I spoke with a friend recently about personal responsibility, which led to some words you might take to heart if you agonize over long-term projects that aren't exactly profitable. Or if you have a creative person in your life. I told my friend that I enjoy my life--that I'm doing what I love and living comfortably--but that I sometimes can't shake the nagging feeling that I appear irresponsible to others. I work an unskilled job and basically live paycheck-to-paycheck--all to afford myself the time and freedom to write Vessel. And truth be told, I squander a lot of that time. On Netflix series, on sleeping in, on doing nothing at all (more on all that later). In addition, I realize that my numberless projects appear totally half-assed and capricious. From selling on etsy to learning banjo to freelance graphic design, my endeavors, in true Aries fashion, start off with a bang and then quickly fizzle.
All but one.
"Yeah, but what if you don't finish it?" my friend asked.
"What do you mean?"
"The books. What if you lose interest?"
I was silent for a minute. What I wanted to tell him seemed obvious and irrefutable to me, but to someone who doesn't live inside my head? It probably sounds like raving insanity at best--or, at worst, like the impassioned declarations of another self-labeled artiste who will drop everything at the next distraction. What I wanted to tell him is that Vessel, in some form or another, has had a firm foothold in my brain since the age of 12. That's well over half of my life now. To lose interest in it now--or ever--would be like losing interest in eating. In living indoors. In bathing. Losing interest would require a total sea change. To drop Vessel would be no less dramatic a move to me than dropping all my possessions and earthly contacts and trekking to live off the grid in Alaska. I am not being sarcastic. At this point, the thought of dropping Vessel is as alien to me as the concept of pointedly walking away from my family or my closest friend without a word, never to see them again. It's more than just an unlikely or unpleasant possibility. It's a literal impossibility. It just won't happen. I can't even imagine a scenario in which it could happen, besides some apocalyptic reality in which I must spend 100% of my time on survival alone. Maybe then. Maybe.
But that all sounded quite trite and crazy, so after a few minutes of babbling about family, I put it to my friend this way: "Imagine that you've built the perfect house in your head. Your dream house. It has everything you want, and you want to live in it so bad. It's architecturally sound and everything. Now imagine that you have the land, the materials, the labor to build it, all of it free. It will literally cost you nothing to build it. All you have to do is be there, build it. Again, living in this thing is all you want, and you have everything you need to make it happen. So. . . How could you not do it? How could you not?"
That's the closest I can come to explaining it. Sure, Vessel may be amateur genre fiction, perhaps riddled with cliches and irksome POV choices, but it's still the story I need to write. My job is to make it the best that I personally can. I can't promise that I'll do a better job at it than anybody else, or even that I'll do a great job at all. But I can promise that I will do it. I have everything I need, after all, and no one else is going to do it.
How could I not?
To answer Rilke's famous question, and as silly as it sounds set before a backdrop of exploding tour buses and frisky man-gods:
So rest assured: if you read and love Vessel, the series will get finished. Have no doubt. I vow to fight my Netflix timesuck demons and get it to you sooner rather than later, but one way or another--so long as I am alive, that is--it will get to you. Now if that pesky apocalypse comes along and wipes the internet out? I'll be in Seattle, subsisting on leftover sauce at the downtown Buffalo Wild Wings. Come find me. I'll tell you how it ends.
"Go within. Search for the cause, find the impetus that bids you write. Put it to this test: Does it stretch out its roots in the deepest place of your heart? Can you avow that you would die if you were forbidden to write? Above all, in the most silent hour of your night, ask yourself this: Must I write? Dig deep into yourself for a true answer. And if it should ring its assent, if you can confidently meet this serious question with a simple, “I must," then build your life upon it. It has become your necessity."
Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet (The First Letter)
Take it from here, Inspirational Sloth.