Without exception, this happens every time I do a blog, every time I press “Send (email list)” and “Publish (Medium)” and “Post (Facebook).” I believe there is the article that goes out into the ether, to who knows where, and there’s also a much better one that I didn’t have the wisdom or the chops to write. It’s lying around somewhere no one will ever read it. Hell, I didn’t even read it. I don’t know where it is.
Rachel Shteir addressed this in a 2014 article in the New York Times called “Failure, Writing’s Constant Companion.” She wrote that “Failure in writing is not like failure in business, where you lose money and have to fire everyone and remortgage your house. When you’re a writer, most of the time, people don’t depend on you to succeed. Although you may starve if your books don’t sell, or your agent might yell at you for producing something that three people will read, failure in writing is more of an intimately crushing day-to-day thing. O.K., minute-to-minute. Measured against your ideal of yourself.”
There it is, the “ideal of yourself.” That guy, that GratiDude, would have done a better job with today’s post, but I had to settle, as did anyone who might read it, for another one. When he announced his retirement, after years of being a successful novelist, Philip Roth said, “Writing is frustration — it’s daily frustration, not to mention humiliation. It’s just like baseball: you fail two-thirds of the time.” There will be headlines for a while, dissecting last night’s Super Bowl, about how the Chiefs won or the 49ers managed to lose. But, as Shteir wrote, “There will be no news headline: ANOTHER WRITER FAILED TODAY.”
These Notes From the GratiDude are not for a writers’ forum and the day to day struggles or triumphs with moving words around in a meaningful way are not of any real interest to most people. What’s important is whether the writer’s challenges align with caring about whether a piece helps someone or not. What makes it worth reading? It certainly isn’t for the mastery class being conducted here by some gratitude sensei.
This post has five hundred sixty words, which Medium announces is a three-minute read. Three minutes twice per week doesn’t sound like a lot. Yet, I am aware how I feel facing even three minutes of reading when I am inundated by a surf of information and internet noise.
It got me thinking about how long (or short) a time three minutes really is. It’s five percent of an hour, of course, which sounds like not much. If you’re in a rush it does occur as very short. At the end of an NFL game three minutes can be a very long time indeed. I took a survey for the Red Cross after donating blood. They said it would take three minutes and it didn’t seem very long. I think one could make a long list of activities that take three minutes. Some would feel short and others would feel long.
As this goes out today, instead of that “better one” that was not sent, I can do no better than take Leonard Cohen’s advice. He said–“Ring the bell that still can ring. Forget the perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”