2013 was both a terrible and wonderful year as far as I’m concerned—though decidedly more wonderful than terrible. And it has ended with the kind of surprise that comes straight out of a soap opera.
I’d reveal it, but I have others to consider. Feelings and emotions are at stake (but then they normally are). All I can say is that I’m very pleased.
I was fascinated by the King Arthur stories when I was a kid. I can’t remember what book, or books, I got them from—and my focus was not on King Arthur himself—but on the knights of the Round Table, and their decidedly hazardous habit of clanking off on quests. The Green Knight came into all this somehow though I can’t recall the details. It was over 60 years ago.
Such quests involved high risk and strange encounters—and normally were into the unknown, and did not necessarily end well—but they were high adventure, and that’s what I craved. And I guess I still do even though I have now been around long enough to know the price can be high—and that failure is commonplace.
But that misses the whole point: The adventure itself is the thing.
An adventure is an exciting or unusual experience. It may also be a bold, usually risky undertaking, with an uncertain outcome. Adventures may be activities with some potential for physical danger such as skydiving, mountain climbing, river rafting or participating in extreme sports.
The term also broadly refers to any enterprise that is potentially fraught with physical, financial or psychological risk, such as a business venture, a love affair, or other major life undertakings.
One of the most interesting things about the Knights of the Round Table, is that although they are portrayed as a band of brothers, in the stories they almost invariably venture alone—which I guess reflects the reality of life. Fundamentally, despite family and friends, wives, lovers, children and grandchildren, you are always alone. And yet the paradox is that if you want to accomplish almost anything, you need help. In fact, I often used to think that if the knights had sallied forth in groups, they might have accomplished a great deal more—but the stories would have lost something. At heart, the best stories—and, perhaps the best adventures—are about individuals. The reason is scarcely a mystery. Despite the manifest merits of cooperation, we identify and feel as individuals.
To me, writing is the greatest adventure, and I feel endlessly lucky that I made this particular choice—or that it chose me. I have a friend who likes to say, “Work finds the man,” and I often think it may be true. Somehow, there seems to be a pattern to life which raises serious questions about free will. Do we really choose or are we chosen? I don’t profess to know the answer, but it is a question worth pondering. Its implications are fundamental.
The writing life is not only a great adventure, but I find that every day I sit down to write is an adventure in itself. It’s a journey into the unknown because you never quite know what challenges you’ll encounter, what you’ll achieve, or the degree to which you will succeed or fail. And like the Knights of the Round Table, you are venturing alone. Nobody tells you to press on. You live with high risk and the strong possibility of failure. You know you will never write quite as well as, deep down, you believe you are capable of. Regardless of your achievements, you will die not having quite succeeded. But you battle on because writing is your calling. Regardless of the other pressures on you—and there will be many—it feels like exactly the right thing to do.
The moral code of a writer dictates that, above all, a writer must write.
You are an extremely fortunate human being. You won’t have an easy life, but you’ll have an extremely satisfying one. It will be a great adventure—though it will hurt.
Endure! A knowledge of human nature and a facility with language are fine things, but fortitude is a writer’s foremost requirement.
Happy New Year to one and all (subject to a few exceptions).