Congratulations, Athol. You’ve graduated.
When you commit to being an author of something — literally an authority — at first it feels fake, like someone is going to come in and bust you for pretending to be something you’re not. Often you have either vision or talent, but not both, and you barely understand your craft. Not a damn word you write seems worthy, and trying to attract attention to what you, yourself, feel is mediocre almost feels like fraud. After all, who the hell are you? Why should people pay attention to what you have to say?
But the difference between a pro and an amateur is more than whether or not you get paid. It’s whether you persevere, whether the potency of your vision or the abundance of your talent can push you beyond your own mediocrity, encourage you to perfect your craft, and whether or not your own passion can sustain you in times when it really seems like the whole world is just waiting for your next Big Fail. The Caucasian mountaineers having a saying: “Courage is hanging on for one moment more.” In every writer’s life you face moments where you stare at the screen and you have the very real choice of giving up or persevering, and it takes real, manly Courage to force yourself to go on when your Muse is off smoking pot with her friends somewhere and left you with a whiny baby.
Then . . . you don’t suck so much. People pay attention. You get fans. You get (!) money. You also get stalkers and tax issues and challenges you never dreamed of. But success breeds success, and it only takes a moment to glance at popular culture to realize just how low the bar for “success” is. Thanks to Kindle, you can make a living now without an agent and a publisher, and that’s everything. Pushing ahead while you’re successful, while you still have that Day Job to fall back on, that’s easy.
Jumping off of a cliff by quitting that Day Job and trusting in the Fates and your own native Will to carry you and your family to safety . . . that takes Courage. That takes balls. That takes a Man. Not a guy, not a dude, not a Puerarch. When you are “going your own way” and you have no one but yourself to care about, that sort of thing is easy. When you are going your own way, Captain of your own ship, and you have three crew members who depend on your ability to keep it afloat and on course . . . that’s HARD. That’s a kind of courage a single man without children cannot know. It’s the kind of Wolf Alpha bad-ass move that makes Bull Alpha bullshit like running with the bulls or cliff jumping look like the ball pit at Chuck E. Cheese’s.
You graduated, Athol. You have my respect and my admiration, but the truth is, you don’t really need it. You’ve grasped your life by the balls, and you are in control. And the truth is, only a few of us can really appreciate just what a profound act of courage and bravery it is to stand on the value of your own words for your bread and butter.
Well done, sir.
P.S.: Take all the time you need on the next one, Athol. Remember that God is in the details . . . but also remember that no great works are ever finished, only abandoned.