Me: You’re Edgar Alan Poe, and the best you can do is ‘yikes’?
Poe: I have been attempting of late to modernize my speech a bit.
Me: That sounds more like you. Anyway, it wasn’t a bad thing. The project wasn’t working and I needed some distance from it. I’m already fifty pages into a new book and it’s going well. What’s interesting to me is how my attitude about this might have been totally different ten years ago, maybe even two years. I probably would have been very depressed. But now, I think, well, that’s just part of the process, and you get on with it. That’s when I realized something.
Poe: And what would that be?
Me: I crossed some kind of Rubicon. I stopped trying to become a writer and simply became one. Now, I’m not saying I didn’t think of myself as a writer before, but I no longer feel I have to prove to myself that I am. Or to anyone. I’m the writer I want to be.
Poe: So you’ve achieved all of your goals and dreams?
Me: Oh no. I’m more driven than ever. But it’s different. I’ve relaxed, I guess. I’ve released myself form the outcome to some degree and just focused on the doing of it. Maybe it sells, maybe it doesn’t, but once I’ve done what I need to do, that’s out of my hands. Maybe it’s partly because I’m hitting one of those big birthdays in a couple months, too, but I suddenly realized that I was living the life I wanted to live. I’d spent so many years preparing to live it that it kind of snuck up on me, and when I finally took a hard look at the whole balance of my life, I realized that it was all right there. I just needed to relax into it. And when that happened, a lot of stuff I used to worry about didn’t matter any more.
Poe: Such as?
Me: A lot of things. Going to writing workshops or conferences, for one. If I want to go, I’ll go, but I’m a lot pickier about them now — which is saying something, because I was picky before. The labels other people apply to me. Who cares if I’m a full time writer or not? Really, does that label matter? Nope. It doesn’t matter to the reader, that’s for sure. Sales, rejections, awards, reviews . . . I’m not saying these things don’t mean anything, because that would be lying, but I don’t sweat them as much now, for good or bad. It’s like I’m more driven than ever by putting one word in front of the other, of my own internal compass of what I should be doing as a writer. I trust that instinct now.
Poe: And you didn’t before?
Me: Not as much as I should have.
Poe: Sounds as if you’re saying — and I’m attempting to use a modern colloquialism here — that you just don’t give a shit what other people think.
Me. Wow. That’s definitely modernizing your speech.
Poe: Thank you. I’ve been reading your Elmore Leonard collection.
Me: Nice. Can’t go wrong studying dialog from that guy. But yeah, I think you’ve got the right spirit. I guess another way of saying it is that I know what kind of writer I want to be, and the life I want to live, and I’m no longer seeking anyone’s permission or approval to be it. I’m just living it.