In the giant scheme of things, the pathway of my life is right where it should be and if I had to look backwards at myself planning it all in the past, I’d probably say this is what I wanted all along.
Someone asked me some time ago why I wasn’t happy about my current situation regarding the book deal. I tried to come up with an answer, but the real answer was complicated and not one that I’m comfortable billboarding during dinner. Nobody wants to hear the woes and harrowed times of Steffan Piper … well, strike that. That’s not exactly true, is it?
Let me start again.
I tried to come up with a comfortable answer, but couldn’t. Personal sensitivities always trump. My answer, now that I’ve thought about it for a few days, is thus:
I don’t feel very accomplished selling a book, and definitely not the same kind of feeling I had when I finished writing it. Talk about a time of mental clarity. I wish I could finish writing a book every week. I’d be untouchable. While getting a publishing deal is a harder goal to accomplish now more than it’s ever been, it doesn’t change it. But don’t get me wrong – I’m grateful. You don’t know how grateful I am and I have no desire to squander this either.
No, my feelings have to do with one thing. The readers. Maybe I’ll feel different about selling my book when I start getting letters from people telling me that Greyhound made a difference in their lives. That something I wrote touched them and maybe made their life a little easier for awhile. That’s the reason I write. I want to share the things I’ve gone through with others and try to comfort people. Why? Because it’s what I seek for myself. Why? Because I hate myself and my life all in one neat little package. If you know me, really know me – this is no surprise. My wife just rolls her eyes at me these days, and that's okay. It's not easy putting up with me.
It’s hard to tell people around me that the story really deals with child abuse, mental and physical disabilities and abandonment. Physical disabilities that ruin people’s lives forever. It’s hard to tell folks that you wrote something for a larger group of people so that they wouldn’t feel so damned isolated, because the author sure as hell does, even after almost forty years. It’s hard to tell people around you that it’s not about the money, not about me and not about the way I’m feeling lately – which is like shit. I think the way I feel though is obvious to everyone lately. I try to keep faking it, but I’m failing. Both trying and faking it -- just comes across as ‘weird’. But that’s okay, I’ve got that one down pat anyways.
That’s really the element that’s been missing in my life; the human element of giving people something meaningful for their lives and themselves. I think that’s the only way I’ll find real happiness. I know all writers want to make money. Who doesn’t want to pay their bills? I do. I’d be bullshitting you if I said different. I would be a lot happier if I wasn’t burdened by a mountain of student loan debt.
My latest book deals with suicide, and maybe I shouldn’t telegraph that. Plain and simple. Sorry to drop it so bluntly. Unfortunately, the book won't be plain nor simple, but that's just how I write. My life has been marred numerous times by the pervasive grip of this subject matter. Too many left turns. Too many moments left calculating my worth and coming up short. Maybe my agent or someone else will direct me later to remove this paragraph. But I will say that the information is weighing me down. I already back-burnered this book once before, several years ago, when it got to this same point and was affecting me personally. I’m only human.
This time though, I know it’s different. I have to keep going. I can feel the pain in people lately, almost emanating from them when I’m near them. It’s like a message to me not to stop. People need to have certain stories, certain books and certain thoughts available to them. There has to be some personal level of counsel available to them. Everything that I’ve seen on this subject – is lacking. It’s no wonder people don’t know where to turn to for help. There’s nothing to relate to.
This is where I’ve been in case anyone that cares wants to know. Inside my head and deep inside the past. I’m not trying to be noble, I’m just being me. It’s not selflessness, it’s self-avoidance. There's just not enough outlets in this life and I must fashion my own.
Some people have hated me and gotten over it, of which I'm thankful for, others have loved me and now loathe me -- something I couldn't help. Some people joke me so often behind my back all their words are written into their faces for me to read later, in quieter moments. Those moments often are faster approaching than the back-biters realize, too. But those things no longer bother me as I'm past all of it. I don’t know what life has in store for me, but I do know what I have to give others … and to me, that’s all that really matters. Isn’t it?
All the stories I wrote were true? The answer is as unfortunate as all our lost moments together.