Several months ago I came across the greatest photo I have ever encountered; a simple black and white portrait of two older men, with nothing obviously extraordinary going on. By artistic standards the photo is unremarkable, a relic from years past that most people would probably pass over without a second thought.
Artistry has nothing to do with my infatuation with this image. It is the two unlikely figures that had been captured within this photo that really prodded at my soul. Stern faced and determined, the pair featured are a part of an elite group: they are arguably two of the greatest science fiction writers of all time.
Kurt Vonnegut and Ray Bradbury now stand together, immortalized, in a little black frame at the corner of my modern desk. My fascination with this seemingly quiet picture stems from the fact that these two literary geniuses are my two all time favorite authors, and to see them standing together, shoulder to shoulder, looking out into the world makes my heart quicken. Vonnegut is famous for his satirical cynicism, whereas Bradbury excels in optimistic existentialism. Their opposing styles provide the perfect, nutritious balance for my literary diet.
I placed them at my writing workstation to act as my muses in times of creative need. Sadly I’ve been avoiding them as of late; embarrassment prevented my will to face them. Doing so would have forced me to admit that I had a problem: over the past year I’ve found myself flopping around in a creative slum. Aside from one short story and a personal essay I managed to pull out of myself for a creative writing class I took on a whim, I haven’t written anything substantial in a long time.
And it’s not necessarily for a lack of want. A small black journal floats around with me wherever I go, filled with ideas and leads for potential stories. And the pages continue to fill up with time as new seeds ingrain themselves into the soil that is my mind. The problem I have is taking the time to water those seeds, to make these ideas into something metaphorically tangible.
Paralysis takes a hold of me when I am confronted by the real opportunity to create something with my words. Instead, I keep busy. I distract myself. I mix up my priorities. If I hadn’t come across numerous articles from a vast gamut of writers on the struggles of writing, I would begin to wonder if I am cut out to be a writer.
But I know that this pursuit is absolutely right for me. When it comes down to it, I’m simply terrified. I’m terrified of failure. I’m terrified of success. I’m terrified of the unknown. I have to take a look at myself and assess what’s raging on within me. What are my true feelings? What do I want? When I scrape away all of the fear I am relieved to find that at the heart of all this, I absolutely love writing. And it’s this strong passion that will overcome my terror in the end. When a love is too good to give up, even the flightiest of people know when to commit.
I love spewing out a perfect sentence onto a page and being flabbergasted that I could produce something so beautiful. I love capturing the perfect image, the perfect scene, the perfect sentiment. I love gifting life to a character, and am amazed at how they change and develop over time as if they were my own child. But most of all, I absolutely love sharing my writing with others. There is nothing greater in the life of a writer than to discover how a story connects with a person on some level that the writer themselves never could.
This complex love is what has kept me hanging on to the craft of writing this past year. I have always known that it was meant to be, but was too afraid to embrace it. Until tonight, I had been putting off this confrontation.
It’s a Friday, the start to my weekend, and at the last minute my best friend called to cancel our plans. My spouse came home, and with determination I tried my best to procure a date night with my new-found availability (read: another distraction from my priorities). Luckily for me, my significant other declined. With nothing pressing to do and an abundance of free time for the first time in a long while, I slowly made the journey to my desk. I found myself towering over my computer, with a hand placed on the back of my chair. Bradbury and Vonnegut stared at me knowingly. My lovely muses. It was time.