. But sometimes you're dumb enough to take the poison. Sometimes you're tired or beaten or just plain weak enough to take that hit. Then you think about all those poor thirty-year-olds who haven't met their potential and you think that you're a good length past that. And that leads nowhere good. But still you're there. Sometimes even for a long time.
I mean, sure it's great to have a hobby that doesn't need any kind of validation. I'm glad you're there.
Then you climb out of the hole. No matter how long it takes. Or you don't. You can sit in the hole. It's comfortable safe, right? The bats aren't going to judge you. They're happy for the company.
Or you're fine until the nuke goes off.
Does this make sense? Am I making sense with any of this?
I ask myself that question a lot. You have to when you send off submissions to get, at best a polite refusal. If you're lucky. Sometimes you get the snarky one. Those are fun, too. But the whole process of submission and no feedback and what's the definition of insanity again? Yeah, that's nutso. Seriously, it's a string of not submissions, but auditions. Just "you get a callback" or "nope." Feedback? Growth? Yeah, you gotta do that your own damn self. Be honest.
So yeah, I'm certainly not cut out for the path that everyone says you gotta walk, especially not for the one that the Howling Pit has tricked folks into running down. Of course, worrying about that was a trap, too. But I digress. I always digress.
More content later.