In Spite of Pointlessness
Growing up, I wanted to be a Martin Scorsese or a Coen Brother. A revered Auteur filmmaker. Someone putting out “groundbreaking” things. Superlatives defined my aspirations. People are going to call this one “important,” I would think, refer to this one as a “masterpiece”.
Yuck. I know.
I can see the case for regarding my past self as any or all of the following: arrogant, pretentious, deluded. Most days, I just sort of think it’s cute. I admire the dreamier aspects of that ambition, while also feeling grateful to have shed its less healthy accompaniments.
I still want to be a writer. On more optimistic days, I declare myself one already, without reserve. There’s no longer any outsized goals attached to it. My head is just full of stories I like and would feel better committing to paper. Plus, I still think my ideas have the potential to be good. So there’s still some ego kicking around upstairs.
The question of continuing often arises. A big fat “Why?” People pose it to me less than you would think. More often than not, I’m posing it to myself. Those around me are usually more supportive and encouraging than I am toward me.
At this point, not even my more subdued dreams (of publication, of having actual human readers) have come remotely close to panning out. The way forward isn’t so much uncertain as it is a distant fog glimpsed through vision blurred to near-blindness.
I am fond of telling people, “Even if I’m 80 and unpublished, I’ll still be writing.” I mean it pretty seriously. Despite lacking any recognition or even the tiniest hint of what could be mistaken for or interpreted as ‘success’, writing provides me a contentment and joy that is borderline incomprehensible to those who don’t share a similar passion that’s only reward is the thing itself. (I am very lucky to know several such people, friends who nod and say, “It’s just for you.”)
Conversations about purpose, progress, goals, ideas, all come up a lot. Most of my friends with creative ambitions have day jobs (or two, or three) and a sense of pointlessness or lack of purpose occasionally (or for some, frequently) assails us. When it does, it can hit with a power that feels simply inarguable.
I’ve come to possess a litany of outlooks and responses to save myself from these creeping feelings of failure, of wanting to quit. Yet there are days where even my best advice can’t hope to crack the overwhelming wish to throw in the towel for good. These just need to be patiently waited out.
Nearly every time, the basis of my perseverance comes down to this: acceptance. I accept that I may be talentless or simply unlucky, that I may for any number of reasons become that 80-year-old with the un-surrendered but also unfulfilled dream. And when I imagine him, I don’t pity him, I don’t feel sorry for him, I don’t think he’s stupid or stubborn, but I understand why someone might. See, we hear everywhere that dreams should be chased, and we’re often told it by the chasers who ended up achieving theirs. I submit to you, as someone who isn’t a professional and who acknowledges that he may forever be a hobbyist or an amateur, an also-ran, forever on the fringes, that if pursuing something is pointless, then it is equally pointless to give it up; that there is no harm in trying; that there is in fact a well of pride to be treasured in gazing, fearlessly, at the specter of failure, and I mean actual, true failure, not the glorified failure of a successful person referring to it abstractly — gazing at that phantom failure and instead regarding it as a symbol of success. To be 80 and writing my unread stories, scripts and manuscripts, with the unfettered enthusiasm of the Me of Today, is to have refuted and defeated every form of doubt. Each time I write, even when it doesn’t feel like it, I have claimed a new victory, against stagnation, surrender, assaults on the soul. Imagine a whole life, an accumulation of days reaching into the thousands, of small victories and tell me you wouldn’t from time to time, feel an untouchable giddiness.