Thursday, September 6, 2007

My Jealous Mistress

I have solidified in my brain what I've always intuitively known: that no matter what else I become in this world, no matter what else I do, I must write.

How I came to this I cannot recall; indeed, it's kind of an old realization at this point. The beginning of 3:15 '07 I immediately noticed a change in myself after agonizing to create when the mind is supposed to be blank. Part of what I realized is that a sure sign of being gifted with an art isn't necessarily that you're better than others at the thing, but that engaging in the thing serves to lift you wholly, putting you in a better place emotionally and spiritutally.

That description sounds dangerously like the definition of an addiction, except addiction doesn't feed the spritual self. I figure it this way: gifts of this type are divinely granted, and following through aligns you divinely. Ergo, spiritual uplifting.

So here I am now, finally seeing what's been tugging at my sleeve my whole life: that I am a writer, for better or worse, like it or not, professional or recognized or otherwise. Me and this destiny are married, and that's all there is to it.

So now comes the hard part. This isn't the first time I've encountered a life-changing realization, then had to either make good on it or live the rest of my life knowing I'm falling short of my potential. Potential is so easy to duck when you're mired in life, unable or ill-positioned to see it. Success becomes a burden when you know your upper limits (if there is such a thing); ignorance, in this case, truly is bliss.

But of course this is counterintuitive. Ignorance is bliss the way malnutrition makes disease preferable to health: it only provides a convenient excuse for failure. And failure is the same whether there's a good reason for it or not. Although knowledge of one's potential doesn't empower one to achieve, it does enable one to grow more fully into that person they were meant to be. Despite the threat of looming failure once ignorance is removed, the rewards for success are far greater than the happiness ignorance offers in stead. Indeed, just knowing one's previously perceived upper limit is no longer there can be a boon in and of itself. Now you know, and as GI Joe says, "knowing is half the battle!"

So here I am, the already thin veil of ignorance gone, at the beginning of my own battle for success. This prospect is not welcome, I will stubbornly and hardheadedly say up front. Already I struggle with self-image, one more potential reason to fail is daunting. Already, my plate is full with life roles and ambitions, long-term and short. Of course, writing has always been among those ambitions, but now bills and mortgage and groceries and college funds are at risk, and those ambitions that would keep me gainfully employed have taken priority out of necessity.

Not, of course, that writing isn't a good paying trade. But as they say, it's nice work if you can get it. The artist's plight is that his life is defined by struggle until that moment of discovery, that Harry Potter moment that took a British single parent riding home late on the subway and made her richer than the Queen. I am no longer prepared to sacrifice my place in the world to wait for such a moment; though meager, I have much to lose, and so my art, my writing, must take a back seat to what I have become accustomed to calling 'real life.'

Somebody said art is a jealous mistress, and any mistress worth her salt will punish you if she's not getting her due attention. Polymnia is punishing me: make no mistake. Don't get me wrong, I'm not reluctant to give her due, I just...lose track. I do get mired, in many things, most necessary for my material survival. I am fed intellectually, but I know there will be a critical point when those other parts of me, the emotional and the spiritual, will demand equal attention, and then I must give in. Then, there will be no choice, and the transition will be painful and terrible.

So I make this choice now, incrementally and subtley. I'm woefully out of practice; my creativity levels are at an all-time low. Time-wise, I'm swamped. Thank God writing doesn't cost money. But one way or the other, I must indulge this need, appease this hunger. Or it will consume me, and the cost of that is one I cannot bear to imagine.

Appendage: I owe part of my inspiration for this post to Tony Woodlief. Thanks again, Tony.

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