Monday, May 19, 2014
The ski tips danced in the wind as we drove the drafty pick up truck across Nebraska. I liked leaning forward and watching them up there in the November cold. I hoped they didn't fall off. Half of my worldly wealth had gone into those boards, and I needed them to try out my dream of being a ski bum in Colorado.
John S. and I had left our small town in Wisconsin after dark. (Some things can only be done in the dark, and leaving home on a spiritual quest is one of those things. Well, it wasn't exactly spiritual...) We drove south and west across the Mississippi to Dubuque, then to the I-70 across Iowa, and then Nebraska.
I was hoping to see the front range of the Rockies when the sun came up.
John, wrapped in his sleeping bag because the truck had holes in the floorboards, was snoring. The radio didn't work, so I had my thoughts and the roar of the engine to keep me company.
I could see things clearly. I saw that I was in hot pursuit of the writer's life. This life, of course, had to be filled with adventure, hence the mountains and the skis. But it also needed a hefty dose of drug induced inspiration, doomed love affairs, miles of road, a devotion to intense and raw experience rather than discipline or routine. The job of the writer and the artist, as I understood it, was to go the edge, to warm hands at the fire, the live wire of proximity to death.
That seemed like a good idea for a while, but I did not write very much. In one of my crappy jobs, a friend lost his arm in a factory accident. John got tired of traveling and became a money manager. He has a nice life on the coast.
I felt like the last man standing, and it was by the side of a road at night in Texas.
The plan wasn't working all that well.
In fact, I think I burned a few too many brain cells, and got old fast.
Only when I began to spend time writing did any writing actually see the light of day.
Teaching and academic work provided some income when I needed it after getting married and having two sons. It took up my time, and asked me to stretch, to get organized, to get to work on time, be a cog in the machine.
So I steal time now, in the mornings before work. And the writing is still a dream, but it is work too.
That's what they don't tell you in the dream factory of a creative life. Artists have to pay bills, have to make a schedule, have to spend time in front of the keyboard, or the canvas, or whatever the medium might be.
Only then, for me, does the light begin to shine, hard-won realizations take form.
It has taken so long to get here. I only hope that someday it will be enough.