I am not afraid of success. For some reason that idea makes me angry, makes me furious, makes me enraged. I can’t remember who said it, but it’s a commonplace that haunts me, that was thrown at me once, and I don’t even know what it means. Here it is: I am afraid of failing, of getting trapped in silence. Worse: what if I open my mouth to speak, or sing, and the song that comes out is croaked and broken, people can’t bear to listen to it, they wander away, and now they know two things they didn’t know before: how bad my voice is, and how much I wanted to be listened to. Wouldn’t it be better to bake cakes? Everybody likes cake. Isn’t this a fool’s game, the path of egomaniacs, narcissists, dreamers?
My writing practice is about becoming comfortable with that fear, touching its bristly, oily fur, running my fingers behind its ears, learning not to back away from it, learning to get past it, and sit down at the table and work.

This morning I read about Nathaniel Hawthorne and Ernest Hemingway. Two such different men: one of them austere and puritanical, but generous, with a deep, connected, sexual relationship with his wife; the other insecure, bombastic, alcoholic, and cruel (or at least unkind) to the four wives he went through. What they had in common: each was disciplined, working four hours every morning, hurricanes and hangovers and death in the family notwithstanding. And each struggled to find acceptance. Both kept writing through rejection after rejection, finding and refining and polishing a style, until something finally clicked. By the time they found acclaim as writers the hard work had made them writers already, whether they had acclaim or not, the title writer could not be bestowed or taken from them. Hemingway wrote his mother– “you cannot know how much it pains me to think you are ashamed of this when I know it is not to be ashamed of.” And still he kept at it, over and over.

Anyone can make themselves a writer, just by having the resolve to show up for it, over and over, until they understand what they want to say, and how to say it.