Sunday, November 25, 2007

Beyond The Comfort Zone

It was months ago when I discovered where my comfort zone was as a writer, and on that day I could have easily hunkered down in that sweet spot and written from there for the rest of my life. But no... Comfort's not good enough for me; I have to work from a place where it sometimes takes five hours of reading and 10+ rewrites to produce a single 100-word post.

Having spent the greater part of five hours committing literary seppuku in order to write both the DiMaggio and Mishima posts below as if by cesarean section, I can safely say that I am officially out of control. The worst of it is, I'm still not pleased with either one; in both cases I feel I've failed to knock them out of the park. Typically, though, it's the pieces I'm less than pleased with that get the most praise from readers - wherein I can virtually predict how much acclaim something will earn by how chuffed with myself I am for having written it - which is the only reason I would ever publish anything with which I was less than utterly satisfied.

Every year it's the same thing; the run-up to my birthday elicits such a panoply of conflicting impulses I scarcely know what to do except hang on for dear life until it passes. What it generally comes down to is, on the one hand, a kind of exasperation that I could be this old and still not established in my career and, on the other hand, a kind of relief that I'm not in the same position, only ten years older. This quandary typically manifests itself in one of two ways: either as writer's block, or a condition I like to call 'writer's frenzy' which, as you might expect, is the opposite.

At least this blog makes me feel like I'm actually doing something about that nebulous beast I'm fond of calling my career; to whit, I've just received an early birthday present - a request to reprint a very popular piece I recently published entitled RIP Norman Mailer. This singular honour, as much as the two new blogrolls to which I've been added, tells me that I must be on my way. That the request came from someone with those three magic letters after his name - P, H, and D - is either icing on the lily or gilding the cake; I can't decide which right now, what with all the frenzy.

As for that comfort zone of mine... It's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there. Once, while engaging in a mental tug-of-war with a fellow commenter at Joe.My.God, I was referred to by my opponent as a "brain shark"; whether he meant it as a compliment or not is irrelevant, because I took it as such. My brain, like a shark, cannot stop moving or it will die.

Really, it's as simple as that.

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