Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Shooting Spitballs at Myself

It’s the thing that makes art great, that made O’Hara write,

“…it is good to be several floors up
in the dead of night
wondering whether or not you are any good
and the only decision you can make is that you did it.”

Honestly, I don’t think I could be a writer if I wasn’t self-deprecating. I would take it all too seriously, all of that bad advice I got from teachers in high school who said writing was too hard a way to make a living, all those job postings directed at Ivy Leaguers, it would all have worn me down before I even got started.

It’s all illusion sure, but they can be very powerful. Just look at job postings on craigslist. Offers like "Ivy Leaguers Wanted for Worldclass Publishing Venture" and "Hedge Fund opportunities for Ivy League Grads", well, they aren't speaking my language are they? That was a world that never occurred to me at 17, poor in a small town, might be possible. I asked the guidance counselor, she said there were too many tests, it would cost too much money. So that illusion gets stronger, it's another chip on the shoulder, another rung that has to be climbed over on the way out of the pit, to say nothing of the mountain.
And the only way past that illusion, the only way to disbelieve what everyone else want you to believe, is to stare at yourself in the darkest of mirrors and be utterly self-effacing in order to dispel those illusions, to have nothing for the barbs the illusions are tipped with catch at when you walk through them. The only way to do it is in spite of all of the rest of it.

And that hard look at ourselves helps to bring us around to the one mountain we DO have to climb. We must bear up and be ready to cut ourselves down further than anyone else ever will, since we are always going to be the final barrier, the last obstacle to doing that which we fully believe in. It’s the toll that must be paid the ferryman; its the cost of living the life. You must be able to drag yourself through the abyss.

If you can tear out the heart out of yourself and your work, again and again, and still come back to it, then there is nothing left to stop you. Nothing anyone else can say will hold you back, will get at you, because they will never be able to cut you as deeply.

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