I Write To You
I am a writer. Writing books is my profession but it's more than that, of course. It is also my great lifelong love and fascination. More
I am a writer. Writing books is my profession but it's more than that, of course. It is also my great lifelong love and fascination. And I don't expect that that's ever going to change. But, that said, something kind of peculiar has happened recently in my life and in my career, which has caused me to have to recalibrate my whole relationship with this work. And the peculiar thing is that I recently wrote this book, this memoir called "Eat, Pray, Love" which, decidedly unlike any of my previous books, went out in the world for some reason, and became this big, mega-sensation, international bestseller thing. The result of which is that everywhere I go now, people treat me like I'm doomed. Seriously -- doomed, doomed! Like, they come up to me now, all worried, and they say, "Aren't you afraid you're never going to be able to top that? Aren't you afraid you're going to keep writing for your whole life and you're never again going to create a book that anybody in the world cares about at all, ever again?"
So that's reassuring, you know. But it would be worse, except for that I happen to remember that over 20 years ago, when I was a teenager, when I first started telling people that I wanted to be a writer, I was met with this same sort of fear-based reaction. And people would say, "Aren't you afraid you're never going to have any success? Aren't you afraid the humiliation of rejection will kill you? Aren't you afraid that you're going to work your whole life at this craft and nothing's ever going to come of it and you're going to die on a scrap heap of broken dreams with your mouth filled with bitter ash of failure?"
Like that, you know.
The answer -- the short answer to all those questions is, "Yes." Yes, I'm afraid of all those things. And I always have been. And I'm afraid of many, many more things besides that people can't even guess at, like seaweed and other things that are scary. But, when it comes to writing, the thing that I've been sort of thinking about lately, and wondering about lately, is why? You know, is it rational? Is it logical that anybody should be expected to be afraid of the work that they feel they were put on this Earth to do. And what is it specifically about creative ventures that seems to make us really nervous about each other's mental health in a way that other careers kind of don't do, you know? Like my dad, for example, was a chemical engineer and I don't recall once in his 40 years of chemical engineering anybody asking him if he was afraid to be a chemical engineer, you know? "That chemical-engineering block, John, how's it going?" It just didn't come up like that, you know? But to be fair, chemical engineers as a group haven't really earned a reputation over the centuries for being alcoholic manic-depressives.
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