I’ve come to the uncomfortable conclusion that what motivates me far too much is not love of craft or a call to service. I write, or have written, because I want to feel important, because I want recognition, I do it because I imagine I could earn acceptance and a place in the world. I wanted to earn a living this way, and that’s plainly a nuts idea. I’m a good century too late for that to be realistic.
I think it is because my motives are so flawed that I’m not up to scratch. If I was motivated more by love of craft and less by a desire to make this pay I would, ironically, probably be in a better place to make something of actual worth. Perhaps there was a time when I worked purely out of love, but economic pressures, pressures from publishers, agents… realities of the industry, have helped me fail to sustain that. It’s been a very hard few days in terms of facing up to reality to come to this recognition. A bard should be motivated by love of craft and a call to serve, not by ego.
Putting this into a public space is not easy, I am feeling a great deal of shame at the moment, there’s a penitence aspect to this. I find myself thinking about the mediaeval flagellants, wondering if there came a point in that process where the person might be able to imagine that they had atoned enough. It’s not the absolution of a priest or a deity I need, but the means to forgive myself for being so driven by pride and vanity and self importance that I’ve treated a lot of people badly down the years, angry with them because they didn’t see me as worthwhile or useful or any of the other things I was busily pretending I could be.
When I went into meltdown over the weekend, a lot of people said they had a use for this blog. The response has overwhelmed me, I’m just sat here crying over what people have said. I’ll try and keep this going. I’m not sure I’m going to be able to put something up every day – I have no idea what would be useful and am afraid of sliding further into self indulgence. But at the same time this is the only thing I’m writing, and there’s a lifeline aspect to that.
I have to try and find a way to be of some use, to contribute rather than just taking all the time. I have to stop imagining I can cut it as a professional, because I can’t, and I need to face up to the implications of that. If I am going to write at all, I have to refind that place of love and belief, which I think maybe I did have once. I’ve got a lot of work to do, but I think I have the clarity now to understand why I’m not where I want to be. I wanted to be Mozart, but I’m not going to make the Salieri grade, especially not while I keep trying to do it for all the wrong reasons.
I am humbled and awed by the kindness and support that has come to me from many different sources in the last few days. I have to admit that I feel so fraudulent that it is hard to believe any of this is deserved (Alex, Jo, Autumn, I think I deserved your assessments), but I am profoundly grateful to everyone who has taken the time to comment, text, offer help. You are very lovely, generous and wonderful people, and I shall aspire to be worthy of your friendship.
It is not possible, I think, to be both a bard who is driven by soulfulness, service and awen, and to be a ‘proper’ professional author who is driven by industry trends, market research and who is willing to spend more time marketing than creating, as appears to be necessary these days. I can’t have it both ways. Right now I’m failing to be either, I think because I’ve been trying to be both, or imagining I could be both, and I’ve lost my way. I did not start this wanting to do a lot of marketing, to write fillers and disposable commodities. That’s what the ‘real world’ wants. At the moment, I can’t write fiction at all and have little confidence that I can pull off the non-fic project even. But, if I can find those right reasons again, and some way of believing that there is a point (Cat, I hear you, but I’m not feeling it right now), perhaps I can do something in the future.
Once upon a time I wanted to be a professional author working from bardic principles, but I don’t think I can have it both ways.