This is officially the longest I’ve gone without human contact in – well, my whole life. And while I would love to compare my experience to some monastic awakening, I’m pretty sure I’d have had to abstain from the copious amounts of red wine and Boardwalk Empire I’ve ingested in the space of that time to qualify for anything sublime. OK – to be fair to me, I haven’t had that much wine…
(Seriously, HBO, what are you trying to do to me? First The Sopranos, then The Wire, and now this?)
I have, however, spent quite a lot of that time in silence, hanging out with my thoughts, as it were, which is unusual for me as anyone who’s spent 10 minutes in my company will attest. There’s this little elf in my brain that says, “All thoughts must be spoken or they become the terminal maladies of angels and fairies!” And I listen. Quite often to my own chagrin. It’s interesting, though, because I’ve noticed something I think I knew before but never gave much credit – those thoughts evolve quite a lot when they’re not interrupted by yours truly. Not into anything amazing, mind you, but they do evolve. And sometimes – now, for instance – I find myself confronted by a number of cosmological coincidences that bear at least a little attention.
I have recently entered into a creative partnership of sorts with another writer. The official title we’ve given it is “Accountability Partners,” a term that apparently finds its roots in the weight-loss and faith industries…we may have to revisit that. We had our first discussion on Sunday evening, and I’m afraid that this poor, unfortunate soul was met with a three-fold version of my talkative self, because a) I’ve been alone for a week, and b) I’m a bit overwhelmed with the whole becoming-a-writer business. And something I unloaded in that first (incredibly therapeutic) talk was that I have struggled with a fear of being seen as (discovered to be?) a complete and utter phony my whole darned life.
The first time I can remember reading the word “phony” in the context I intend for it here was in Catcher in the Rye. Holden Caulfield used the word like it was going out of business and I totally got his meaning. Because in the angsty, self-involved world of teenager-dom, authenticity is the most valuable commodity there is. What is coming of age in the U.S. if it isn’t staking one’s claim, molding one’s shoe for the unique and influential footprint one will leave as an adult? In my teenage years I may have forgotten the word, as well as where I’d read it, but I remembered its meaning through and through and through again. “To thine own self,” and all of that. And the value I place upon this notion of being real has not left me: the name of my website, and technically of my business – Present Pathway – comes from my favorite poem of Edgar Allen Poe, which begins, “Thou wouldst be loved? — then let thy heart / From it’s present pathway part not!”
So this is all balderdash, right? How can it be that I’m at once driven by a search for authenticity and overwhelmed by a fear that I’ll be found out for the phony I really am?
How many times do the gangsters in my favorite HBO series go to confession?
Life is just like that. The problem, of course, is that words spoken are often (not always!) forgotten, while words written – well, you get my drift. Here I am, edging ever deeper into my early-mid-thirties, and I’m only just now following my dream of becoming a writer? And you know who hears this underlying and very loud voice coming from my psyche shouting, “I’M-A-FAKE-AND-YOU’RE-GONNA-FIND-OUT-SOONER-OR-LATER-HOLY-CRAP!”? Editors. Even over the phone. Or Skype, rather. Even when they don’t answer their phone. I’m pretty sure it’s why they don’t pick up. They’re refusing to pick up because I’m scaring them away before I even make contact with a psychic dose of desperation and fear. How do I know this?
Enter Cosmos: I follow a couple of excellent blogs about writing. And it is from these bloggers that I have learned two very important terms in the world of writing (and everything, really, I guess): “Impostor Syndrome” and “Energetic Tackiness“. And it got me to thinking about my fears of fraudulence…and my difficulty in approaching editors. And while these terms do not solve my problems, they give them names, which, as anyone who has suffered from an unknown ailment will concur, is huge.