Maybe it’s travel fatigue, or maybe it’s my advancing age … or perhaps it’s a malaise many writers are dealing with now (and indeed, most everyone): the sense that things were more happening before. The sense that the peak of success is now in the past.
Wandering in and out of airport bookstores, knowing my books will not be there, telling myself not to even bother looking (and then glancing), and then wandering out, trying not to feel disappointment, admonishing myself for even thinking it possible.
Why do I even put myself though this? Because, in truth, I long to be that best-seller on the exclusive airport bookstore shelves and I feel, now, that my time is past, my chance at the gold ring.
But what kind of goal is that? The truth is that once I’m back at work again, once I’m engaged with the challenge of crafting a story, I won’t give this a thought. The only goal that matters is to write.
On the ride home from the airport, through the beautiful Mexican towns, the dark desert hills, I listened to a podcast “Writers on Writing” interview of Louis Alterto Urrea. I love this author—love his and his wife’s tweets on Twitter (@Urrealism)—and consider his novel The Hummingbird’s Daughter one of the best historical fiction novels of all time. The interviewer concluded the talk by asking for his advice to writers.
“What I try to always bring across to the students is that they should surrender to the process of it. There is an ancient Chinese writing text called Wen Fu, and Wen Fu actually means “Writing Fu”—as in Kung Fu. … I am just trying to give them the sense that you are actually doing this writing not to be famous, not to be rich, or even to get groupies—as lovely as that might be—but to practice. You’re doing a spiritual and physical practice in the world which will effect your response to this place we are living in.”
Wen Fu was written around 300 A.D. Read it: it’s beautiful:
Writing is in itself a joy,
Yet saints and sages have long since held it in awe.
For it is being, created from a void;
It is sound rung out of profound silence.
In a sheet of paper is contained the infinite,
And, evolved from an inch-sized heart, an endless panorama.
I love that: an inch-sized heart.