On my evening walk I was contemplating what I would have done if I had had the publishing opportunities available in the past that are available now; that is, the internet, blogging, self-publishing, and so on. In my mind’s eye I looked back at myself as a young writer on the road during the time I wrote of in “World Without Pain: The Story of a Search”, when I was desperate for my voice, desperate to unleash the words locked in my soul, desperate for my destiny, and I had forsaken everything else in my life to find these things. I was hitchhiking and traveling around, eating and sleeping where and when I could, taking odd jobs only when I had to. Since I couldn’t carry a typewriter, even a portable one, I would write in notebooks and transcribe it later, whenever I had the opportunity. So I considered myself as I was back then and tried to imagine…
I would have started and maintained a blog, for one thing, and in it I would have put my observations on writing, on reading, on life in general, on traveling and what I was going through. I also would have included links to anything I had published which was available for sale.
Which leads me to my next point: I would have published what I wrote. If I thought it appropriate to an established market I might have sent it to an editor, but if not I would have published it myself. I would have focused my writing to organize it for publication, in electronic formats and eventually in print as well. When I was traveling I would have had to avail myself of the internet wherever I could. It’s possible I would still not have been able to carry a computer around, but if I could I certainly would have, at least a little mini word processor from which I could upload my prose to the web. Since I would not have had constant access to the internet I would have had to save up my work until I could get online somewhere: at a public library, perhaps, or at a friend’s or relative’s house. But I would have been sure to maintain my blog and my publications periodically.
I would have kept my published work for sale on whatever channels I could, whether I sold anything or not. It wouldn’t have hurt to have it out there, in the hope that someone somewhere would discover my words, and those words would resonate in his or her soul, and then it would happen again to another someone, and another, and another.
I would be sure to write whatever the hell I wanted, to maintain my artistic integrity. Part of my artistic constipation when I was young was due to the fact that I tried to imitate the work of others. When I found my own voice I wrote my own material, whatever that material was, whether it was commercial or not, whether it was the latest fad or trend or not, whether it was what everyone wanted to hear or not. I would write what I had to write, nothing more and nothing less.
I would loathe any day job I had to take just for the money, any pursuit that would keep me from spending my time writing, publishing, studying, ruminating, and doing whatever I could to improve my talent and my craft. I often had to take odd jobs when the poverty got too severe, when I needed a few bucks in my pocket, when I just couldn’t handle the uncertainty any more. These jobs never lasted for long and I could never be rid of them soon enough.
I would maintain my personal integrity as well as my artistic integrity. I realize that many very talented people throughout history have been assholes in their personal lives, but I do not believe that this is the correct way for an artist to behave. If your calling is communication, as a writer’s always is, then it is important that you be as clean a conduit as possible, that you keep your channel cleared of bullshit. By this I do not mean you cannot write fiction. Fiction is not bullshit. Fiction is a way of presenting truth to the world in metaphorical terms. But I think it is important for a writer to be honest, courageous, and honorable. Don’t get me wrong; nobody is perfect, and to pretend to be is nothing less than self-righteousness, which is well nigh intolerable. But writers should always strive for improvement in their work and in their personal lives.
Finally, I would keep in touch with friends and family. This is something I did not do when I traveled when I was young. I would write the occasional aerogram to let them know I was still alive, but weeks would go by between communications. There was no internet, no e-mail, and long distance phone calls were prohibitively expensive. The only thing I could do was estimate where I would be next, let my loved ones know, and hope that they wrote in time for me to receive a letter at post restante, or general delivery, before I moved on. With e-mail I would keep in touch.
In looking back, I realize that I am not so far removed from that young man of sincerity who set out on the road so long ago on the adventure of becoming a writer. As a matter of fact, as I wrote this I felt I was looking at a younger version of myself in a mirror. I am still doing the same things I would have done back then had I the opportunity. I have a blog, I send out or publish my material, I keep it up for sale, I write whatever the hell I want, I loathe any job I have to take just for money (the one exception in my life being when I taught English as a second language in Greece and I could see I was genuinely helping my students), I maintain my personal integrity the best I can, and I keep in touch with my friends and family. What this hypothetical journey back in time has shown me is that I am an older, more developed version of the young man I was back then. I am still growing and developing as a writer. It is my calling, my life’s work. I do all those things now, and it is all I can do as an artist. I can’t make myself famous or wealthy; that is outside my hands. But I am successful in that I try every day to create the best work I can and offer it to the world. Whether the world accepts or rejects it is not something over which I have any control.
And so I will continue along the path that young writer embarked upon, and try to fulfill the destiny he set out to seek so many years ago. Day by day, step by step, word by word, until…