Sunday, February 5, 2012

Universal Concerns

It’s almost a truism to say I am the most important person in the universe, or at least in my universe. Simply put, my universe will cease to exist the very instant I cease to exist. There may be memories of it in other peoples’ universes, and these may last a month or a year, but for all good purposes, when I go, so does the world.
 In the past year or so, my universe has been bounced around some, personally and professionally, as well as emotionally and physically. I’ve been struggling with the writing and wondering if, in the end, it’s at all worth it. There’s not that much call for the stuff I do anymore, not a great deal of interest among readers, and, possibly worst of all, there are increasingly few publishing houses or editors willing to invest the time necessary to make good writing better and great ideas irresistible. What we’re left with, too often, is mediocre writing and sub-par plots. That readers accept this as the norm is discouraging and the future for what used to be called literary fiction is looking bleak.
 There has also come the brutal realization that all in all, most universes—mine included—are simply not that interesting. In fact, they’re mundane, quotidian, and disturbingly average. Mine does not fascinate others and has ceased fascinating me.
 The problem is, it’s a little late in life to re-appraise decisions I made decades ago when my very first newspaper story was published (in the Washington Post. A story about suicides at Christmas), or when I got the contract for my first book and danced in the street were I lived. At that time, writing was the only choice. Now, with the explosion of other media, writing as a trade is beginning to resemble the buggy whip of a bygone era. Not much call for those either, these days.
 Health issues haven’t helped. Even though the cancer I had last year is now gone thanks to successful surgeries, I am discovering that its aftermath lingers. The healing has taken longer than I expected, and I am constantly fatigued. I’m not sure how one recovers emotionally from such a danse macabre. Generally, I get past stuff by writing about it, but I don’t want to write about cancer anymore, it’s self-serving and downright boring and in fact, compared to the illnesses of others, it was pretty small stuff.
 A good friend whose affliction was meaner than mine often talks about how long it took her to get her bearings back—two-an-a-half years.  That seems like a long time and I find my patience is thinner by the day. A drabness has set in that I do not like. I watch the folks in my life come and go of their own volition, and I’m daily striving to give up the control of things I have no control over.
 On the plus side, global warming is doing its thing and the first daffodil shoots are out. The Japanese red maple I transplanted last year appears to be surviving. We may actually get through the winter without a paralyzing snowstorm. I had a pleasant breakfast with good friends. No doubt about it, things could be worse.

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