Here’s a glimpse into my creative process these days: 1. Write a piece. 2. Let 6 months pass. 3. Post piece.
I left Boulder with a strong sense of direction and intention. Many stumbling blocks found their way in. This past winter became a time to turn inwards yet again, and I outlined the ways in which I wanted to use the cold months. But that which mattered most gave way too often to less important things. I will write more about this when I feel ready. Now it is March. I’ve been working harder these past few weeks to tie up my loose ends. The weather has been warm lately; springtime approaches, and there are still things left undone. Yet today, it is snowing: the last snowfall of winter. And today, I complete my last two unfinished tasks: a long, long overdue letter to a very dear friend, and finally sharing this blog.
The following is from six months ago. I would probably write this piece differently today, yet it remains relevant in its own way.
Part 3: Things Holding Me Back
I’ve learned that sometimes it does take time to create the realities we envision. Here are three things standing between me and the lifestyle imagined in the previous blog.
The first and most straightforward barrier is that I have neither an RV nor at the moment the money to buy one.
The second is an inner wall, and I keep calling it loneliness for lack of a better word. It’s not that I don’t have amazing friends, it’s not that I don’t know how to meet people, and I see now, after Boulder, that it’s not even that I suddenly lack a community again. It’s that I have nothing tying me to the world, no place I feel I really belong, no expectations placed on me by anybody else, nobody counting on me, nothing outside of myself to which I am responsible: my loneliness comes from the same source as my freedom. And with no curriculum, no assignments, and nobody expecting anything from me, it takes incredible willpower and discipline to continue sitting down at my desk every day for three years now, trying to grow as a writer, activist, human being, etc. With no job, no school, nobody to report to, nobody to keep me in line, no deadlines or feedback, I feel like I’m totally on my own in charting my course through the world. Is it really ok for me to just keep living this way?
After the lack of RV and this sense of isolation, the third barrier to creating the new reality is that a new longing has asserted itself in my heart: for the first time since the beginning of my journey, or perhaps since the beginning of this blog, I suddenly feel a powerful need to have something to show for myself before I can go on. Yes, lately I have been longing to have something to show for myself, something to distinguish myself from the dropouts and street kids and street corner bums. Something tangible to represent my entire journey, all the work I’ve done in so many damn realms. I desperately want to have something to show for myself. I used to not care about that. Now, for some reason, I do. But I’m not even sure what this means. I used to think that perhaps, if I could get some of my writing published, this need might be fulfilled. Now I’m not so sure. I’m realizing how difficult and impossible that is—yes, I’ll keep writing, but longing for publication to provide validation may be simply unrealistic. When I explore publishing outlets for essays or pieces, I grow so overwhelmed and disheartened by the vast number of voices out there, all seeking their own recognition, the vastness of the world’s talent and the sense that I am no longer cradled and nurtured by a connection to all those who create, but hardened into competition against them. I do not want to compete. I am not the best, and even if I were, I would not have arrived there by measuring myself against others. The publication search detracts from the actual artistic work. And if I succeed, my words inked on a page somewhere, so what? Yet still, this longing to have something to show for myself! Having been on my own for so long, living my own way, doing my own thing, setting my own schedule, crafting my own life, quite beautiful and exceedingly lonely, I do now finally long for some kind of validation. Maybe not, perhaps, to defend or establish a sense of self worth, but maybe simply as a way to enter into the larger conversation, to join the tradition, not to secure my place in the future of things but in the present—just to not be alone anymore, doing this all by myself. Anyway, I don’t even know if I’m good enough as a writer. So if it’s not writing that will help me fulfill this new longing, then what is it? What can I work for, what can I come up with to show for myself? I’ve been working on learning how to live and travel without money, how to live well and be a good human, I’ve thrown myself into political activism and creative pursuits. All of these endeavors have carved substantial depths within me, yet none of them has produced anything tangible. I need something beyond just who I am. Because what happens when I forget who I am? I need something more than just a skull full of memories, because what good are they? They’re beautiful. That’s it. That used to be enough. More than enough; all I could ask for. But not anymore. At least I don’t think so. I’m not sure. I’m not sure about anything anymore. Maybe one day I’ll be a good dad, become a professor, write books, make a meaningful contribution to an academic community. But I’m not ready for a family, I’m not ready to go back to school. I’m on the journey, and before the journey continues relentlessly, I need to create something of a platform; I need to demonstrate to myself and to the world that I am an artist and seeker on a personal, political, and creative mission, not just a wandering bum who likes to scribble in his spare time.
Yet is this a legitimate desire? I spoke on the phone recently to Dana about some of this, and she said some important things. “Why are you suddenly so self-conscious?” She asked. “Why do you care what people think about you now, and why do you care about measuring yourself with some kind of material socially recognized accomplishment?” And she was right. Why DO I care about that all of a sudden? She questioned me further. “What would accomplishing something even look like to you?” I described the longing to publish writing: to have a professional read my stuff and say, yes, you are good enough: this would feel like an affirmation of all the work I’ve done. Also, to hold it in my hands, have a tangible product of my three years of work. And finally, to share it—to take this lonely business of writing and to put those words out into the world and thus suddenly not be alone anymore. Dana tore this one down too. “Again, you need the external validation of some ‘professional’ in order to feel good about your own art and passion?” And as for others reading my words? Dana asked me, “And what about your blog? Don’t you have people all over the world reading it? Why isn’t that enough?” And I got quiet for a moment and didn’t know how to answer.
So: I need to make some money as quickly as I can, keep writing, and take a closer look at my present insecurities. But is my task now to try to fulfill this not entirely understood desire “to have something to show for myself,” whatever that really even means, or is my task to let go of the need to?
Thank you for being here with me.