Yesterday I made a list of my unpublished, unfinished or “wouldn’t it be great if” novels. As soon as I finished, more entries came to mind, as if these dreams had been waiting to be rediscovered.
Why hadn’t these novels found their way to bookstores? That list is even longer, and it connects to incidents that were undeserved, unanticipated, unfair, and downright cruel, caused by people who were incompetent, spiteful, lazy or just not who I thought they were.
In other words: these novels haven’t been finished because of things that happen in life that aren’t what you want, what you like, what you earned, what you expected.
Though they appeared rather extraordinary to me at the time, they appear substantially less than that now. In truth, they are even typical.
My reactions to these numerous events did not make it easier for me to go forward. In fact, I went backward into history and biography. How was it possible, I wanted to know, for an artists of talent (here I was thinking of Broadway theater) could work very hard on, and feel very good about, what was to become a flop. The answer: because that’s what you have to do, every time, for the show to open. After that, nobody can be sure.
Sometimes works that were judged inferior become important later, often after the artists have moved on to other work, or have died.
Sometimes works that were judged superior fade from importance, or, worst, become indicative of an former era’s excesses or outdated cultural ideas.
Sometimes works that were ignored find the light, though, usually, works that are ignored stayed ignored. Far more art is foisted (dare I say hoisted?) upon the world than is noticed, much less consumed. Like seeds, the majority don’t find fertile soil and grow high enough and long enough to propagate.
Worse than that, what we teach is a series of “great books” that, while they may be praised as definitive statements now, were almost always else to their authors. At best, the work was a struggle. At least, it was done in haste, with little consideration for the finer points of composition. At times, it was done for money, which most writers needed in order to live because, then as now, those who have a shop in the marketplace try to pay as little as possible for the goods they sell.
So I look back on all that and, though I know why I searched for a mentor to help me do it better, or got blocked and depressed, or labored liked Hercules to “fix” whatever people said was wrong with my work, the fact is, I wonder know, why I had to do all that stuff, experience so many lows (without anywhere enough highs!) just to come to this understanding.
As I told someone a few days ago, “God bless the broken road” that leads us to love, faith, and, in this case, the kind of wisdom that helps us make the changes in our attitude so that we can love, work and look forward to a rest after our labor.
As for all that other stuff I was expecting that led me to so much disappointment when it didn’t occur…all I can say is, been there, done that.