It’s time to let go. After forty years of telling myself this was THE book I had to write, I now accept I’m never going to finish it. This realization saddens me. It closes a chapter in my life, because I am unable to write the final chapter. And, to be rigorously honest, I’ve trashed more pages and chapters than I’ve ever saved in my secret writer’s trunk.
The unfinished story is of me. It takes place right after I flunked out of the University of Illinois and got “ushered out” of my parents’ house. I decided to hitchhike from Chicago to western Nebraska. All kinds of drivers picked me up: truckers, salesmen, drunks, housewives and farmers. There were good people and bad people. I got kissed in Des Moines, preached to in Omaha and robbed in North Platte.
In my heavy-drinking days, I fancied myself a great writer and clung to the belief that my book would get me out of debt and make me famous. In healthier years, after I had written and published a bunch of stuff, I figured my story wasn’t so unique after all, that most people go through a “coming of age” experience, many of which are more harrowing or entertaining than mine. And, as for writing talent, I recognized a number of friends and colleagues who were far more accomplished in writing a great story than I was.
Yet, I continued to feel this story tugging at me. Like a soulful dog, it would not leave me alone. In so many ways, the characters who had picked me up in the summer of 1965 kept reappearing as different people throughout my life. Some left hurtful marks. Others taught me to love and to give. And, as I grew older, my perspective and wisdom aged as well, making the chapters I had completed take on different meanings. To finish this book now would feel out of context, like I was writing about someone else’s life.
So forgive me today for getting downhearted about quietly removing this self-fashioned albatross from around my neck. Perhaps I knew all along it was not meant to be completed, that its worth came from the introspection and insight gained by struggling with, and often recreating, the person I was always becoming.
By the way, how’s your story coming along?