I have heard plenty of excuses and have bolstered them myself, wearing them close to my chest as Kevlar. The inner critic always wins, it stems doubt and poisons ambition. But my ambition has not been tainted, I wake up every morning and ask myself what I need to do in order to become the greatest American novelist of all time. Then before bed every night, as I cuddle Logan, I have the same fear I did not accomplish nearly enough. When I write 10,000 words I think I should’ve written 20. Yet when I read these over inflated pieces of shit that I call rough drafts I ask myself where the fuck is the emotion? I can’t possibly only carry the passion for writing when I am away from my keyboard? What kind of sick joke is that?
In college I took a poetry workshop—an intro one. During our mid-term marks my professor, I forgot his name but not his hipster appearance; though overweight he hid it well under button downs, cardigans, and facial hair. Not to mention most writers look cooler with a cigarette in their mouth. Anyway, he handed me a poem I wrote— more shit on, arbitrarily spread the turds along the page, and prayed people read it as the fertilizer foundation of a Napa Valley Vineyard.
Sure enough this MFA student/Professor called me out on my bullshit. He wrote in the top writer corner “Ari, over the course of the semester you have produced, by far, three of the best lines of poetry in the class. You have also produced three of the worst. I need to see more of a commitment to your talent.” Although he went on to rip me a new one I always remember that exchange because it was the first time someone gave me a genuine compliment. Sure it was laced with snakebites and grenades but this man didn’t owe me anything (not compliment wise). He wasn’t my grandma telling me how proud she was that I properly formatted subjects and predicates or my parents saying my stick figure ninjas were masterpieces. He was as objective as they come, a man who’s name I have forgotten and he has probably forgotten mine.
It’s kind of funny looking back, often in some of my worst work I can find some of my best lines. There comes a point in some writing, when I am feeling ambivalent, something I am proud of sneaks on to the page. The problem is, for every honest word out of apathy there is an honest shit landfill to dig through.
It has become clear just how much work I have to put into my remaining manuscripts. They are bullets with no powder. If I tried to sell them to my readers now I would be lucky to see them used as coasters. This template I have tried to carve around my name just isn’t working. I write what I think I should, not what is honest. And perhaps that is why I stare at the screen half laughing, half scoping the word count, so I can clock out and feel like I accomplished something when all I did build a sandcastle 10 minutes before high tide.
There is nothing else to say. I have the drafts in a folder waiting for me. And now I look at them with energy, with commitment, with a goal to be the greatest American novelist of all time. I laugh when I see my goal because I know it sounds ludicrous, but I am committed to a future where I can laugh about how I thought it would never happen.