I was at local author and Nevada Arts Council Honorable Mention Recipient Tracy McQuay's workshop the other day (which was fabulous--expect big things from this woman), and was given a writing prompt that could not have been more apt. Each participant was given a word card and a picture card. We were to contemplate this word and image combined and then just write. My word? Success. (You're already laughing right?--Wait because it gets better.) My image? A rainbow. Not kidding. The people at the workshop who know me were giggling before I even put pen to paper.
Well, needless to say I got to indulge myself in that whiny way that my critique groups would never let me get away with. So here it is for you, dead souls. May it fill your un-pumping hearts with gladness.
Staring at a Painting of a Rainbow
It’s not really the money I’m after; it’s the attention, the absence of invisibility. I write to validate my existence, and so far as I can tell, no level of success will ever be enough.
I’m sitting here staring at this painting of a rainbow. This rainbow’s bridging a river—think boulders, tumbling logs on white water. This proud smear of color stands above it all—glittering, eye-catching—ignoring the turmoil below, as if all one has to do to overcome an obstacle is skate across.
But what if the rainbow is the obstacle? What if the rainbow is a tattoo on your forehead and you fear you’ll never move past it? Well, then you sit down and write about it. You’ll write your whole story in images and metaphors and names changed to protect the privacy of those you’ve chosen to exploit. You’ll admit to the most scandalous things, tell your readers all about the first time you let a guy fuck you. And each time you tell the truth, you’ll breathe a little sigh of relief as if one more chip has been hewn from your shoulder.
You’ll sell yourself to one of the big six—maybe Random House or Simon & Schuster—gain countless fans and sell the movie rights, buy your big house in the foothills. And when you wake in this fancy house, the one with real hardwoods and travertine tiles, you’ll stand in front of the mirror in that naked way you always do. You’ll say, “Josh Galarza, you’re really somebody, you know that? You’ve really made it and you’re one hell of a valuable human being and there is nothing wrong with you. No, nothing wrong at all.”
But of course you won’t believe this because unlike this painted rainbow, this permanent and undeniable image that could be stamped on your driver’s license, contentedness is as fleeting as a real rainbow, nothing more than an optical illusion brought about by all those zeros in your bank account and all those Twitter followers in cyberspace. Success will always and only be whatever you’ve yet to achieve. You will need to prove your worth—if only to yourself—over and over and over again.
So you’ll put on a pair of pants and sit down at your laptop. You’ll say aloud, “Don’t be a pussy. Don’t be a bitch.” And then you’ll start writing.
May all your happy endings inspire dissatisfied beginnings,