Thursday, October 8, 2009

A writer's life

When I was in high school I had a very strong philosophy about life. The fact that I had a philosophy about life in high school probably tells you what kind of loner geek I was but that's beside the point.

At the time I felt that life was just absurd. No fate. No purpose and especially no meaning. I was a huge fan of Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot. If you're not familiar with the play it's about two men who are waiting for someone named Godot to show up. In the end Godot doesn't appear and we get the idea that the characters will continue to wait indefinitely. As a play it is as exciting as watching paint dry but as a concept it appealed to my burgeoning sense of pointlessness. There is no reason for the men to wait and yet they do. Some people have said that Godot is a religious play; Godot represents a God who has deserted us but that would imply that the two characters have a purpose to their life which goes against everything The Theater of the Absurd is about. Godot is simply nothing. Our lives are about nothing. And we try to give our life meaning and purpose where nothing exists.

This may sound a little unsettling to some but to me it was very comforting. If nothing mattered then I could do anything I wanted. This freedom was exhilarating.

After graduating high school, I made a big mistake. I started to care. I cared about making money. Cared about what I looked like. Cared about what people thought of me. Cared about being successful. Life suddenly had a purpose. My purpose was to care. This might sound all well and good but it was actually a very bad thing. When I started to care, I became vulnerable. And when someone is vulnerable they are open to attack.

I always thought I was good at writing. When I was younger, I received plenty of writing awards and aced my English tests. Before my fourteenth birthday my first book was published. (Okay my dad published it and to my knowledge no one ever bought a copy but still it was a book and it was published.) When I was in my noncaring, life-is-absurd part of my life, writing was pure enjoyment. I wrote for anyone who wanted to read it--what did it matter if it was good or bad? As soon as I started to wonder what people thought of my work, it was all over. Oh the agony of suffering through other peoples’ opinions. I soon found out that I wasn’t the young Shakespeare that I had always thought I was. I tried selling my short stories, my plays, my screenplays. I entered contests. Tried to find an agent. No dice. I cared but apparently no one else did. After watching American Idol one night, I feared that I was one of those Idol hopefuls who had no clue about their lack of talent. The next day when I was feeling a little more optimistic, I told myself that I knew how to write and I was pretty good at it, but just not good enough.

Last year I took off four months to write about my experiences as a veterinarian in a large city. Although I wasn't writing full time (I did quite a bit of travelling on the side) I managed to write almost a complete book and put together a book proposal. I called it The Pet Doctor’s Shoes and sent it off to a variety of publishers and agents. For people who love their pets I thought it would be a great read. My job is anything but dull and I get asked all the time what it is like to work with animals all day. It was a no-holds barred look at my professional life. Within a month I had received all but one of my proposals back. No one was interested. Yes I know a writer, any writer, must be able to handle rejection but that still didn't take away the bitter sting of opening all those "we regret to inform you" letters.

I'm not asking for sympathy here. I realize that there are a lot worse things than getting rejected by a bunch of strangers. I could have cancer. I could be blind. I could have been born in Afghanistan. I do have a steady job and I'm not starving. I do have people that love me and want me to succeed. My problem is my own.

I simply care too much.

This past week I've been thinking a lot about my writing. I even considered giving it up. I'm too tired to keep on putting myself out there only to get the remains of my work shoved back at me. But here is my (frustrating) conclusion; writing is too much a part of me. It's like trying to rip out my liver and expecting to live. I have to write. God knows why and he apparently isn’t willing to give me the answer.

So there you have it. I will write and throw it out into the universe and see what happens. If it comes back to me broken, I’ll nurse it and comfort it and have no regrets. But if it takes flight, I hope it flies far and wide and high and becomes bigger than I ever expected it to be.

And maybe then there will be a purpose and it will all be worthwhile.

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