Eighteen years ago, I spent my evenings sitting on the roof of an old Civil War-era mansion in the Garden District of New Orleans. I was a 23-year-old with a head full of poetry and ideas and images and stories.
I would sit for hours listening to the sounds of the night. The muffled small talk of strangers. The wind in the trees. Passing cars. The patter of rain. Occassional gunfire.
And I would write.
Not a week passed that I didn't walk or drive past the house in which F. Scott Fitzgerald once lived.
Not a week passed that I didn't walk up to the courtyard gate and look at the house once occupied by George Washington Cable. A house that Mark Twain visited.
Not a week passed that I didn't stalk Ellis Marsalis and the other local jazz gods playing clubs, hotel lobbies and funeral parlors, among other nooks & crannies.
If I could go back in time and have a conversation with myself, that time in New Orleans would be my moment of insertion.
It was a defining period for me. It's where I honestly felt that I was put on this earth to be a writer and poet.
By the end of that year, I would put that dream on a shelf and not acknowledge it for another three years. And I would struggle for an additional ten years after that trying to rediscover my voice...the voice I had found in New Orleans.
Know what I would tell myself?
I would say, "Befriend the circumstances."
Somehow find comfort in the discomfort.
Because you will never have enough time.
You will never have enough knowledge.
You will never have enough energy.
You will never have enough skill.
You will never have enough courage.
You will never feel ready.
And you will never have enough support to write the perfect book. Or article. Or essay. Or poem. Or song.
It's not how well you are able to write something. It's how well you are able to write something under the circumstances.
That, I think, is what separates professional writers and artists from aspiring ones.
And, as I'm certain you have discovered, there are always circumstances.
(Photo by Ben Bitzenhofer on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.)
Keitharsis is a blog by a writer for writers, poets and artists. New essays are published each Tuesday and Thursday. A new creative challenge is published each Wednesday. Please tell you friends!