Earlier I began reading re-reading my book and fell asleep. I got up at 3:30 this morning and read a couple of articles. By the time Dale was up at seven I could remember nothing about the first article at all. Nothing. I had to look back at what I had read. Is the mind going? Perhaps not. Students told me about this all the time.
I was giving thought to success. Literary success. Success at life. By many standards I have been quite successful. Dreamed-of marriage? Check. Children? Check. Friends? Check. Savings? Check. Orgasms? Check. Relationship with Divine Being? Check. Real shoes? Check. Real estate? Check. Europe trip? Check. College Degree? Triple Check. Fulfilling work? Check. Publications? Check. Literary prizes? Check. Books? Check. Work translated and published elsewhere? Check. Feeling like a successful writer? Nope.
I just did that thing I've heard writers do. Other writers will say I've published so many number of poems, stories, blah blah. According to my current records I have published 36 pieces of prose and at least 125 poems. 1 poetry chapbook. 1 full-length book of poems. 1 literary novel, e-book. I began publishing in 1993. 23 years ago.
I have been published in some heavy-hitters. I have been a Bread Loaf Fiction Scholar. I have had an essay declared notable in the Best American Essays. I have been nominated for the Pushcart three times, though Jackson says such nominations really have no meaning. You have to win for it to be a thing.
I won $25 several times from Plainsongs. America Magazine (the Catholics) paid me $25 for a poem. New England Review paid me $100 for a story. Georgia Review paid me $100 for a poem. Antioch Review paid me $70 for a poem. Mass. Review paid me $100 for a poem. Bread Loaf gave me a scholarship.
I will get royalties for my novel this August. I suspect they will be about $25. I have been paid $33 royalties on my book of poems. I received $10 in 1980 for a poem which placed in the Northeast Georgia Writers' Contest. I have judged contests and made a bit of money. I have made a bit of money from private students.
But by my account, all this means little. I want to make money. A lot of money. I want to be famous and am deluded enough to believe that that will have any meaning if it happens. I want to be remembered. I am stupidly ambitious. I wish I weren't.
Why not be Ted Hughes? Why this obsessive nutsoid desire to be Sylvia Plath?
Why not be Rebecca Cook?
Why not say, Girl, you already got there a long time ago. How many people are happily married, lucky enough to find their soul mate? How many people are lucky enough to have visions of God? How many people are lucky enough to have close friends? A best friend from high school! How many people are able to snap their fingers and get just about anything they want?
And if I never make a dime writing and no one ever knows who I am, it will make no difference. Because even if I do make a lot of money and someone knows who I am, it will only last a little while. And few writers are really famous. Ellen Gilchrist is amazing, but most people have no idea who she is. Most people have no idea who won the last Pulitzer or National Book Award. Most people have no idea who Lauren Slater is. Or Lauren Winner. Or Jenny Sadre-Orafai. Or Richard Jackson. Or me. Some people know us. But most people don't know us. They will never know us. And why does it even matter?
I wonder if Louisa May Alcott sat at a desk and dreamed desired obsessed about becoming famous? Or Laura Ingalls Wilder? Or Charlotte Bronte? Or C.S. Lewis?
I often feel a bit like Napoleon. Of course, people do know who he is. And Alexander. And Homer. And Shakespeare. And Queen Elizabeth 1.
Boo. I have worn myself out with this. Just now. And since I was eleven and wrote my first poem.
A lot is luck. A lot is determination. But the greatest lot of it is work. And I am not have never been the best worker. I am the girl who sits at the window waiting for the white horse the man in the black coat the literary agent the book deal the million dollars the eternal flame.
It is stupid.
My brain has turned to mush.