freedom in the failure

“I was supposed to do great things
I know the road was long
But I wasn’t raised to shoot for fame
I had the safety on
I cut my ties, I sold my rings
I wanted none of this
If you start from scratch you have to sing
Just for the fun of it…”
-Cold War Kids, Miracle Mile

I’m a failed artist. I created an animated short film  no one watched. I’m a failed writer. I wrote a book but no one read it. And I’m a failed person. I tried to give myself to others but I have no friends.

So what’s left for me?

It’s weird because now that I’ve written my book, I’m almost entirely over writing. While I had another book in mind, I’m likely never going to write it. I could write it for myself. But I would also want it to be professionally edited. And I can’t afford that. I couldn’t even afford to have my first book edited but I thought I might make that money back in book sales. That didn’t happen. Not even close. I can’t take that financial risk again. And if I can’t make the next book the best it can be then what’s the point?

And when I think about it, there’s a piece of me that doesn’t even want to blog anymore. It’s partly because I’m burned out on writing and partly because no one seems that invested in my words. I had that same exhausted/defeated feeling when I finished my student film in college. After I exported that final animated file, I had no desire to do another one.

Now that the book is done, I feel a huge weight has been lifted from me. I wonder if that’s why I don’t feel the urge to write anymore. Maybe I had this need inside me to just finish this one project, to get this story out of me. And maybe all the other writing I did was a distraction. I was writing and it felt good but I wasn’t working toward that one true act that would bring me the most satisfaction. And now that I’ve finally accomplished it, there’s no need to continue with the distractions.

Maybe I’m not a writer at all. Maybe I’m not an artist. I’ve always said I’m more of an expressionist of sorts, someone who uses writing and other media to express how I feel. But that doesn’t mean I am what I use. And this leads to a hard possibility. Have I been mistaken all these years when I thought I was an artist when I was actually just a giant complainer?

I was so fearful my book would be a failure that it kept me from finishing it for all these years. I didn’t want to see that fear become a reality so I only worked on the book occasionally, worrying the project would bomb while secretly wishing it would be successful. What if this book turned everything around for me? For so many years, it was all I had to hang onto. It was the only thing I could think of that might get me out of my emotional degeneration. And in that time, I think I built the book up to be more than it was. I never thought I would become a millionaire. But I did hope it would provide a few extra bucks to help with student loans. But more than anything, I hoped it would provide the confidence I desperately needed to write more books, which might lead to an eventual financial success.

I still like the book. I don’t think it’s perfect but I think it’s damn good for a first time author who received so little help. It takes a village to raise a writer, don’t you know? Everyone needs help. Stephen King didn’t do it alone. JK Rowling didn’t do it alone. They had help. They had support. And I reached out for help. I asked people to read the book to give me feedback to make it better before I had it professionally edited. I knew I wasn’t a strong enough writer to do it on my own. But very few people read and responded to my request. In fact, this past September marked one full year since I started handed out drafts of my book for people to read. So, despite whatever excuses they gave for not reading it right away, they’ve had plenty of time to get back with me.

I’m not a confident person but I thought I had a bit of talent with words. I even had a small but loyal blog following several years ago. They helped me feel better about my writing and it was because of their positive feedback that I even entertained the notion of writing a book. But those same people who gave me words of encouragement ended up backing out of actually putting their words into action. It’s easy to say you care. It’s harder to show it. And to them, I wasn’t worth showing it. It really shook how I felt about these people. And when all was said and done, I realized I was willing to lose friends over this project. That’s how important it was to me. And I have lost them. The support that I used to receive is gone. The people I used to talk to are no longer in contact with me. And I’m actually quite fine with that.

Just like with all disappointments and losses, time has helped to heal (or numb, however you want to look at it). I published my book back in June. Since then, I’ve had the time to go through all the emotions of seeing such a personal, exciting, meaningful project completely shatter before my eyes. And what people don’t understand is that I’m not upset that the whole world hasn’t bought it or that I’ve received a few bad ratings on Amazon.

What upsets me is how the people whose opinions I valued and whose respect I wanted to gain were the ones who were the first to reject me. I was supportive of all their creative endeavors, asking to see their photographs, reviewing their paintings, reading their words, pushing them to keep going despite their apprehensions or lack of faith in themselves. I saw it in them. But they did not see it in me.

I used to rely on other people to measure my self-worth. As I get older and become more aware of what I am capable of, I don’t do that as much. I still care what people think, and probably care too much, but at the same time I’m starting to see my own personal pros and cons without any outside influence. Some of it’s good but a lot of it is just a confirmation of what I’ve always suspected and tried to run from: I’m a loser.

I’ve always fought my very nature, always tried to mold my body and behavior into what my brain thought I should be. But I’ve never been able to do that. And as I get older, I get more discouraged, become more defeated. And I also get more tired. And there are days when I don’t think I can fight it anymore. There are things I don’t care about as much as I used to. There are things I don’t fight for as much as I used to. I think it’s partly accepting who I am and partly just plain giving up.

I’m never going to be anything exceptional to anyone. It’s a little sad, sure, but it’s also okay. Not everyone is special. Not everyone will change the world. Some people never even change those around them. And that’s me. I wanted to make a difference but I’ve just made a mess.

And because of that, there’s this odd sense of freedom. I don’t have to try so hard to be something I’m not. So, maybe now I can focus on just being me. I’ll never become the man I want to be. But that doesn’t mean I can’t try to be the best man that I am.

And maybe I will keep writing. But I’ll write just for me because no one else cares about my words. So I don’t need to make them meaningful to anyone else except myself. Writing has always been my therapy and until something better comes along, it will continue to be my therapy. This will free me up in several ways. I won’t have to make it sound pretty or have it make much sense. I don’t have to focus on a clear message because there is no message, just a meaningless jumble of words.

The pressure is slowly releasing. Ah, yes, it feels great to be a failure.

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