Or at least, that feels like the truth, and it's what's felt like the truth for the past few days.
Maybe that's why yesterday, when I was writing a post about winning(ish) a few screenwriting contests, I included a quote from someone who'd written a rather glowing review of one of my scripts. I wanted to feel like I could really write - that I could make a go of this screenwriting dream of mine.
But then someone questioned my use of the word "Barkmeister" in the piece (on the link I'd posted to Facebook), and I assumed it was because they'd seen right through the transparent desperation of what I'd written. My self-doubt spiked like a mother-fool, so I took the quote off and grumped around the house a bit.
Then I got an email from the Black List website, telling me the free review I'd won was now online. I clicked the link, opened the review, and found they'd given me a...
Yep. That's right. I got a three out of ten on my brand new, blood, sweat-and-bodily-fluids-soaked script, PINK. The one that's different and crazy and strange. The one I infused with every bit of fear and self-loathing I could dredge up. The one I was sure was The One. The one with a director and a lead actor already enthusiastically attached. The one that might just get funded and produced. The one an in-there-like-swimwear Hollywood friend of mine also loved and wanted to breastfeed to adulthood.
But who cares who loved it, right? Some stranger hated it, and so today I've been spending a lot of my time wallowing. I've crawled through another page of my new novel, read (but not quite finished) a couple of scripts, listened to a screenwriting podcast, and "studied" a movie. And now here I am, dragging myself through the writing of this blog.
I am dirt.
I am worse than dirt, because dirt has microbes and nutrients and worms, and sustains life.
The surprise at this random encounter will be mine alone, though, because they'll have known all along I was delusional about my abilities, and as they drive home in their tastefully-sleek car with their tastefully-sleek spouse, they'll cluck their tongue and say, "Now, wasn't that sad?" as they begin to feel the indigestion from that thing I might or might not have intentionally spilled in their eighteenth bowl of specially-modified soup.
That's how I feel, anyways.
Because as rational and wise as I can be about it all on an intellectual level, there might just always be a part of me that is only making Art as a way to say, "Won't you pretty please love me, Mommy? Won't you be proud of me, Daddy?"
The hilarious thing about it all is that my mommy and daddy already do love me, and have made it very clear that they're proud of me. I know this, but when it comes to my art, I still somehow have the emotional constitution of a five-year-old.
"Lookit me, daddy! Lookit me!"
Is there a lesson in all of this? Sure, why not. The lesson is that you need to remember that it doesn't matter what kind of affirmation you get for your work, it will never be enough to fill any significant hole in your life, and that gratitude and love for the things you do have is a much better way to go.
But who cares about lessons, when the emotional river's running foul?
I think about all the gloomy artists who've come before. I remember that David Foster Wallace - who wrote what many consider to be the best novel of this generation - ended his own life in despair.
I look at that fact.
I stare it in the face.
It doesn't matter.
It's easy enough to know that it profits me nothing to "gain the whole world, but lose my soul," but I still can't seem to stop wanting the world, and playing pocket-pool with my soul. Because right now this anxious, lonely present is what's real to me.
As Emily Dickinson so aptly wrote,
It cannot recollect
When it began, or if there was
A time when it was not.
It has no future but itself,
It's infinite realms contain
Its past, enlightened to perceive
New periods of pain.
A now of not being particularly fond of myself, and casting about in desperation for one more Facebook "like," to make me feel okay.
Pray about it, you say?
I will. I do. This blog post is, after all, a prayer. A meditation. A hope.
It is also a piece of what all art is - a calling out for solidarity. It is a way for me to say to you that if you, too, feel anxious in your failure to always make everyone happy, you are not alone. That if the world feels to you right now like a dull bludgeon-of-a-gauntlet you must trudge through, well, perhaps we can trudge through it together. It's dark in here, I know, but if you listen closely you should hear the sound of my fingers tapping on these keys. Reach out a hand. Take mine. We'll go together into that good night - not gently, and maybe not even smiling... but together.
- - -
Note: if you'd like to read the first few pages of my horrible, awful, no-good, mixed-up, very-bad script, I've put it online HERE. It's a three out of ten, but you wanna know what? I kinda like it. Feel free to spread it around. Who knows? Maybe it'll go viral, and all my emotional problems will be solved.