Part 3: Things Holding Me Back

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.

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13 Responses to Part 3: Things Holding Me Back

  1. Riccardo says:

    Hello, maybe your need for ‘something’ to show for yourself is in fact the need for some form of recognition (not necessarily related to materialistic things), and more widely understood, some form of human love. I mean, being important for somebody, somebody here and now.
    If I misunderstood, happy travelling nonetheless,
    P.S. I’m writing from Italy, so I can confirm that ‘you have people all over the world reading [your blog]’, or at least parts of it.

    • Dave Korn says:

      Riccardo, thanks for this note. i think you’re exactly right. it’s kind of a wild feeling to be understood by somebody so far away, just from a few words. yes: to feel loved and important. the same thing that everyone wants, no?
      thank you.

      • Riccardo says:

        Yeah, the same thing everyone wants, including myself. I recently had a feeling that I want to share with you, to see if there is some resonance in the way you feel. Like being a ‘node’ in society (or ‘wider community’ if you prefer this wording) where there is no flux, no stream? Like being a subsidiary track, where something sometimes arrives but never goes through, or like being that part of a big lake which is furthest away from the river flowing in and that flowing out, where water stagnates most? Like being that part of community where the circuit is interrupted. Like, in terms of community and people, you keep breathing superficially so that your lungs and your blood are not oxygenated to the full extent by this community-oxygen? Like the community doesn’t flow through you but rather you’re sometimes reached by the community or sometimes you reach for the community but that’s just it.

        • Dave Korn says:

          Yes, I think I know what you’re talking about. I like the stagnant water in far corner of big lake metaphor. I’ve definitely felt this way too from time to time. Yet there have also been communities to which I’ve felt extremely connected. It’s really interesting, and I wonder why sometimes we click and sometimes we don’t. Is it because of the community itself? The geography of the place? Is it just based on where we’re at, whatever we’re going through, whether or not we feel able to really show up? I’m not sure about this one.

  2. Jey says:

    You just deserve a chance. You are not alone in this case, many people seek “validation” of what they make. Validation is not the right word anyway. It will take time and courage to go out there and show what represents you, but it’s better to give it a try. Artists are here to communicate. And what artists communicate is not always recognized by people. It’s normal. A bit sad, but normal. It’s always something different to experience while living on the planet Earth 😉

    • Dave Korn says:

      you are quite right. i’ve always been very fascinated by the role of artists in society. but yes: all just a different form of experience. i will keep creating. thanks for your words.

  3. Randy says:

    Hi David! I just have to tell you that I get pretty excited when I open up my in-box and your blog shows up! Wow! What is Dave up to today? Deaét and I look forward to reading them.

    I think you are like the thousands of professional musicians who are very good at what they do, and have a very strong local following, but never quite make it nationally. Imagine what the rest of the country is missing out on! Only very few, through hard work, get that breakthrough to national (and international) recognition. Yet they are much loved indeed.

    As always, I wish you well My Friend

    • Dave Korn says:

      Thank you Randy 🙂 It makes me equally excited to see your name show up here. Your comparison makes me think of that jazz night you guys took me out to. I remember the keyboardist most clearly, for some reason, just the way his whole soul went so clearly into everything he played. And i want to be able to create like that guy. (though in a different medium) And this actually helps, because I realize when I think about it that what I need is not to be recognized, necessarily–maybe it’s that recognition is just a sign of talent? I want to be good at what I do more than I want to be recognized for it. So I guess I just need to keep writing.

  4. bryan says:

    These comments rang incredibly true for me: “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 read your post, and write these word now, sitting in a cubicle, filled with dread at the day’s work ahead. I’m employed by one of the largest banks in the world. My life is not my own. I am not living my life. So when I consider your question: what do you have to show for your life? It’s obvious to me: your journey. Your thoughts, your ideas and ideals. They are yours. You’ve fought for the life you want, and continue to choose the lonely road. Do you realize how rare that is? I’m sure you do, but speaking as someone who longs for the courage you exhibit on a daily basis, you should know that it is worth something. Keep fighting…

    • Dave Korn says:

      thank you. i don’t know how you found this blog, or what drew you to it, but I’m honored that you took a few moments to write me from your cubicle, if that doesn’t sound too strange. Thank you for reminding me of something extremely important.

