From the Sargasso

SargassoSeaA date calculator online tells me that, at present pace, my 500th post on this blog will appear on December 27, 2014. As I sit here now, looking forward (or back to starting), the event seems impossible.

Time swims more than flies, each moment is flotsam and jetsam borne by calm waves, choppy conditions, unexpected tempests, and every other variety of sea change. As much as we may like to think we’re swimming straight, time carries us strange places. Little in the air impedes us, but tides move us without notice.

This blog contains hundreds of conceits like this—I may even have used this one before—and at the time each likely seemed definitive, revelation at last. In retrospect they’re often just clever, new ways of seeing matters that, for all my efforts to illuminate or explain, remain just what they are, as they were before. A continuous need for novelty will do that. In a doubtful state, you wonder if wanting to say what hasn’t been said is the same as desiring truth.

My writing might be described as defensive. I’ve given so much of my life to learning to write and wouldn’t dare not do it. Fear of stagnation motivates me, so much so I’m grateful to be borne by any current. If not for trouble, my commentary might be more limited, steadier intonations from a known voice.

I hope my voice is pleasant. Blogs rely on constancy, devotion, and companionship, which—believe me—I appreciate. Blogging could be the only writing venue where being yourself is enough. My practice at that is extensive.

My writer friends celebrate arrivals such as new books, appearances in magazines and journals and events. They mark the stages of their progress. My horizon is clear, the line between ocean and sky uncluttered. Perhaps among themselves my friends say my problem is ambition. A writer should seek a destination, a direction… whether he or she gets somewhere or not. My friends may say I fear rejection. They may be right. When I wrote The Lost Work of Wasps, I sought a goal and learned a great deal, but I published the book myself. Little aspiration arose from my endeavor—a few kind words, two generous opportunities to read, and one formal review.

I liked having complete control over design decisions that otherwise wouldn’t be mine. Yet, I’ll always wonder if my work was good enough for a publisher and will never know. The quiet response to my work suggests maybe I found its proper sphere. My writing colleagues would say, diplomatically, a self-published book still counts, but believing them is challenging, particularly for the sort of person who interprets silence as an indictment. My mother always said, “If you can’t find anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Nothing at all speaks on and on, for hours, days, months.

I’m winding my way to an essential question—not “What am I doing here?” because I’ve written on that before and, besides, I am here, until 500 at least. My question is “What’s next?” Candidly, if I woke up tomorrow morning having overcome my compulsion to create, I might be happier. Reaching a true acceptance of my shortcomings would be a great gift. Yet that seems unlikely because, despite what others may say, I am ambitious. Whatever my limits, I like the work of blogging and love the thought some unaccountable island of beauty will still rise from the horizon. I can’t seem to believe anything else.

Determination is a boon and a bane. You want so much, will work so hard for it, and cannot stop even if you sometimes think you should and would like rest. You can’t quit without surrendering who you are. That’s where I am now. By 500, I hope to find a more comfortable place, one way or another.

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2 Comments

Filed under Aging, Ambition, Blogging, Desire, Doubt, Ego, Essays, Hope, Identity, Laments, life, Meditations, Resolutions, Sturm und Drang, Thoughts, Time, Voice, Work, Writing

2 responses to “From the Sargasso

  1. I think a self-published book is an accomplishment — as is a finished story or blog post, be that the 356th post or the 500th. There’s a success in there, of finishing a project in which you set out to say something. I’m not sure where comfort rests, as you mentioned in your last paragraph. And I agree with the penultimate sentence about surrendering. Frustrations abound for me, and I’ve come to the conclusion that simply doing is good for me. That would be drawing/writing in my sketchbook and publishing on my blog. I certainly haven’t gotten to the point where the things I create earn me enough money to live off — and I may never will. In the times I get frustrated with that, I try to remember that there’s a success in continuing to create — and finishing each project.

    • dmarshall58

      I like the theory that people are what they do regardless of what anyone calls them, but it’s a theory I have trouble accepting consistently. It might be easier if I didn’t compare myself to others so often, but that’s something I do too.

      One of my writing teachers told me that writing is never about any individual project but about the process of writing generally. That is, you want each individual effort to be your best work because you see it will bring you to better work in the future. No one, she said, should want to be satisfied. If you were, you might be finished. I suppose that’s what keeps me going despite all the frustration, the feeling that I might get somewhere eventually.

      Thanks for commenting. –D

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