Friday, April 12, 2013

The art of failing

I don't know how to start this blog post. I feel obligated to write something, feel an internal longing to try to organise the noise in my head with words, but I'm not sure I really care enough to do so.

I turned 37 years old last month. It used to be that on each birthday I would write a blog post or column (remember when I wrote columns?) pretending to lament the fact I was still not president of Cuba. It's an old in-joke –– a response to yet another spate of sustained failure. 

Failure is what I do well, yo. It's not just a matter of never accomplishing things, but failing to accomplish them in such a way that is baffling, that leaves just about everyone, myself included, thinking: "Gosh, I don't understand how that happened."

That's the mark of an artiste. The guy who fucks things up completely, no one ever believes in him. But me, I almost get it right, even excelling in certain areas to make the failure seem all that more happenstance. A fluke. A one off.

Look at my history, though. Look at the past 20+ years of my life. Look at how many big ideas I've had. Look at how many times I've almost gotten things right. There's a pattern there, amigos. My failings are not lone misfortunes, they are the one consistency of my character.

But I'm jumping ahead. In high school, when all my friends were looking forward to going to exotic universities in exotic places, I was faced with an indeterminate number of months of summer and night school before I could earn my diploma. As our senior year drew to a close we were asked to state for all-time yearbook posterity what college we were going to and what our future plans entailed. I said I was going to the University of Havana and planned to become president of Cuba.

The faux lamentation of my continued civilian status started about a decade ago –– around the time I decided seriously that I wanted to be a writer.

Oh, hell. I feel like such a fraud to have ever called myself such a thing.

Last year I got a writer's bursary from Literature Wales. Amazing! They gave me money to sit in front of my laptop and tap away. Awesome! And that's exactly what I did. Fantastic! I wrote what I felt was the best piece of something I had ever written. Super-duper! 

But since then it's gone nowhere. Classic Chris-style failure.

The book languished in the hands of an agent until recently and now I find myself wondering whether I even care anymore. Career-wise I am almost exactly where I was 10 years ago with my writing, possibly a little further back because I've spent so much time swimming in the stagnant pools of Welsh literature. 

(I don't really mean that as an insult, just that if you're writing in Welsh, well, you're not going to go very far with it. The same things are written by the same people for the same minuscule audience over and over and over. It's a dead end.)

I can't help feeling I should stop.

When I was a teenager, my family was blessed to live in a house so large we had a room we didn't know what to do with. Down in the basement, I called it the Room of Forgotten Things. When there was an item no one really knew what to do with –– an old jacket, a possibly useable bicycle part, a silly hat –– it would end up in the RoFT. Don't confuse yourself into thinking this was a storage room, though. Things are organised in a storage room. People store things in them, to be used again. The RoFT was a place to throw something you couldn't quite get yourself to put in the garbage.

I use the word "throw" literally. We would just open the door to the room and heave the item in question into the air, usually shutting the door before the item landed.

This is where should go my writing ambitions: into the RoFT of my mind. Put it there with every other bad idea and dumb thing –– from the time I spent trying to get people to call me by my first name, to attempting to assimilate to Welsh-language culture.

But in this case, I suppose, the 'F' in RoFT stands for something else. It is the Room of Failed Things, and it is too full to close the door. Things spill out and suddenly attack me in the middle of the night.

I have been toying with the idea of giving up on writing. I don't know how serious I am in this because I don't know what else I'd do. I am cursed with good genes and a relatively healthy lifestyle. It's fair to assume I've got 50 more years on this planet; I need to be doing something. And if not writing, what?


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