Friday, December 8, 2017

Success Only Makes It Harder

If you knew anything you wrote would be published and successful, what would you write?

This is a good question for me to make up for my absence on the Friday after American Thanksgiving. My post was halfway composed before I had to avert a crisis-level garbage disposal malfuction. I dusted off advanced-level plumbing skills I developed long ago, and for no apparent reason in the moment. I certainly didn't expect to learn to plumb. I hadn't endeavored to be a plumber. I didn't foresee a need to dismantle my Insinkerator, disconnect the pipes and snake the blockage that soaked my kitchen floor all the way to the sewer main. I certainly didn't expect to learn how to write. I hadn't endeavored to be a writer. I don't have an idea for the greatest American novel ready to apply to the concept.

I've lived a life of fascinating incongruity, likely due to my insistence upon making absurd choices that don't conform to anything that makes sense to anyone else. See, I come from a place and time where your value was determined by your slot. Once someone figured out what to do with you, they put you in a lane on a track and that's where you stayed if you wanted to be treated as a productive member of society. Success meant maximizing every opportunity on that track. You didn't change lanes until you were overtaking someone else on the same track. If you decided you didn't like your lane, the track, or being in the race at all, you were written off. Perhaps that's the function of the Midwest. Someone has to produce the staples of life, like food, steel, cars, weapons. Can't have dreamers on the assembly line holding up production. I'd imagine many an aspiring writer found themselves yanked up the grain harvester never to be seen or read again. Dreams are nice. Dreamers provide the cautionary tales dispensed by school counselors and job supervisors.

When you go it on your own in the Midwest, you become the talk, and what you do is how you're identified. This doesn't apply to lanes and tracks. No one is going to take a look at a spot weld and say "There goes Murray. You see those beads he struck? Tighter than the stitch your grandma put in your knickers. He could marry my daughter, that guy." No one autographs the alternator they replaced in your car. Get published, tho'? That's what you are. Not something you did with one of the many aspects of your being. It's "There goes the writer." If no one has a need for a writer, your function becomes the example, especially if your novel isn't a hit. "Don't wanna wind up like that guy." I have actual scars on my knuckles for fighting against that shit. It was easier to just pick up and move to a place where no one cares about you at all.

Perhaps it's my conditioning, but more likely my personality, to meditate upon my choices for as long as time will allow. In my life, it's not the work that takes the time. It's the decision making. This is why I go unseen until I have something I feel is worth seeing. In private, I'm examining my wants and matching them with what I believe would be their effect on my life, as well as the lives of folks I care for. I'm considering how I want to be regarded in the outcome. What I want to be known for. Forever. I'm trying to see everything that could happen if someone took my words as gospel. Ran with them. Caused trouble with them. It isn't easy. Knowing my book will be a hit from the get-go compounds the difficulty in choosing what to let out into the world.

Maybe I'd write a memoir, but as a handbook. I'd start it from the point where the reader has made the choice to leave that lane, abandon that predetermined track and forge ahead in the wilderness of warped reflections. If it resonated with a person, great. If it provided insight to help the reader, even better. Otherwise, it was just my own mess. Navel-gazing. What you take it seriously for? Didn't you read the disclaimer that said none of this has been proven in anyone's life but mine, so your results will vary? Follow at your own risk? No? Well then, I'm sorry your lit teachers let you skip the introductions and forewords.

I think the only responsible way to do it would be to offer up my guarded privacy in sacrifice to the illumination of the reader. It couldn't be fiction because that'd make it too easy, and a large part of the thrill I have writing it is the risk of failure. If something I wrote would be published and successful from day one, it'd have to be a book that was more valuable to the reader than the writer. Perhaps that's a part of my Midwestern conditioning as well. Part of me feels that shit is warped. Part of me thinks it's right. I'm fairly certain I'll never know. Better to just make the most of it. For everyone.


For those interested in the works to which I frequently refer, check out these titles at your local bookseller, your local library, or online where you enjoy purchasing your print and e-books. As always, thanks for your support and encouragement.

Works By Danny Gardner



Terry said...

Wow! This is a meditation on what makes p the bones and guts of a writer. Well done.

Now, about your plumbing skills....

Susan C Shea said...

"What I want to be known for. Forever."

That's the big dream and you're one brave man to let the world peek at it. Love you, Danny!