“I believed that I’d have a pleasant, easy-going life if I could only get the art monkey off my back.” (Edmund White, The Farewell Symphony, pg. 66).
This is the crux of my mid-life crisis, if you can call what I’m going through at age forty-five a crisis when I have a home, husband, and job. It’s more a question of time. I have it, so how do I use it? Do I luxuriate in the chance to stream Alias all day long for no reason other than to develop an established opinion as to whether or not the show truly went downhill in season three? Or do I shut the door, turn off all devices, and take pen to notebook to scratch away at the hours between arriving home and going to bed? I could do both, but I have always been an all-or-nothing kind of guy.
The period White is describing when he says this is during his early thirties when he had completed a handful of unpublished novels. I have an even smaller number of unpublished essays, academic and creative. Most of the time, my ideas do not progress to the stage of completeness where I could consider them to be unpublished. They barely qualify as unfinished and would probably best be defined as unformed.
I have ideas. I have people who tell me my ideas are worth exploring. I always get just enough positive feedback to make me think that it might be worth it to feed and care for the art monkey rather than take it to a shelter to be adopted by someone else, someone who needs the encouragement I’ve been taking for granted. Care and feeding takes work, ass-in-the-chair work, but the pleasant, easy-going life shimmers at the edges.
White clearly kept the monkey around. White earned the right to call himself an author, an artist. I’ve earned a lot but not that.