Rusty's World

Digression on Successful Friends | July 16, 2019

As I was deciding what to say about the new book by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone (it is great! Get it!), I thought about a few things that would be digressions from the main point.
I am going to put them here, though it may expose me a little.

If you don’t care about what goes through my wreck of a psyche, turn back now.

Morrissey said, ‘We hate it when our friends become successful’. (Yes, Morrissey turned out to be a complete and utter cretin, but I can’t turn off the influence his music had on my younger years.)
I was thinking about that and the different ways I have reacted to the very successful people of my acquaintance. Because, let’s be honest, the next line of that song matters a lot. ‘It should have been me.’

First, the field matters. I used to perform in semi-professional musicals along side one of my life-long best friends. He was a much better singer that I, and everyone knew it. Eventually he turned that into a career performing all over the world in some huge elaborate productions.
I never had that twinge. Simply put, that was never going to be me anyway. That was not my dream, or calling. I could sit back and just say, ‘that’s my friend. Look at how great he is.’
Another life-long best friend was very successful in the field of computers and programming, etc. He did very well for himself, but that was never something that held a great interest it me. I could sit back and say, ‘that’s my friend. Look at how successful he is.’

Meanwhile, I got a taste of the world I wanted. Since I was young, I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to create with words. I wanted people to read what I wrote and be moved by it. I got an opportunity when Ree Soesbee was looking for a team to write stories for Warlord. I got a bigger opportunity when Shawn Carman was looking for a team to write stories for Legend of the Five Rings.
I got a taste. My words were read world-wide and rail-thin, as I liked to say.
Later, I got heavily involved in Spoken Word poetry. I have been on a bunch of national level slam teams, including a team that won the National Championship. I have a couple of books, blah, blah, blah (I wasn’t planning to write my cv here.)

My success, if I look too hard at it, is a myth. I move a step to one side or the other and nobody knows who I am. I say that doesn’t matter, and I mean it. I say it is about the work and I mean it.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t like that taste. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like it when someone looked at me and said, ‘Wait, you are THE Rusty?’ or when the hostess at a restaurant, in front of my non-poetry reading friends, said, ‘Hey, you are that poet right? I love your work.’
Or getting the Zaccheus award in Vancouver.

I liked the taste, but it was clearly always going to be just a taste.

But there are times, I will freely admit, when I saw people I knew well reaching loftier heights and thought, ‘Why them? Why not me?’

Jealousy? Sure.

But it really isn’t about wanting them to do worse. It is about wondering why I couldn’t do better.

Now, if you think I am talking about Amal here, you are incorrect. I will get to that.

Because I still remember listening to Kevin Matthews poetry album and thinking both inspired to write and feeling like I should give it up. I couldn’t do that. He was so talented and I was but a seedling amongst redwoods.
But I persevered and found my voice.

Yet, when I read Amal’s writing, this is a whole different thing. I do not think, ‘why not me?’ because the answer is on the page. I can’t do what she has done. I don’t just mean style-wise, just pure talent.
(and yes, that glosses over the INCREDIBLE amount of work it takes to get there. I don’t mean too. Mad props to all who have done that work.)

When I read Amal’s writing I think nothing other than that EVERYBODY should read this. She should be on the top of every best seller list and on everyone’s night stand and book shelf, kindle, and what have you.

Because she is just that good.

Have you seen ‘Good Will Hunting’? There is a scene where Ben Affleck tells Matt Damon that if he does not make the most of what he has got that it would be unfair to BEN. That is it. I will never write anything that wins the Hugo or any of the other litany of awards Amal has won… and that is just the way it is. Rather than bemoan that, I instead can marvel it what she does and look forward to seeing her climb the next mountain and the next one.

I will keep writing my poems and submit them here and there. I will continue my work with Arc Magazine and I am wrapping up my stint with SpoCan while also recognizing that memories can be very, very short.

And I will keep telling you to find joy in beautifully crafted art. Because without it, what is the point?

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