And so, it’s a question of ambition then.
Ten years ago to the day, I was in Durango, Colorado — out of town on a New Year’s getaway. Despite having given up the idea of a novel years before, I’d strangely begun organizing and collecting ideas for a handful of long fiction projects both named and unnamed — Chinese Gucci among them. The Guerilla Poetics Project was going strong, and I’d hid a few broadsides in Maria’s Bookstore the day before. I’d been submitting breath poems, submitting short stories — getting acceptances, rejections. That very morning, I officially wrote my first “funny” poem — a bellwether to A Deep and Gorgeous Thirst years later. That September, sunnyoutside had published For All These Wretched, Beautiful, & Insignificant Things So Uselessly & Carelessly Destroyed... and the book was both panned and put on a “year’s best books” list in the same week.
I was working…hustling…and was routinely complimented (at least they were intended as such) as being really “motivated”, “driven”…that it seemed I was really going to “make something of myself.”
Except deep down the compliments landed like insults.
Because ambition is insulting. Ambition is the fragile ego run roughshod. Ambition is a weakness, a fatal character flaw our culture insists we stay blind to. And blind I was. Blind as Old Blind Tom.
We like to think (or to hope or need to believe) in a causal relationship between decisions and outcomes, that good leads to more good, and bad to more bad. But the universe truly just doesn’t give a damn.
“Expectations are planned resentment.” I had a 7th grade math teacher who used to say that, and it’s a thing I’m glad I remember.
I’d spent almost ten years in the small press, and felt established, maybe even like I was close to “making it.” I was 36, falling into mid-life and a “career” that, much to my surprise, actually made my creative life easier not harder.
Yes, this is about ambition. About dreams vs. what’s actually achievable. About that ceaseless, haunting empty and hungry ghost of “is it good enough?”, “am I doing enough?”, “have I really accomplished anything?”
Because in exactly the same midnight writing session where I’d written my first funny poem, I also wrote poem about suicide…yet another poem about suicide…about the spiraling of fat snowflakes in the orange halide light of a street pole outside my hotel window that very night. Suicide sat in the far corner, wondering…
So how can we reconcile such multitudes?
I’m nearly twenty years in now as a small press type — the guy who writes long titles, writes drunk poems, the guy whose picture they’ve still never seen. Mine is a name other old poets might recognize but I have not “made it.” I humbly sell a stack of the very best books I can make to family, and friends, and the folks who have long known and followed my work. Artisan editions, collectable signed hardbacks and numbered trade paperbacks — that’s my goal, what feels realistic and achievable.
Because I’ve had enough of wondering, “how much is enough.”
Because ambition will turn it’s talons on you, sting you like the scorpion — it has no choice but to. It must eat. It must feed itself the torn bits of rotting tripe.
But, to be honest, ambition can help get a lot of shit done.
And so here we sit…weak, blind…still wondering…
Yet happy though…definitely happy.
And that’s enough, right?
Hosho McCreesh is author of Chinese Gucci from Drunkskull Books. He is currently writing & painting in the gypsum & caliche badlands of the American Southwest. His work has appeared widely in print, audio, & online.
Hosho McCreesh would like you to contribute to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Visit www.splcenter.org.