There is nothing as lonely as sharing something created in the depths of your gut and getting no response.
I saw a commercial for the TV show Dance Moms: Season 2. It featured two out-of-shape moms putting down their equally out-of-shape daughters and their dancing. Seriously? The public is clamoring for this kind of thing so loudly that the powers-that-be carved out a block in their programming schedule and dumped their financial resources into another reality show of this caliber?
This isn’t really a rant about reality tv. It’s more of a lament. It’s shown me the disparity between what’s successful and what I’m driven to write, and I wonder if the struggle against the tide is worth it anymore.
I read a post by Ross Gale and Tony Woodlief that put into words and brought into focus the irrepressible urge to express and share something of ourselves with others:
“We’d have to whisper our little truths of moans and water pools in hopes that our stories would turn others back to their own hidden stories, thereby sparking that blessed epiphany we readers have experienced and which keeps us coming back to the writers we love, the epiphany that can be summed up in this way:
Yes, I have felt this too, and I see you have felt it, and so I am not alone.”
It reminded me of a mantra I’ve repeated ad nauseam to myself and to other writers:
“I’ve written because it fulfilled me… I did it for the buzz. I did it for the pure joy of the thing. And if you can do it for joy, you can do it forever.” Stephen King
But that’s a delusion I’ve been laboring under. I realize now that’s only one part of the mystery of creating something.
When other writers have expressed fear that their writing will never be published, I’ve knocked it right back at them: “You’re not writing to be published. You’re writing for the pure joy of the thing.” But I was wrong. Not only do we write for the pure joy of the thing, we write to connect with others in the deepest most hidden part of our being.
And I think in these days of Dance Moms, something titled The Wife Swapping Vampires of Detroit has an exponentially greater chance of getting published than something titled East of Eden or To Kill A Mockingbird.
I”m not knocking escaping occasionally. I’ve spent many pleasurable hours with Victoria Holt, Janet Evanovich, and Emily Giffin. Not only have I watched What Not to Wear, I’ve made my unsuspecting guests watch it as well. And I’ve found myself caught up in the drama of Saying Yes to the Dress more than once.
And this isn’t about literary scholarship. This is much more simple and basic. It’s about something that touches you so deeply it has the power to bring real tears to your eyes. Not the easy tears of sentimentality. But the hot and heavy tears of self-discovery. Or the tears that leak out of you when you’ve read something so true and brilliant that the wonder of it can’t be contained inside of you. Or the tears of sorrow and relief at finding someone who not only understands your pain and dismal failings but has lived them as well.
Escape has become the end to the means. People are afraid to look inside themselves, afraid to face what lies hidden there. And I feel a tingling of dread at the thought that if John Steinbeck or Irene Hunt were writing today they’d remain unknown, their place on the bookshelves occupied by marshmallow fluff.
And now I have to come clean with you.
As I started to publish this post, my finger hovered over the publish button and I had a second thought: This is kind of a cynical downer of a post. Who wants to read about writerly angst? Maybe I should just delete it and try for something humorous.
But I will not cave. I will hit the publish button and let the chips fall where they may.
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