“I don’t care if a reader hates one of my stories, just as long as he finishes the book.”
I have some specific writing news to share later in the week. In the meantime, I wanted to share a realization I arrived at shortly after collecting and archiving older work over the weekend. Actually, I believe I was motivated to write about said insight all the more after watching Inside Llewyn Davis, a Coen brothers' movie about a struggling and often unlikable vocal artist whose one redeeming quality, it seems, is his unwillingness to sell out or sell short what he believes sacred--his art. When I first walked out of the movie theater, I felt that I'd just watched the equivalent 2 solid hours of wuah wuah. But as the movie sunk in (as I like to believe it was meant to), the same insight I had after the archiving returned all the stronger; suddenly, I saw the beauty in the protagonist's desire to create at any and all cost.
When I was a kid and ran competitively against other kid runners, some of whom were older than me, I remember thinking anything in life would be easier than the fear I felt before a race. Sometimes, when I'm not feeling well or I'm having a particularly rough day, I remember how large that fear felt before a race and, suddenly, whatever I'm going through feels more manageable because I know that pain, fear, or any undesirable emotion will eventually pass. Everything is temporary. Amazing how small the past seems now and yet, at the same time, how real the memory is of that fear.
I bring this up because life proves again and again that it contains balance; as such, this idea of thinking a thing too large to bear works in the opposite way as well.
As a writer, I sometimes feel my contribution is so incredibly small as to be inconsequential. I feel that each story I write is a droplet, a little more than nothing. But as I began to file my work away and archive this weekend, I remembered the dread I felt when getting my work critiqued and how small I felt when my work got published. Publication, for me, has always been gratifying but also anticlimactic. Sometimes I am incredibly proud, but other times I am less than satisfied and even, at a stretch, embarrassed by older work.
Here comes the insight: In the reorganization of older work, something so much more beautiful and encouraging emerged. I saw the recurring characters, the patterns, the larger message that is only beginning to form. What sometimes seems aimless and small is not. This realization makes me confident that as a person sticks with short story writing, or any craft, the stories (work) will eventually begin to converge and grow larger than ever imagined. Everything is adding up to something larger: a body of work. This is the power of art.
And, I recommend the movie. :)
Have a beautiful week!