The Story of Writing Where the Light is Dim
Welcome to my story, the story of writing where the light is dim.So here I am--48 years old, reasonably well-educated, more-or-less satisfied with the professional choices I have made. You can see a list of my works on the "Books and Articles" tab of my website. I always wanted to be a writer when I grew up, and I got my wish.And yet--and yet.I once read that when you hit 40, you realize you don't own your body. You rent it. It's not yours forever; you have to give it back one day when the payments get too high to cover the maintenance. The time growth short. That same truism could apply to a person's career. Except for the rare Grandma Moses, most careers are well underway by the time you hit 40. And 40 arrives before you know it. I could swear I was just 17-years-old, hanging out with Jeff Gallup and Darin Murphy at the Florence Mall. I am now approaching 50. The AARP will reach out to me any day now. What the hell happened? Whatever I am going to do in this life, I had better do it soon. I can't pay the rental fees on this body forever.I was in my twenties when I first started writing with hopes of being published. I owned an Apple IIC with 128K memory and a dot-matrix printer balanced atop a credenza hastily constructed from wooden planks and cinder blocks. A friend saw my computer gear and asked if I was rich. No--I was in debt. The IIC was retired to a back closet long before I finished paying it off.In those heady days of the 1980s, as sugar-coated Wham! music charged unbidden into my dorm room from the hallway and Reagan implored Gorbachev to tear down a wall, my world was filled with limitless possibilities. I was going to live forever. My work would be taught in English classes across the globe by jealous assistant professors anxious, yet unable, to replicate my flawless prose. My name and bank account would be things of awe and wonder. I would be the toast of the U.S. and Europe--or at least South Carolina, where I lived at the time. Pulitzer Prizes and even a Nobel or two would be foregone conclusions. My verbal repartee would delight Johnny Carson during my innumerable visits to "The Tonight Show."I did not yet know the limits of my talent, my intellect, or my ambition (to say nothing of my ego). I was going to be the next Philip Roth or William Faulkner or James Michener--or all of them combined. I was the star of the highly successful "Mike Martinez Story," a saga I never tired of pondering as it played an endless loop inside my head. It was only a matter of time before everyone discovered what my mother had long known, and what I had always suspected--I was a special light in the world.What is it Dirty Harry says? "A man's got to know his limitations." Growing up means realizing the wisdom of those words. That special light somehow never fully ignited. That's not to say I am a 40-watt bulb in a 100-watt room. It means that time and circumstances have provided perspective on exactly how much light I emit. Let's just say I give off more heat than light. The light is dim.I have finally come to understand that my instrument has a limited range. I can write, but I am no genius. Shakespeare and Hemingway need not quake in their graves. I pose no threat.And yet--and yet.I can point to solid achievements as a writer, and they are deeply satisfying to my psyche, if not to my bank account. But can I do more? Can I rise from one plateau to another? I don't have to be positioned to quit my day job, but can I write prose as clearly and eloquently as a man of my imperfect means can ever write? Can I make my light burn as brightly as possible?In the blog posts to come, I will explore for readers, and myself, what it means to be a person of some talent, albeit limited, who seeks to make the most of his gifts. Maybe I won't be that great American writer who belongs to the ages, but I can give it my best shot.As I said, welcome to my story, the story of writing where the light is dim.