All writers – or at least a big chunk of them – look for fame and fortune through their craft.
Or at the very least, they look for some form of remuneration: praise, appreciation, recognition.
Because through it all, through the fire and desire, through the sheer determination and the pain and suffering of writing the right words down and inscribing them for the world to see, what can keep a man going if not the knowledge of some form of glory down the road?
Sometimes (oftentimes) you have to sell yourself to make it. You have to step away from virtue and goodwill and benevolence to get there. You might think you’re playing by the rules by adopting these values – but the world never plays by the rules. The world plays by the variables of NEED and WANT and as long as it doesn’t want you, you’re nothing. Your writing is nothing, even if it is the culmination of months locked in a basement working at the word with nothing but a lamp by your side.
Even if it means starvation, social annihilation, solitude, pride, conceit, sacrifice; the only thing that will prove that you made it is your finished manuscript or piece in the hands of someone else.
Publication is a witch, a slithering snake, a blighting mistress that will drive you off a cliff and through a porthole to the netherworld. It will lure you to the dark, the disfigured, the ugly. It will ruin you.
It will become your maddening obsession, your greatest fear, your only source of anxiety. It will haunt you in your sleep and chase away your dreams and invite nightmares to feed on your brain like vultures scraping for leftovers.
The only thing that stands between me and this state of ruin is the drink. My greatest ally having my back and reeling me in every time I get sucked into this portal of madness and doom.
It has stopped me from becoming a poor fellow like the rest of them, losing everything and fighting shadows in my sleep. It has stopped me from waking up to a picture of myself stapled against a dartboard on the wall with one or two darts planted through my skull.
And yet here I am, still holding the scotch in one hand and the pen in the other, still writing or typing away, still sending out a flurry of manuscripts and scribbled poems and words written on toilet paper and table covers and bed sheets and cloths to a plethora of potential publishers.
Here I am still under the mercy of the world, a slave to its taste and judgment.
Out of the works I’ve sent, none have returned the same way I’d sent them: some have been returned to me roughed up and torn into pieces, victims of a long and hard tussle with the public eye and thought. These are my ideas, my visions that have attempted to take down and break large and unbreakable walls but have failed without shame.
Others have returned to me carefully stored in cardboard boxes, with the word REJECTED written in black marker on one side of the box. These too have faced the wrath of criticism and public disapproval.
When you write, you normally wonder if the world is ready for you and your work. But when you seek publishing and a channel to run your voice down, you start wondering if you will ever be ready for the world. You start thinking if you’ll ever be ready to face the harshness and mercilessness of it all.
And then comes a day, a beacon of light out of the darkness, a moment you’ve played out countlessly in your dreams but never seemed any more unexpected in reality, a moment when you find out one of your own doings has finally made it to the other side. You find out your work has made it through the tunnel and out into the real world.
I can only describe it so delicately and precisely since it’s only happened to me once – and I made sure to memorize every detail of it in fear of never reliving this feeling again.
I remember kneeling and kissing the floor with my wet lips – even though I was not a religious man – and getting up and pinching myself again.
The joy, the glory, the ecstasy of this feat is unmatched. You are drawn into feeling you are a king, a great ruler standing high above your people.
You start hearing bells chiming all around you and you finally understand that you’ve made it; you’ve reached the promised land.
This is the state that you’ve imagined, played out several times in your head and caused yourself too many hangovers for. This is the state that kept the cockpit going during those cold lonely winter nights.
This is the state that pulled the Excalibur out of the rock.
You’ve made it, and there is no joy that matches or equals this feat. And you walk in your own trail proudly with fire all around you, but nothing can burn you. Nothing can go through you because suddenly, you are immortal. You are higher than this world and you are in a room full dining with the gods. You see all kinds of exotic fruit and drink the best of wines.
But then in a flash, it all dissipates and evaporates like salt water from the sea.
You are back in your dusty basement, and the lamp giving you light during those long nights is now only faintly lit. You realize this isn’t the end, this is only the beginning. You’ve stepped into the golden circle once but you are out of it again. And now, it’s time for you to begin again.
The booze is right there at the edge of the table, waiting for you to dive in and down those glasses one after the other. You are back at the starting line.
And so, you begin again.