Despite the rather extreme limits on my time - only to be compounded when I return to work - I try to set aside a significant portion of my day to reading. Reading is the reason that I write, and nothing is more inspirational or soul-nourishing than curling up with a good piece of writing - whether it be a full length novel or a series of tweets from one of my favorite writers.
I was happy to stumble upon this letter in The Cut today. It’s from a middle aged author who is feeling similar to the way I did earlier this week - stuck in a morass of her own failed expectations, straining towards a future of success that feels more improbable with each passing day. She wonders, is this when I give up? Should I accept that I will never amount to anyone great?
Heather, or “Polly”, responded with a fire and conviction so absolute I was clutching my chair by time I reached the end. In short, her response to this hapless letter writer was “fuck no”. I found this paragraph particularly striking:
But look, the whole idea of "breaking through" is such a crock of shit. If you do nothing else, build a religion around this one fact. Beyond the ability to feed yourself, it doesn't fucking matter if a million people love you or five people do. It doesn't matter if you're 25 or 75. You cannot pollute your life with this fixation. You can feel relevant, you can imagine that you somehow matter in the larger scheme of things, you can commit to being a force in the world, without hitting some arbitrary high score or crossing some imaginary threshold of popularity.
Today I went to the Brooklyn Book Festival, a sprawling, white-tented neighborhood fête for the bookish and literary among us. I made plans to arrive at 2 pm, in time to see a poetry reading that featured a young author I admired, but alas, the best laid plans of mice and men go awry, especially when you unwittingly summon an inept Uber driver. I missed the reading completely, but I was able to meet and briefly speak to the author, have my book signed. I spent the next two hours or so browsing the stalls, peering at books of all shape, size, and genre, magazines and quarterlys and posters and tote bags, so many tote bags. Authors and agents distributed glossy fliers, advertising their work. There were stages and rows of seats that would fill and empty and fill again. I drank in the subdued revelry of the festival, the celebration of the beauty of language and ideas borne of other humans who also burn with the urge to create and tell stories, and I thought about my place in this thrumming world. When a woman at a stall asked if I was a writer, I hesitated for a minute before saying “Yes,” and smiled.
I am nowhere near the point where I can feed myself from my writing. Indeed, I am no longer making money to feed only myself. I have much more at stake, but refusing to even try unlocking the door to this world I would like to inhabit will only cement my feet to the ground. This is not to say I won’t receive more rejection emails, or have any more emotional crises that will trigger a meltdown, an insistence of my utter lack of real talent. I’m physically and virtually surrounded by people who are doing more, being better, achieving achieving achieving where I feel I am sitting sitting sitting.
But today, right now, I am accepting my place on this journey. I’m going to get “there” one day, wherever that is. And once I do, I’ll probably start looking towards my next “there”. But that’s the nature of inertia, isn’t it? Forward. Forward, forward, forward.