05 July 2016

Do You Dream of Unearned Glory? I Sure Did (Do)

He saw that his brother had sworn on the wall
He hung up his eyelids and ran down the hall
His mother had told him a trip was a fall
- From Broken Arrow by Buffalo Springfield

There was a time in my life when I thought that any day fame and fortune were going to tap me on the shoulder and invite me to revel in them for the rest of my days. I would enjoy the company of beautiful women, many of whom would be my lovers, as I traveled from one exotic locale to another. My opinions on all matters would be sought as the press hounded me constantly, splashing my picture across newspapers and magazines. I would be renowned for my ribald stories, my dances with bacchanalia and the trail of broken hearts left in my wake. But I would also be known for my wisdom and insights into matters of the day. My popularity would be boundless.

Less specific was exactly how I attained such fame. Was it perhaps for my feats on the soccer field? Or had I overcome my total lack of musical talent and become a rock star? Or was I a critically and commercially acclaimed actor? Maybe I had authored several best sellers. Most likely it was some combination of the above. The details of how were not nearly so important as the what of my celebrity. I often pondered such things while under the influence of alcohol or drugs or more likely both. But I could find myself contemplating my future glory while perfectly sober. It was not uncommon for me to fall asleep with such visions cavorting in my head.

I was a dreamer and one with a rich imagination who could conjure amazing fantasies without prompting. What I was not was a goal setter or a worker or a practical man with a plan. That was boring stuff that I couldn’t be bothered with. It would come in due time. I had the cart well before the horse, fully expecting that I could enjoy my world wide notoriety in advance of doing anything to achieve it.

I had no script in progress nor was I taking acting lessons but I rehearsed my Oscar acceptance speech and imagined the post event soiree. Well after my playing days ended I fantasized about scoring the winning goal in a championship match and the humble remarks I’d make to the press afterward. Despite having not the slightest musical talent visions danced in my head in which I stood on stage soaking in the rapturous cheers of an adoring audience.

By my late teens and early 20s my fantasies were fueled by alcohol. The intoxicating effects of alcohol filled me with intoxicating thoughts of glories to come. When alone I even acted some out.

On into middle age and a career in teaching and a family and the fantasies had not yet abated. Now they centered almost exclusively  on the successful publication of and critical and popular acclaim for my novels. I was barely pecking away at one of them. I would spend more time pretending to be interviewed about my book then I did writing the damn thing.

I’ve learned many lessons in life and one of the most important is that there is good news and bad news about success in life. The bad news is that in order to attain success one has to work very had and the good news is that all one has to do to be successful in life is to work very hard. For most of my life I have assiduously avoided hard work. Oh I’ve worked as much as I’ve had to to get by, but not enough to realize my wildest dreams, or even approach them. My wildest dreams have been, admittedly, pretty damn wild but many of the rewards one reaps from the efforts have been denied me. Life being a journey not a destination as the old bromide goes.

Working toward something is rewarding in and of itself. The hours I’ve spent actually working on a novel and not my interview with the New York Times have enriched my soul beyond measure.

Sometimes I clean the kitchen. I empty the dishwasher, fill it up, take out the compost and recycling and wipe the counters. In some regards its a futile task because within 24 hours the whole process needs to be repeated.  There’s no getting away from doing because the alternative is to let the mess stay. Besides I enjoy the process. I’m almost disappointed when it’s over. Is there nothing else that needs to be washed, tossed or buffed? Oh well, it’s done and there’s the clean kitchen. Not really a great achievement but it felt good doing it.

Satisfaction comes from the process. As a teacher I enjoy seeing students improve and take pride in their growth, but the real pleasure comes not from encomiums but from doing it. If the process is done correctly then the results will come. When I was coaching soccer I told my teams not to worry about the score to just keep playing the same for the whole match. If you do that and do it well you'll either win or lose and if the latter only because the other team was superior on that day. I wanted my teams to play at the same level whether the score was tied or we were down or up by several goals. You have to do. When its over you can take pride in your performance and if you win you've got cause for celebration. If you lose there's no shame.

I like the process of writing. If feels good to string words together into sentences and paragraphs to express ideas and tell stories and relate incidents. Motivation is difficult. When you've got no deadlines and there are a million distractions and ideas are not flowing from your fingertips it can be extremely difficult to produce. A lot of people pooh pooh the idea of writer's block. These are people with one thing in common: they've never had writer's block. Its so simple to discredit another person’s problem and so hard to try to understand and sympathize. I’ve heard people dismiss those who suffer from depression. Yeah I guess it sounds stupid for a healthy, successful person to have depression. Nonetheless it is real and it is awful. Yet people do sympathize with someone passing a gall stone or suffering from bronchitis. Imagining someone else's pain is neither pleasant nor easy, particularly when it psychological.

I've covered fantasy, the process and sympathy. That's quite a spread. Maybe a major publication wants to interview me about it. I should prepare.

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