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The Tyranny of Success

My dear friend, Peter Beagle, left a comment on my post about pitching.  In his message he said “I couldn’t go home a broke failure.”  As if Peter S. Beagle could ever be considered a failure.  This is the author of A FINE AND PRIVATE PLACE, and THE LAST UNICORN to mention just a couple of his works.

But I understand exactly how he feels.  Right now I feel like an abject failure.  My return to books was a bit of a fizzle.  Not all my fault, but who knows, the EDGE books might not have sold even if I had gotten more support.   I’m working on a third EDGE book, but here is no guarantee it will ever see the light of day, and my new urban fantasy series has yet to be published.

And I’m waiting to hear back on the pitch.

When I say I feel like a failure my friend Len Wein is always quick to remind me of a lecture he got from Harlan Ellison.  Len was at that point (that seems to afflict all creative people) where he felt like a failure and that his career was over.  Harlan, in usual Harlan style, told Len that he was the creator of Wolverine and Swamp Thing.  That by no measure was he a failure.  Len, in the role of kinder and gentler Harlan, made the same point to me.  He said I’m the person who wrote The Measure of the Man.  I have had a career in Hollywood that many people could only dream about. 

I know all that intellectually, but I’m not in my dotage or at the end of my life, and I desperately want to match what I’ve done before.  I also measure my worth as a person by what I’m accomplishing.  That is also a darker legacy I got from my father, but that’s another topic

I’ve always despised people who spend years dining out on their past fame.  I don’t want to be that person.  I want to have new goals and new accomplishments.  Which is why I titled this the tyranny of success.  After having achieved such success I feel ashamed when I can’t match those early victories.  Sometimes I wonder if I’d had a quieter, simpler life I would more content? 

Upon reflection I think not.  I think it’s the human condition to strive and to _want_.  When I’m ready to die I’ll stop wanting.

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