A starving man can’t imagine the food needed to satisfy his hunger. I can’t picture the amount of success I would need to calm myself.
Welcome to my generation: raised on outsized ambition and dwindling resources we have nothing to eat but each other.
This is where I am. These days I don’t write because I love it. Love is a luxury. No. I write because I’m good at it. I write because it’s the only thing I’m good at. I write to taste blood, to twist something authentic and kill a moment.
I write to win.
Don’t get this confused here. This is not romantic. This is terrible, sad and sociopathic. It’s desperate.
I live in anxious rivalries with foes, real or imagined. Any space they take up is space that could be mine. Every dollar they touch should be in my paw. Any credit they take should be mine and here I am, a fucking patsy and punk online.
Maybe I’m not good enough. Probably. But I’ll be damned if I let a vague concept like talent get in the way of the desperate anthem of terror in my soul.
It’s win or die, but writers don’t win.
Sure, some do. You know the names. But the successful online writers- the lucky, the gifted, the rare overlap of the talented and fortunate- make fine money. Fine is fine. But when you aspire to fine, beg for it, bleed and compromise for the chance to fall upon a livable wage…well, that’s trouble.
We are dying to sell out, to cut throats, to win and climb upon the broken bodies of our enemies. Maybe that’s not universal. Maybe I’m projecting. But I feel bitter daggers for the success of others and deep, sharp hunger. And I doubt I’m alone.
Can you blame me?
This is, after all, America and the American Dream has long surpassed modesty. It isn’t to survive, or even to flourish. It is to conquer. To crush. In a full capitalistic society, a democracy run by Super PACs, in a technocrat regime anything short of victory is failure. Moderate gains are pathetic. We are run by excess, conditioned to it, hungry for it.
Every form of media is aspirational. Life is quantifiable, ranked. And if I don’t beat you, if I don’t bite clean through your fucking throat, I’m done. Writing isn’t a field thick enough for the both of us. It isn’t even equipped for one of us.
Failure is my destiny, but I can go down fighting.
Still, it’s easier to live that life in theory than it is in practice. If a writer lives a pure, authentic life, writing in obscurity and their own promised poverty, what are they? They’re artists! Suffering artists, ignored and unappreciated, whisked away to be mocked. And if they play the game? If they compromise, humble themselves, make deals with editors and devils both to get the scraps of the meals promised STEM majors? They’re sell-outs!
Look, I don’t like myself either. But I have to be this person, embittered and whiney. You at least get to leave. I’m stuck in this cycle, alternating woe-is-me maudlin entitlement with the sort of mediocrity and laziness that prescribes me to it.
Ah well. It could be worse.
It’s fun to spiral. It’s a writing tool I love to employ. It’s therapeutic, even; I encourage any reader to try a practiced tail-spin, provided they’re ready and able to pull up.
The above is my darkness, and I imagine it’s not uncommon to those in creative fields, from the grandiosity to the bitterness, to the fear and ambition that curdles to spite.
That’s fine. It is. But you have to beat it. Acknowledge it first. Let it inside. Then, again, skate through it, move past it, spiral down so you can pull back up and sail.