Saturday, July 09, 2016

Failed State of Being

When I was a young man working to become a professional writer I would encounter many people like me who were also trying to capture the same goal. Back in those days there were a lot of independent fiction magazines where you could submit your work if stories failed at the more well known professional publications. These are the places where I met so many young writers. We'd see one another's names on the contents page and that's how I began to correspond with some of them. Keep in mind that there was no Internet in these earliest of days for me, and later on it was primitive compared to today.

I struck up a bit of a friendship with one writer. He will here remain nameless because, frankly, I haven't heard from him in many years. However, out of curiosity I looked to see what he was doing since his name was absent completely from the rolls of published authors nowadays.

Back in my youth, though, his stories seemed to be just about everywhere. Well...everywhere but in the pages of the top magazines. He never could quite crack the barrier of the bigger markets, despite the fact that many of his stories were pretty darned good. There was just something that kept him out of the higher paying markets. As I began to work in comics, and sell stories to magazines and anthologies he just stopped communicating.

Several years zoomed by. One day I saw his name pop up on the Internet and I was able to get in touch with him. In a bit of a coincidence we found that we shared the same literary agent. He couldn't quite sell a novel, and neither could I. Eventually, that changed for me, but not for him. Someone told me that he did finally self-publish some stuff, but if it was any good it sank into the vast sea of self-published shit from which it is almost impossible to escape.

Later, I heard he was trying his hand at poetry. Then someone told me he was making an attempt at doing pen and ink artwork.

More years passed and I heard nothing from him or about him. He seemed completely vanished from the world of creative writing. Someone told me that he had given up writing and had decided to try his hand at making movies, scripting and directing some short efforts. Self-promoted, of course, on YouTube. He seems to have hit the wall there, too.

The thing was, he gave up. And I don't blame him. Trying to get to a point where you can make your living solely from being an artist is damned near impossible. It's just a very difficult thing to achieve. Despite moments of professional success, I never have been able to do it, and I've been at it for decades. But in the case of my old pal, his problem seemed to be frustration that would end in fueling a journey down a different path of creativity that each ended in the same way as the first. I don't want to use the word 'failure', because I can't say that his work failed at what he was trying to say with it. But he obviously felt a failure because each time he met frustration he changed ships, not direction.

Writing. Illustrating. Directing. Acting. Painting. Sculpting. The faded friend seems to have tried them all. Few people can make their living at any of them. But in my experience you focus on one thing, or fail at them all.

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