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Hate the Sin, Love the Pencil | 2016 | Turning in the Direction of "Better"


For while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn't any other tale to tell, it's the only light we've got in all this darkness.  

-James Baldwin

Will You Bleed for Your Dreams?

At thirty-five, it has become unlikely that I will be recognized as a child prodigy. I won't be an Oscar-worthy actor. I won't paint a masterpiece to provoke Stendahl Syndrome. I won't climb Everest. I won't compose a symphony. I won't be a business mogul.

I don't want to suffer for these dreams. They were never really mine. At best, those in my proximity coveted the idea of sleeping on floors in hope that Broadway would come calling or read volumes about life at base camp. I admire better those dreams I couldn't fathom touching.

The only thing I wanted to suffer for-and indeed the thing for which I have most suffered-has been my writing.

In high school, I flirted with other passions. I dreamed of going to college in Chicago, joining Second City, making my way onto Saturday Night Live, and eventually breaking away for a career in film and television. But that is all I ever did about it: dream. Yes, I started an improv group in my high school when the drama productions tended to be exclusive affairs, but I didn't take the hit of going to college around Second City or Upright Citizens Brigade. I was briefly a communications major before getting my degree in English, a refrain that would repeat throughout my college career. I couldn't sing, I remained uncoordinated, so I would start at a severe disadvantage and I didn't have it in me to remedy my deficiencies. In my heart, I couldn't believe I would want to be an actor fulltime, so I didn't much try.

It drives me crazy-maybe literally-but I genuinely thrive off sitting in the semi-dark and pounding out stories for hours at end. I like silently reworking dialogue as people speak to me. I like grumbling to myself on walks because I cannot figure out the plot turn I need, then running toward the nearest pen and paper the moment I sort it through. I feel proud with my hands stained by a faulty fountain pen. I am willing to fork over five hundred dollars to buy a box of my books on discount so I can sit and watch people wander by my table for ten hours at an event. These are my pains and I am glad to own them because I have earned them.

It is a simple thing to daydream about literary success. Planning how you will inscribe books you haven't written yet is the fun part. No one in a reverie considers all the rejections and long hours one will have to endure to get anywhere. The pain decides what we achieve.

I don't want to spin my wheels until I hit a grave. We are only given so many hours and I feel I may have squandered mine by coming to so late an age without inklings of a major accomplishment. It is impossible not to take personally the bubbly twenty-year-old flavor to the week humble bragging on social media of her five-digit advance on her next book of magical girl dystopia porn. I am published, but I am only spottily known and more rarely read. I doubt my books will be recognized posthumously, so I have only this light I am given to attract a fanbase to care about what I've created.

I don't know that most other people think like this. Maybe they are just content to live daily, grateful for the dawn. It is a better way. Maybe they want to live on through their child, which is a more biologically viable solution than artistic acclaim, except I am a selfish and myopic author who can only tolerate children in small doses.

The anxiety that I am not living rightly and effectively never fully leaves me, no matter what pill I take or mantra I try. I am not likely meant for peace, but I would like my unease to be productive. Gods above, don't have me curse the dimness but let me see the sunrise brightening the horizon.

I don't know that there is a satisfactory conclusion. I don't have specific hope that I will even find what I am seeking-public acknowledgement, I suppose. I may work my life away in novels no one reads, with my pallet of books growing dusty between sparsely attended readings and talks. If I could believe that my success was inevitable, I could feel as though I had a direction to follow, but I have seen too often how fickle this business can be. I have the wrong demographics for breakout fame, the wrong last name, the wrong alma mater.

Writing is not a fantasy for me because I bleed for it. I have taken this struggle upon myself. I am not whining about something toward which I never work. I have millions of written words under my belt, rehashings and rediscoveries of themes and plots to find the truest form for me. I have been blogging for fifteen years, though now I find the effort less recreational. I need to grow and improve so that I can finally be enough for what I hope my destiny is.

Soon in Xenology: Art.

last watched: Madoka Magica: Rebellion
reading: The Boy Who Lost Fairyland
listening: Regina Spektor

Hate the Sin, Love the Pencil | 2016 | Turning in the Direction of "Better"

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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