Saturday, July 31, 2010

This is not a baseball post

"If I don't go out there and perform, those nine years of losing mean absolutely nothing."
#sfgiants OF Aubrey Huff, quoted in a San Jose Mercury News story
about last night's Giants-Dodgers game
Cris uses car trips as an opportunity to ask me things we usually don't have time to talk about. The other day, while we were driving up to our vacation spot in Washington, she asked me if I ever reflected on the fact that my life is half over. I said sure, because the way I look at it, I'm capable of writing a novel every four years or so, and if you take into account the general statistic that few novelists write anything good after age 70 (Philip Roth notwithstanding), that means I have time to write about five more novels at the most, including the one I've been working on for the last year and a half. So counting that way, yes, I see the limits.

This led to me saying how useless it was to reflect on the choices I've made which, in retrospect, represent a deviation from the goal of becoming a published novelist. If I'd moved to New York instead of San Francisco; if I'd gone to the writing program at Naropa when I had the urge in 1978; if I hadn't spent ten solid years devoting my creative energies to performance art, music and dance -- then I might have learned earlier what I now (at age 54) know about writing. It's a waste of time to regret those choices; besides, I had a lot of fun as a performance artist. (I see I've written about this before. At that time I said of my time as a performance artist, "I wouldn't trade it for two novels." Now I'm not so certain. Perhaps if I could still have had all the sex I had then and still made progress on my writing.)

Add to those non-writing years -- actually, I was writing, just not fiction -- the current years of frustration, during which I completed my first novel and got an agent for it (yay!), then had it rejected by a dozen New York publishers (boo!) followed by ... well, let's say I'm farther off today than I was three years ago.

In this context I like the quote by the San Francisco outfielder Huff, who came to the Giants this spring after a decade laboring for non-contending teams. How he must have wondered, during those years, whether it was worth it to play hard. Now he no longer has to wonder. It's a reminder to me that now I have to work as hard as I would if I had a two-book contract with a film option that had been picked up. And to have faith in what I've learned.

Augusten Burroughs on tenacity

Novelists need large stoves

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