Day 485: Writers.

I emailed a writer friend saying I’m beginning to see that the bucket of ventures is not bottomless. That may be a pretty naïve thing to say so late in life. But until recently I’d assumed that, except for dancing Giselle or playing major league ball, I could do pretty much anything I put my mind to. Not that I actually could, but I assumed I could. I’m beginning to see that the bucket of ventures is not bottomless.

She replied,

Tell me about it. The other day I was telling a friend who’s my age about the two rejections I’d just had w/in one week, & she asked me: … Do you ever think about a Plan B? … I didn’t know how to explain to her that my Plan A wasn’t to succeed as a writer. The plan was just to be a writer. And that’s what I am. 

What a remarkable thing to say. Her plan was to be a {Writer}. And indeed she is. Her words capture perspective and insight with mind-blowing power. And whether or not publishing conglomerates think they can hustle a dollar from her observations – she IS a {Writer}.

In my youth I played the violin. I won auditions playing the Saint-Saëns third violin concerto. Reading sheet music became second nature – my fingers knew on their own how to make this note and that.

But I was not a {Violinist}. Michael Rabin, violin god, mocked me with his arrogant virtuosity. He stood in a place I would never reach. When he died part of me died as well. From that day I only ever played violin in my mind – flawless, breathtaking, effortless.

I studied physics in college on scholarship and discovered I was not a {Physicist}. I switched to math and discovered I was good but not a {Mathematician}. I tried loving a long-haired girl with a beautiful smile and she told me I was not her {Lover}. I dropped out and taught myself to make software – and discovered I was a {Programmer}. At last!

It wasn’t knowing classic algorithms that made me a {Programmer}. People went to school for that. It was art – innovation, creativity, imagining something no one had seen before that made me a {Programmer}. Some of the software that sprang full-grown from a deep place in my spirit achieved commercial success. Some did not. Either way I was a {Programmer}.

Whether or not my friend gets ten minutes with Oprah, she is indeed a {Writer}. I salute her cleverness for seeing the difference between writing and selling. But how many feel the weight of the critics, the reject letters, the celebrity of King, or Patterson, or Rice, or Brown and doubt their muse?

hanslickWhen Tchaikovsky’s amazing violin concerto (my favorite) was first performed in 1881, the influential critic Eduard Hanslick (Eduard who?) said that it “brought us face to face with the revolting thought that music can exist which stinks to the ear; the violin was not played but beaten black and blue”.

In the end art is not nearly as much about selling as it seems in the beginning.

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