Last week I was rummaging around on the internet, looking for an appropriate quote to be framed and delivered to my mentors as a token of my appreciation for all of their advice and willingness to listen over the course of my college career. I found a passage by Thomas Wolfe called The Power of Support here: http://www.ideachampions.com/article_support.shtml. I thought very little of it at the time, but now, several days later, and a few, very telling, conversations later I find myself returning to the page for a very different reason. No longer to quote Mr. Wolfe for the sake of appreciation, but because I find his voice to be saying exactly what I feel.
During this time I reached that state of naked need and utter isolation which every artist has got to meet and conquer if he is to survive at all. Before this I had been sustained by that delightful illusion of success which we all have when we dream about the books we are going to write instead of actually doing them. Now I suddenly realized that I had committed my life and integrity so irrevocably to this struggle that I must conquer now or be destroyed. I was alone with my work and knew that no one could help me with it no matter how much anyone might wish to help. For the first time I realized another naked fact which every artist must know, and that is in a man’s work there are contained not only seeds of life, but the seeds of death, and that the power of creation which sustains us will also destroy us like a leprosy if we let it rot stillborn in our vitals. I had to get it out of me somehow.
I say that now. And now for the first time, a terrible doubt began to creep into my mind that I might not live long enough to get it out of me, that I had created a labor so large and so impossible that the energy of a dozen lifetimes would not suffice for its accomplishment.
This is how I feel about a book that I feel cannot go unwritten. By no means do I claim to be an artist. I try my hardest everyday to learn to write and speak in a compelling way, and yet I find at times that it may be hopeless. But I can’t help but imagine that this book will write itself once the hard part is done. For the longest period of time I said that I would put my heart and soul into the effort ‘after graduation’ aka far in the future at a time when I can barely imagine. After all, graduation seems like fantasyland to any college student enjoying the ride.
But now… Here I am. At the doorstep of graduation, with only two final exams between me and ‘the real world.’ And I continue to think of the effort as if it is so far off. I need to think and I need to consider whether I am willing to commit to such a task. Is it a monumental task, or have I built it up as a monumental task?
Regardless, I will need the power of support as described by Thomas Wolfe, which brings me to my original post related to this passage…