The fourteenth post in The Education of a Writer (TEW) series.
Every morning I would wake up and think about the sacrifices I would need to make to become a great writer. To get the book deal. The Pulitzer. The Nobel. I was thirty-two. Or thirty-five. Maybe thirty-six. It seems so fresh in my mind.
Frankly, it was quite frightening what I was willing to do for fame.
- Children — I thought it totally okay that my children would not know their daddy because of the hours and days dedicated to writing and reading. I was willing to forsake bedtime stories. Camping trips. Basketball games. Simple walks. Simple talks. For fame.
- Marriage — I was willing to allow my marriage to dry out, barren, like a famine. I was willing to short change casual conversations. Life-giving attention. I was willing to pass like two ships in the night as I went to bed early and she stayed awake … and then to get up early while she slept. For fame.
- Health — I was willing to abuse my body with foul food. I was willing to over drink … like famous writers (which is one of the reasons I have such a hard time reading about other writers … because their drinking habits loom large … and beckon).
- Money — I was willing to steer the family toward poverty so I could write. To hole up in a library like Karl Marx all day or entertain creditors like James Joyce. For fame.
- Conscience — I was willing to void and violate my rules of conduct — and those of God’s. Like Saint Paul said, “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” I was willing to plunge into those temptations, traps, and harmful desires. For the sake of fame.
- Mother’s Soul — I was willing to disrupt and ignore proper honor a child owes his mother. Give her fits over my choices. The foul language I indulged in. The bizarre scenes no mother should read. For fame.
- Friends — I was willing to stiff arm friends in the name of productivity. In the name of fame.
- Mercy — I was not willing to give to people who needed my help. Not to share my wealth with those in need — mainly my time. I was not willing to cut a neighbor’s lawn whose husband was stationed in Afghanistan. Mentor a nephew who desperately needed a positive male role model. I had work to do.
- Ceremonies — I thought it perfectly okay to dismiss requests to attend funerals of family or friends. The same held true for birthday parties and weddings. I thought birthday parties and weddings an infinite waste of my time.
- Jobs — I didn’t fear losing jobs. Good paying jobs. I had art to create. People were waiting. Can you understand now why we can’t be bothered with the practical things of life? It’s just not worth the risk of disappearing into thin air.
This is no exaggeration of how I thought. I was a grossly self-absorbed monster. Bent on one thing: my fame. At the expense of all I mentioned above.
Looking back it chills me that I was so self-centered. And it grieves me some people do go this route. And never turn back. Neither are they stopped. And they will not stop. They want their shadow to extend over a thousand years. Who cares about the wake of destruction? It is a cost-versus-benefit game, right? Besides, we would not have these civilization-defining machines, movies, books, or ideas.
Fortunately I was stopped.
Next up: “The “D” Word Scares the Daylights Out of Me.”
Image source: Library