Imagine going through a life without finding your passion. Or worse, imagine finding it and then turning your back on it. Some people just coast through life without finding their ultimate bailiwick…what they were intended to be doing while surfing this mortal coil. Others, they find their wheelhouse…they live there for a number of years and then ennui sets in and one day they wake up and think, ‘why bother?’
I’m at the why bother stage at the moment. And it conjures up a great despondency to be there. But first, I have to admit to myself that I actually have a wheelhouse/bailiwick. In order to do so, in and of itself, brings forth a great discomfiture. To say that my wheelhouse/bailiwick is writing is to possibly imply that I think I’m good at it.
I never once thought I was good at it. I thought I skated through it like a wrecking ball in a glass menagerie. I always thought, ‘I don’t care if I’m the worst writer on the face of the universe…I like doing it and you’re not going to tell me I can’t do it. So there. Shut it.’ So, no…I don’t use wheelhouse/bailiwick in the way that suggests I excel at this thing called writing. I use the terms to suggest that writing is the garden in which I find myself the most comfort. When I sit in writing, I am myself. Which of itself is quite frightening…because aren’t writers of fiction basically liars, chameleons, charlatans? We tell stories. We fantasize. We live anywhere but here.
bail·i·wick ˈbāləˌwik/ noun
noun: bailiwick; noun: one’s bailiwick; plural noun: one’s bailiwicks; plural noun: bailiwicks1. one’s sphere of operations or particular area of interest.“you never give the presentations—that’s my bailiwick”2. Law – the district or jurisdiction of a bailie or bailiff.wheel·house ˈ(h)wēlˌhous/ noun
noun: wheelhouse; plural noun: wheelhouses
1. a part of a boat or ship serving as a shelter for the person at the wheel.
2. Baseball – the part of a batter’s strike zone most likely to produce a home run.
My bailiwick is my field of interest? I can live with that. It’s not threatening, boisterous, lofty. It’s just, “I’m doing this thing that interests me. Whatever.” My wheelhouse, however, sounds like I’m suggesting that writing is something I’m good at. When I am in the wheelhouse of writing, I’m knocking it out of the park? Um…no. I’m just not. I’ve never been in the strike zone. If anything, I could possibly maybe be a base-hitter. Is that a thing? That guy who can sometimes maybe just hit the ball enough to drag his ass to the first base and hope that somebody else brings him home? So, yeah. Maybe I can take the wheelhouse thing off the table. One less thing to worry about.
But that bailiwick thing…it’s not really an evasively egocentric term. I can deal.
The thing is…for almost a year now, I really can’t shake the notion that it hasn’t really interested me a whole lot. Do I put it aside? Do I dare laugh at the gods who said, “Find comfort in this thing. Do it and you shall feel the vast empty pit of nothingness before you heal over like a scab on a wound and you shall be free. Do it now and be free.”
Maybe I only needed a bailiwick until I felt free. Maybe I’m free. Maybe I wrote myself to freedom and now I can put the words down and walk away a free man.
Maybe those six or seven un-finished manuscripts laughing madly at me every day can be taken to the back forty and buried under the hopeful art canvases of my youth. Oh god. Art, no matter how much I wanted it to be, was NOT my wheelhouse.
These days I’ve been picturing my life without writing in it. Not hard to do when I’m not actually writing anyway. But it’s always there as an option still. The old a writer is always writing even when they’re not writing thing is actually a thing. It’s real. But what if I release the title and stop the writing when I’m not writing treadmill once and for all?
Would the gods really care? Maybe you can laugh in the face of your interests. Surely it’s not the same as laughing in the face of your gifts. Another interest will come along. Right?
I’m so madly frustrated. There is a great gnashing of teeth and stamping of feet. When the sun is setting on a day you want never to end there is nothing to do but watch as the sky turns to pink and the scent of the evening flowers mist the air around you. You watch as the sun melts into the horizon and you think, ‘Time waits for no man. Ah…there it was. The perfect day. Lost forever.’
But then…as I watch the sun setting on this bailiwick of mine, I think too of the words of one of my broken heroes. Dylan Thomas.
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.