First, of course, is my thanks to Sally for inviting me here. I’ve never done an actual ‘blog’ (I’m not sure university newspaper columns count), so this should be an interesting experience and hopefully not too embarrassing.
I’m currently in an MFA program at the University of Southern Maine—the Stonecoast program for Popular Fiction (hey, PopFic people!)—and one of the things my mentor has been putting me onto is the books of Steven Pressfield. Pressfield is a successful writer and screenwriter (The Legend of Bagger Vance is his) who has an intriguing perspective on writing: it’s more than a way to make a living or even to tell a story; it’s a sacred calling. Every day we have to overcome Resistance, an active force in the Universe that will oppose in any way, shape or form our efforts to improve ourselves and our lot in life.
Boy do I feel him.
I’ve spent a lot of my life collecting rejection slips, ridicule from family, friends and co-workers, and, in an even purer form, battling the Resistance that comes from within. Any artist knows that struggle. It’s the self-doubt we all feel whenever we sit down to write, or paint, or do anything that will improve us in a spiritual, emotional or physical way. After years of facing this on a daily basis—and not always winning—I find myself now, on the eve of my first book’s publication, asking, ‘Why? Why did I keep going?’
God knows it hasn’t been financial reward—I didn’t sell my first story until 2005, a piece called Can’t Catch Me that appeared in the anthology Brooklyn Noir. I got a hundred bucks for it. I sold another story to Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, for about as much. My first novel, FAUSTUS RESURRECTUS, will hopefully do better than that.
I didn’t keep going because of any professional advancement, either—for most of my writing life I’ve struggled to find an agent (I’ve had three, and am currently without one) or an editor who was even interested in looking at my stuff. Although I have a good manager now, and a good editor at Night Shade Books, Ross Lockhart, I’m still tending bar in midtown Manhattan.
I certainly didn’t keep going for any heightened lifestyle—anyone who thinks writers get laid for being creative individuals should contact me about a few bridges I have to sell.
So why go on?
“We do not do this thing because it is permitted. We do it because we have to. We do it because we are compelled.”
Rorschach, from Alan Moore’s brilliant Watchmen, is correct. I write, have written since I was ten years old, because I must. When I’ve resisted, as I have at certain periods of my life, my world has not been…right. I’ve resented it, fought against it, hated the idea that I’m supposed to do certain things in my life, that I was put here to be something I had no say in choosing. I want to do what I want to do. It’s my life; I decide.
That arrogance, that stupidity, that anger has cost me (and continues to, on bad days) more than I can ever calculate. I’ve made enough bad decisions and bad choices to ruin…well, my life, at least. But I still write. So there’s a chance.
In The Alchemist, Paolo Coelho says, “When you truly want something, the entire Universe conspires to help you achieve it.” I would tweak that a little: ‘When you truly want something for the right reason, the entire Universe conspires to help you achieve it.’ No one, and I mean no one, has wanted success for their writing more than I’ve wanted it. Problem was, the only interest I had in the craft at all was to facilitate my ability to sell it. I wanted money, I wanted validation, it was all about me. Except it isn’t. It’s the story. It’s the message. It’s about allowing the energy of creativity to flow through you, to use you as a conduit for its own purposes. I’m fairly certain my life has demonstrated that I’m far short of perfect, but still, the compulsion remains; still I hear the muse.
I still need to write.
I remain hopeful I’ll succeed. My understanding of things now is that I can only do as much as I can; results are the purview of other forces that I can’t control. I’ve always believed I’ll make a living as a writer—still do—and the path is a little less daunting now. It remains a struggle to sit down at the keyboard every day, but it gets easier when ego doesn’t obscure your vision. It gets easier to let the truth out. As long as it’ll let me, I’ll keep the path clear.
Thanks for listening; hope I didn’t get too far into my navel.
Enjoy my stuff.
About Faustus Resurrectus
Faustus ResurrectusDonovan Graham 1
Night Shade Books, April 2012
Trade Papberback , 300 pages
Unholy murder is just the beginning of the ritual...
When Donovan Graham, newly-graduated occult scholar, helps the NYPD investigate a man killed by scorpions in a midtown hotel, he learns the world is far stranger and deadlier than his studies ever suggested. Evidence forces his academic skepticism to give way to astonished belief that ancient evil exists, and the more he investigates, the higher it rises to overshadow the normality of his life. Can he save those he loves from its power?
In a Central Park overrun with madness, a suave sociopath seeks to achieve his darkest desires by tearing apart the world. Battling him through death and beyond, Donovan risks his soul to learn reality is flexible, and even the impossible can be had if a high enough price is paid...
About Thomas Morrissey