Thursday, April 22, 2010


I plan on returning to my book four days from now. I've been away from doing it for about one month. There has been a church project and Pete's death to deal with. But finally, ahead, I see the beginning of free time. It has been very costly to me not to write. I feel like a loser without something driving me. Something personal and obsessive to focus on. Oh, I'm proud of the work I've done for my church, and I'm proud of being a good daughter to my mother, and I'm even proud of the little work I've done on this blog, but I have to get back to working on an independent project. To work on something that is much bigger than me. A project that I can pin all my hopes and dreams of the future on. Right now this is the dream of publishing a book. My thirties were dedicated to painting and drawing. My forties I have decided are dedicated to writing.

Do I really think this book is marvelous? Not yet. Perhaps never.

Do I believe in my talent? No. Not even with academic people in the past grading my papers with terms like "brilliant" and "creative genius". They gave me little moments of glory, but I fear that my illness is stronger than talent and will obscure talent. I fear that past estimations of my talent were only temporary moments of success. A success that could not be sustained. A few times I fell into a literary groove and out did myself. Surpassed myself and received praise. But mostly my power of mind is paltry. My prose is ordinary.

So why do I write when I have such little self confidence?

I like to exercise my brain. Writing is a challenge. It is sometimes fun, but more often, it is simply work. I need work. I need to go to sleep every night knowing that I have tried my very best that day at doing something. When someone asks me, "What do you do?" I usually say that I am an artist, but that my oil paintings do not sell, so I have started trying to write a book. Very simply the truth. If my oil paintings sold I would continue painting them. And in my fifties, if I have not managed to publish a book after ten years of writing I may go back to painting. That decade of life is not yet determined. I may have to choose which talent has advanced the most, painting or writing, or at least, which talent I gain the most from personally.

I expect my entire life to be a failure. It feels a little bit like buying lottery tickets. You buy the ticket for a dollar and you dream of the millions that you would receive if you win. But you know too that the chances of winning are very slim. So you expect to lose. But the dream is powerful. You exist in a happy state of unknowing, but hoping.

I hope, that after ten years of writing I will be a good writer. I know that after ten years of painting I can put together a good painting. I also know from experience that likely nobody will buy the painting. Of course there are people in my family who have said, "But Karen, have you even tried to sell?" Yes and no. Two art dealers, one in Connecticut and one in Vermont, were excited enough about my work to take me on as clients. But from their stable of regular collectors, nobody bought my work. Collectors have good eyes. They know what is good, better and best. Naturally they want for themselves only the best. I might be good and better but I'm not best. Funny how I should want this distinction. It must come from having a father who was amongst the best in his field of expertise.

At some point, in my childhood experience of Sunday school, I started to believe in a God that knew everything. Someone who was interested in always walking by my side. The eternal companion. And I started to believe that everything I did and thought was shared by my companion, the ultimate friend. My private thoughts are an open book to someone. My every impulse is seen and acknowledged by someone. My every effort is appreciated by someone. So I can say that my life will be a grand failure, but I do believe that there is one person, (well, he is not even a person, say, a force), that does not consider me a failure. God doesn't pay me money for what I do, and he does not place a hand on my shoulder and encourage me or whisper words of fame in my ear. He is a silent, holy ghost. All I get from him is a sense that I am being watched. And I feel that in his eyes I will never be a failure. It is not a feast of encouragement, but it is something.

The way I feel now, I would not kill myself for being a failure. There have been many times when I could not say that. There have been many times when I felt so rotten about myself, and my slender talents, with so little to show for them, that I thought I deserved to die. I don't feel that I deserve to die. What life I have left in me will be dedicated to furthering my slender talents. I will work on until I die of natural causes, or at least, at a time decided by my God and not by myself. I wish to live and create. That is a bold statement coming from someone who feels so much poverty of creative talent.

The lovely novelty of youth is that you look ahead of yourself and see the potential for success. You are excited by a bright future. The sadness of my middle age is that I have been tested enough by life to realize that success does not come easily or even, at all. I suppose that the fairy tale of old age is that you forget about success and create for the sake of creating. I am trying to make friends with Obscurity and Isolation. In perverse moments I even wonder if these are the natural conditions under which I flourish. Am I now, living the best years of my life and yet do not recognize it? There is so much sweet freedom in being a nobody. Anonymity may be a gift. You are the secret behind the closed door. You are the treasure locked in a trunk in the attic. Nobody bothers you, you are sleeping beauty. What is the fortune in being small and powerless? In America everyone wants to be large and rich and famous. No, not everyone. Some settle nicely into the small lot fate has allocated them.

I know two people whose mental illness is so severe that they cannot read a book. I can read a book and enjoy it. Thus I am rich and blessed with big mental powers.

This morning I watched a homeless black woman paw through her belongings in a shopping cart and talk to herself. I said to myself, "There, but for the Grace of God, go I".

I cry poverty of mind, and failure as my common condition, but I know, that there are others whose state is worse than my own.

I have blessings that beg for my attention. But I think that it is in my personality to always be wanting more. Thus a writing project that takes several years is good for the person who always wants more because it keeps them occupied, never satisfied. Knowing me, if I were satisfied, it would take as long as an evening out celebrating with a pizza and a glass of wine, and then I would be back again, wanting more. I put a mountain in front of me and say "climb it". Once it is climbed I put another mountain in front of me and say "climb this one next". Never do I rest, but, perhaps, for several hours celebrating with a pizza.

I am glad my tastes are so ordinary. I'm so ignorant that I don't even know the difference between a fine wine and a cheap wine.

Its best not to become spoiled and have too many of your wishes granted when you know it is in your nature to always want more.

1 comment:

  1. Karen, you are not a loser or a failure. You are a very capable, very bright individual. Considering that you have been through a great deal of hardship in your life, you are way ahead of the game. You seem like you are in a good place now. And being multi-talented is nothing to scoff at. There are many people who would be happy to have one of your talents. I think you are right to set for yourself the goals of finishing your book and getting it published. It's a way to keep yourself motivated and motivation is a blessing that needs to be nurtured through regular practice.

    I haven't been working in my writing either for the past three weeks, though I did write several first drafts of poems. Have you ever been published? I have so little experience with formal writing and I have never been published, so I was thinking that I should take a small step and write an essay and send it out to small literary magazines. There are a lot of them listed in the Writer's Market. Have you ever thought of testing the waters that way? My goal is to get several essays published and that's it, no recompense, because I am a beginner. I also need to get used to rejection, toughen up a bit and just keep going and not give up.

    Karen, I enjoy your blog so much. If you ever want to begin an email correspondence with me as a friend, go to my profile page from my blog and click on the email contact link. It's no problem if you are not interested in doing that right now, just know the offer is always open.

    By the way, yesterday I bought a super duper vacuum cleaner and today I actually have begun spring cleaning. I have rearranged my living room. There's a lot more work to be done, but it's a start. I hope your spring cleaning has gone well too.

    Best best to you and your husband,



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