  5. Gloria says:

    Hi Dave! I think what you have is a very legitimate desire. When you are very passionate about something, you really want to be good at it, for the same respect you have about your passion, and you may think you are good, and other people; relatives, friends may think the same, but sometimes that´s not enough, you need a professional to come and tell you if you are good or not, if people will like to read what you write, or not, thats very normal. But the truth is; sometimes what a professional says is not always the truth, and what people may want to read is not always worth it. I like to think im a writer, but im not always sure, I have tried to get published with few succes, to be honest I have only get published when is for free, and is ok, I dont do it for money, but the idea people have is they pay for what is worth… I started to wonder if I was even a writer, but recently I find some words of a writer Rosa Montero that I liked: (Is a translation, more or less) “A writer is the one thats needs writing to keep living, to face the darkness of life, to be able to stand up from bed in the morning. One is a writer because you just can’t not be a writer… So what makes a writer is the need of wrting although that not always makes you a good writer.” So I conclude Im a writer, not sure if a good one, but will find it out, And I think you are a writer and a good one! If you feel the need to “fulfill the not entirely understood desire “to have something to show for myself” do it, dont let yourself wonder or “let go of the need to”, because that can just not go away and keep coming form while to while. But keep in mine that the positive result of all this may be different, it may not be getting your work published, but that may not mean your work is not good. We know how this world moves, many people said you have to be a good seller to get what you want, so many people learn how to be good sellers, how to sell themsleves, their work, and get published, but selling sometimes involve lies, a game we may not want to play. Some professionals dont care about art, they are just interested in things can help them make money, and sad to said but some of them wont even give a positive criticism just for the jelousy. So if you follow that road, Im sure you will learn more about your own work, you may get the confirmation you need in the way, and Im sure you may also get published, but don´t set that as the ultimate goal, beacuse not always the good stuff gets to be published and viceversa.
    I found your blogg for not reason, I get to the site of Christopher McCandles and found your work ther; that you have to believe this: is totally awesome! While I was reading I thought, “I wish this guy have a blog”, and you had it! Unfortunatelly Im not an authority in literacy or writing, but I think I know about it, I have read a lot, books, magazines, blogs and I really your way of writing has something. Cadence, should I say? The words come one after another in a rythm of a nice and very interesting convesation. You have all the ideas clear and in order and put them all there like a very well extended blanket, in a very natural, honest and clear but tastefull way. Is like having a conversation with some that dont stumble at talking, somone that knows exactly what to say and how to say it, so you can underestend it easily. You make also a very good use of puntuaction and all that seems very natural in you, I dont know and dont need to know if you duble check or correct too much, but it seems like the whole text just came out that way. Im honest when I say Im sure you are good, I dont personally know you, so I don´t have to be suportative, I really believe what I said. Now think in this: talking again about selling, you didnt sell your blog to us, all your readers, nobody told us or recomend us to read you, we didnt see you name or blog in a comercial, we are here for the product: your stories and the way you tell them, and that my friend is something! Something very important I think.
    Congratulations again, for all this years on the road, for follow your dream, for your talent.
    And thanks a lot for sharing!


  6. Mica says:

    I’ve been reading your blog for almost three years now. You, your journey, your writing is all so beautiful. I can’t wait for the day for you to be published because I know it will happen.

    • Dave Korn says:

      you are too kind. i can’t tell you how much i appreciate your encouragement, and i am honored that you’ve been with me for so long. especially after so much silence recently. there is more to come soon. before the end of the summer i will share some of what i’ve been working on 🙂

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