I’m over this weekly essay challenge. I started this challenge when I turned 50. My goal is (was?) to write 50 essays in 52 weeks. Ray Bradbury, the author of Fahrenheit 451, said, “Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad stories in a row.” I came across this quote on Twitter the week leading up to my birthday and I fell for it. I wanted to become a better, faster writer. I thought busting out an essay a week would do it. And I hoped the essays would gain some attention and expand my audience.
Also, I needed another project. I’d been working on a book currently titled No One Knows I’m Famous about my need for attention. It’s about everyone’s need to be seen and loved. I use myself as the subject, since I am the subject I know best.
I started writing the book when I met my wife more than 11 years ago. The book is a collection of essays chronicling married life, so I had to live through the experiences before I wrote about them, which is to say, I didn’t write and finish the whole book 11 years ago. Some of the stories were written three years ago. Maybe four. And since then I’ve been trying to get the book published. I’ve been trying and failing for a very long time.
I had an agent. I handed over my manuscript and after several revisions she told me that because I’m not famous, she didn’t have confidence selling my book of essays. I wish she had told me sooner. Three years went by. I’ve since submitted to other agents, publishing houses, and literary contests and have racked up 26 rejections.
I thought the weekly essay challenge would lead me somewhere new. It just led me back to myself.
Now, I want to quit. But I’m not a quitter. Except I did quit tennis and I quit my last significant relationship. I probably should have quit that relationship years before I did. But I thought I could make it work the way I thought I could make my book, my agent, and this essay challenge work. Maybe this notion I’ve assigned myself, that I’m not a quitter, is my problem.
There are so many idiotic things we believe: Cheaters never prosper. All roads lead to Rome. Winners never quit and quitters never win. Maybe quitters do win, just at something else.
I have nothing to say this week. I’m sure I’ll have something to say again, maybe, but right now I’m recycling old themes.
Last week, I posted a story about how I can’t focus. I watched my brain jump from topic to topic and wrote about it. That story came out of a struggle I was having while re-writing a different story about my inability to focus.
I don’t remember where I heard this, but I’ve always followed this artistic advice: Put everything you have into whatever you’re working on. Never save an idea for a future project. But last week I held back. I saved an idea because I was planning ahead for this week. Is the stress of coming up with stories, weekly, getting in the way of my artistic process?
I’m spiraling. I wrote a story about writing a story and now this story is about those stories. Everything is about my process. I’m a caricature of a memoirist. I’m navel gazing to the core. I’m writing about writing, which is so embarrassing. Unless you’re Joyce Carol Oats, no one cares about your process. If you’re not Joyce Carol Oats, and you write about writing, everyone will feel sorry for you.
This story is the same story I always write, the one about how I’m not Joyce Carol Oats; how no one knows I’m famous. I get it. I’ve said it myself: Everyone has their themes. Maybe I’m recycling old themes because I’m still working them out.
I thought the challenge would help me move forward, but I haven’t moved.
I took the challenge because with my book stagnant, I felt like a failure. And as long as I’m putting my energy into this challenge, I don’t have to face failure. But, as long as I’m putting my energy into this challenge, my book is still stagnant.
Maybe this challenge is getting in the way. Maybe the challenge served its purpose. It helped me find my way back. Maybe I should quit and focus on getting my book published. But if I quit, and my book doesn’t get published, then I’ve failed at both.
This is №32 of my #weeklyessaychallenge. I’m probably not gonna to quit.