Sunday, March 28, 2010

On the road to somewhere

Perhaps I'm feeling philosophical and somewhat bleak because I'm in the middle of reading Cormac McCarthy's brutally brilliant novel, The Road. Its searing, post-apocalyptic images of a world not just dead but hellish isn't exactly something that stirs up good humor on a gray Sunday evening.

And no, this isn't yet another woe is me post about how I can't seem to find the motivation to finish revising my novel. No. It's not. It's deeper than that. Really.

And yet ...

And yet, it starts there, doesn't it? I can't seem to find the motivation to finish.

And I don't know why. I've spent more than three years of my life working on The Devil You Don't Know. Years that could have been spent building a second career, a career based on something more solid, more substantial, than just a dream and the seemingly baseless hope of success in a highly competitive field where far more fall behind and die than reach the publishing promised land.

And so, each day I fire up the computer and piss around reading blogs and Facebook and Twitter. I love to read about how others are writing and working hard to reach their dream. And yet mine languishes on my hard drive.

Since the day I walked out of the newsroom -- Jan. 16, 2007 -- I've been on a journey unlike any I've been on before. My future is solely in my hands. That, I can handle. But the futures of my wife and young child are also in my hands, to a certain degree. And that's where I freeze.

No matter the successes I've enjoyed in life -- and there have been a few -- I somehow feel as though I am programmed to ultimately fail. And I don't know why.

I want to finish this book. I want to see it published. I want to become rich and famous. I do. Honestly. And yet, I seem to be rooted to this spot of uncertainty, where I am neither there nor not there.

It is, I've decided, a crippling case of being more afraid of succeeding than of failing. And I don't know why. I'm no stranger to counseling and therapy, and I know enough about my past, my childhood, to see how it affects everything I do. And there's something there, some dark malignancy, that will not allow me to move forward.

And here's the real kicker: I know, deep in my heart, that the book is pretty good. And with the major revisions I'm doing, it may even be better than pretty good. It might be damned good.

I know that. And still I feel like I'm fooling everyone, including myself, by thinking, by acting, as though I can actually get it published. I feel like a fucking fraud. The literary equivalent of Bernie Madoff.


I know this: If I don't get off the dime and do my very best -- my absolute best -- to get this novel done and out the door, the journey will come to an end. Soon. The money isn't endless, and I've run through a good portion of it living this fantasy, this dream of becoming a published author.

And then what? What of my family? My home? My bills? My future? What of me?

These are the things that keep me up at night, tossing and turning and occasionally lapsing into a nightmare that's so transparently metaphorical that it even makes me laugh upon waking.

I daydream of succeeding beyond my wildest dreams, of sitting down on Oprah or The Tonight Show or someplace like that and talking about how frightening it was, laying it all on the line like this. It sounds so romantic when it's in the past tense.

But what of now?

Now, it just seems terrifying.

I pray I have the strength to see this through. I have always believed I am destined for something more in life. I can't really put it in words, but there it is. That's what keeps me going.

What keeps you going, in the face of insurmountable odds? What keeps you awake at night, when the world sleeps? I'd like to know I'm not alone in this.


  1. You are definitely not alone, my friend. It appears we have many of the same fears.

    I think you are a humble person, with a modest or low opinion of yourself, as I do. Fear of failure - or success, is terribly debilitating.

    But, from someone looking through your window, I think you are an excellent writer. You often inspire me with well chosen words and the gift of the gab, of which I would simply kill for.

    Hang in there. You'll make. I know you will :)

  2. I think we all feel this way sometimes... hell, most of the time, and it's hard to change that mindset... But I can tell you that I think you will succeed, and hope that helps somewhat. I look forward to the day I can go to a bookstore in Houston and have you sign my copy of The Devil You Don't Know.

    BTW, I just picked up The Road last week, and since I've finished my latest novel, I'm going to start reading it tonight... you know me and the Apocalypse... I'm all kinds of excited about this book!

  3. Thanks to a freakish childhood that I won't bore you with, I always come back to the same question, again and again, and I suspect it might plague you as well. 'What makes me so special?' But the question is more complex than it sounds. It means: why do I think I deserve success when others fail? why do I think I'm better? or do I really? disappointment is the running theme of my life, and often fate conspires against me to the point I think any hope at all is futile. Destiny will just yank out that rug of confidence, she'll rob me of my chance to shine. Murphy stalks me, and I can't get rid of him.

  4. You're not alone silly. You will be successful, you know it and I know it. Stop thinking so much and just do it.

    I have realized that any negative thought is a lie and completely useless. It's my choice to think what I want and that will result in my next action. My thoughts create my feelings, which then turns into action. If I'm feeling shitty, I know I need to change my thoughts.

    Whether you believe it or not, it is our birthright as human beings to be successful and happy. Our future is always in our hands. Today well lived is your future. Now get back to work!

    Your pal.

    Word Verification: ponesla. That's really not a fun one. I tried to post last night, but effed up and didn't have it in me to do it again, but the word was "jumpooli". Now that's more fun.

  5. Hey Terry, I know exactly how you feel, but you need to quit thinking about it and just do it. That's the only way to get through it. Don't worry about it being successful, just do the best you can and see what happens. You know all about living one day at a time, apply that to the novel. From what I've read, it's a great piece of work and I'm not a huge fan of fiction. And I wouldn't say that if I didn't mean it. I would set daily deadlines and meet them. Maybe stay off facecrack and other time wasters till it's done. Embrace the fear and learn to love it. There's no other way, my friend! As I've said before, I'm waiting for the day where I can walk into a book store and tell the person ringing it up, "I know the guy that wrote this!" I'm thinking positive thoughts for you and the novel.