The night is brisk, our breath freezing in front of us as we walk the meadow path. The dark trees rise up like mountains at the edge of our property. When May was a child, she thought the trees were a wilderness. She could walk forever in there and not see anything. It was only later that she found the road and later still that she crossed over and went down the path on the other side that lead to the industrial park and then over the Veteran’s Park and to 95 where the traffic was constant. It only took fifteen minutes to walk through the woods and come up to Parsons and then only five minutes to walk to the overpass where the cars never stopped. By then, she says, I couldn’t get lost in those woods to save my life and I don’t even think about going in there these days because of the teenagers. Me and her just stay on the meadow path. If I listen, she says, I can hear 95. Now I can hear the helicopter tours all day, too. And then there’s someone always running a lawn-mower or leaf-blower or jackhammer or compressor or a siren wailing nearby. There’s not a stitch of silence. Off to the south, we can see the lights from town. There’s a bridge that has a blinking red light and the radio tower at WERH that has two flashing white lights. Just to the left of the tower is a little house that used to belong to May’s aunt, a feisty little woman who refused to sell her property when they put in the station and the tower and the mini-strip mall that never seems to keep any store longer than a few months. May says that the radio tower made her aunt sick. The last time she saw her, they were taking her out on a stretcher. May’s mother was holding her aunt’s hand. She says she can’t remember any sound from that night. The ambulance lights were flashing, but there was no sound. She says it has something to do with the radio tower, but I don’t know what to say to that.
Don’t worry dude! Just keep writing!
You’re awesome! Be strong!
All writers face rejection! Just keep on keeping on!
But I’m not really looking for encouragement. This blog started as a way for me to report back to the community of New Hampshire (after the State Council on the Arts awarded me a fellowship) about the writing life and process that one particular writer went through. Well, in the spirit of honest reflection, I have to write about doubt. I don’t doubt because of rejection. I don’t doubt because of acceptance. I doubt because when I open the notebook to write, I’m almost immediately confronted with the negative voice that tries to keep me from writing. For instance, here is how it played out yesterday, slightly paraphrased from the journal entry in which I argued with myself:
I’ve failed to find a passage through the gate.
Self-publishing means mean selling, marketing, editing on my own. I am not a good editor, publisher, marketer.
I can’t imagine how to sell copies of a self published book.
I’ve missed the opportunity to do creative work on the web.
I’m old. Too old to realistically do the shit required of a self published writer.
I am afraid.
What am I afraid of? I do not think I am afraid of success. Am I afraid of RISK?
Don’t you stand in front of classes all the time and preach the necessity of RISK in artistic endeavors? What does that mean in your own life? What would Walt Whitman do?
Or perhaps the fear isn’t about traditional vs. self-publishing. Perhaps its about discovering that I’m simply not good enough, or haven’t worked hard enough, or that my creative impulse is half-baked.
Fear of not being good enough. Of having material not worth marketing? Maybe I don’t really believe in my work. Maybe it’s not good?
I could go on. The back and forth went for several pages more. But you get the picture. Still, this is not a call for help, or encouragement. It’s just the way that my writing life unfolds. And do you know what happened after I let Old Man Doubt into my head for a couple of hours? I got tired of listening to him. I closed the notebook in which I argue with myself, and opened the notebook in which I’m writing a new novel, and I wrote my pages.
I. WROTE. MY. PAGES.
Just like I always do.
So when I go back to teaching in the fall after a summer of writing, I can tell my students that yes, I struggled to write all summer. Every day. But I wrote.
Because that’s what writers do.