I was reading through Gogol's Dead Souls and, upon reading the beginning of chapter 7, I came across a paragraph that really made my mind work furiously at recognizing the remnants of a muse lost. This reads like the last two years of my writing life.
In the beginning:
Happy is the writer who without dwelling too long on tedious and repulsive characters, which impress us by their distressful reality, feels drawn to characters which reveal the high dignity of man, the writer who from the great whirlpool of human figures that pass daily before his mind’s eyes selects only the few exceptions, who has never once been untrue to the major key of his lyre, who has never descended from his pinnacle to his poor, insignificant fellow creatures and, without touching the earth, has immersed himself completely in his own exalted images that are so far removed from it. His rare lot is doubly to be envied: he is among them as among his own family and yet his fame spreads far and wide. He clouds men’s eyes with enchanting incense; he flatters them marvelously, concealing the sad facts of life and showing them the noble man, Applauding, all run after him, all rush after his triumphal chariot. They call him great, universal poet, soaring high above all other geniuses of the world as an eagle soars over the other high-flying birds. Young, ardent hearts are thrilled at his very name; responsive tears gleam in every eye. He has no equal in power—he is a god.
That last line is telling. Now, I am not going to say I had personally risen to that level. that would be an absurd statement. I write some small time stuff. It is trivial sports "stuff" for the most part which helps us all to pass the day, but at the end of those days, what I have written brings little substantive value. Nonetheless, acclaim of any sort can become enrapturing; and it can cloud the minds eye that was once so critical to what was written.
But then Gogol continued:
But quite different is the lot, quite different is the destiny of the writer who has dared to bring into the open everything that is every moment before men’s eyes and that remains unseen by their unobservant eyes – all the terrible, shocking morass of trivial things which our life is entangled, the whole depth of frigid, split-up, everyday characters with whom our often dreary and bitter earthly path swarms, and who dares with the strong power of his relentless chisel to display them boldly and in the round before the eyes of all! Not for him the applause of the people, not for him to behold the grateful tears and the unanimous rapture of the souls he has moved so deeply; no girl of sixteen flies to meet him with her head turned and full of heroic enthusiasm; he will not find oblivion in the sweet enchantment of the sounds he has himself evoked; and, lastly, he will not escape the judgment of his contemporaries, hypocritical and callous public opinion, which will brand his cherished creations as low and insignificant will allot him an ignoble place in the ranks of writers who have affronted humanity, will attribute to him the qualities of the heroes he himself has created, will rob him of heart and soul and the divine fire of genius.For contemporary public opinion does not acknowledge that the glasses through which suns are beheld and though which the movements of microscopic insects are studied are equally marvelous; for public opinion does not admit that great spiritual depth is required to illumine a picture drawn from ignoble life and transform it into a pearl of creation; for public opinion does not admit that lofty rapturous laughter is worthy to stand beside lofty lyrical emotion and that there is all the difference in the world between it and the antics of a clown at a fair. Public opinion does not admit that and it will turn everything into a reproach and a sneer against the unrecognized writer; without fellow feeling, without response, without sympathy, he is left standing alone in the middle of the road like a homeless wayfarer.Hard is his calling in life, and bitterly he feels his solitude.
Sometimes we don't even noticed that we have become enraptured with acclaim and praise. As we work through our daily life, we simply do the things that we have done; without self-reflection about what is happening, we simply continue like drones; robots trudging our way through the day.
That's what I was doing with writing.
While I am self reflective in many aspects of life, writing had become some sort of drug; a method of self-validation that was generated through the validation of others.
And the validation would continue; but only as long as I could write enough positive and avoid the negative. I was not a writer; I was an entertainer. But I had fooled myself into thinking some pretty grandiose stuff about what I was doing. Compared myself to an abstract artist.
How ridiculous is that? Abstract art? I am not Faulkner. I am not Tolstoy. I write about college football and recruiting for a fan website. There is nothing wrong with that task. There is demand for this kind of writing. But it became time to stop fooling myself and buying into self-created delusions of grandeur.
A hard lesson was learned when I said some things that people did NOT want to hear.
I was praised in 2011 not because I uncovered some great mystery of life, but because I found a side of the story a target audience wanted to hear. Plain and simple. No brilliant prose. No incredible discovery. No earth shattering news. I said what you wanted to hear.
When I said some things that no one wanted to hear, I became the second half of the quotes.
This is no attack against what I have done at any point; simply a realization that my delusions have had no basis in reality. I saw someone refer to me once as a "one-hit wonder." And, you know what? That's not even true. What I wrote that was a "hit" was nothing more than some nice fluffy pillows. It was inanity disguised as discernment.
Yes. I have learned some lessons the hard way. Demand? Outside of a small audience, there is no demand for my trifling ramblings. And, you know what, that is okay.
Hard is his calling in life, and bitterly he feels his solitude.