Words From A Singer In The Shadows

Changing it up a bit this week, lads and ladies. Had a fairly major (well in my mind – nobody will ever hear of it) professional disappointment today and feeling good and sorry for myself, angry at the world.

Happened to read something I thought I’d share, in the hopes that some lonesome driver in the ether might happen across it here at DT and take heart from, not for what’s said, but by whom.  I don’t like to print big quotes, but screw it. If it turns out somebody owns the rights to this, well they shouldn’t. All parties involved are deceased and I don’t think much of people who make their living off of dead relatives or ride their surnames to a comfortable existence. However I’m legally bound to say I’ll abide by such drivel, so drop me a line and I’ll take this down if it turns out I should.

But I won’t like it.


“I feel inclined to talk about myself tonight and I’m not going to apologize about talking about myself because it’s not in my line.

‘Verily a prophet is not without honor save in his own country.’ I find it so. I have progressed beyond the average man to the extent that people’s belief is not absolutely necessary to my life and living but not to the point where I am absolutely indifferent to flagrant skepticism. I realize that there is really only one person in the world who really believes that I’ll never amount to a damn at the writing game and that person is myself. The trouble is that comparisons, when the trouble is taken to draw them, are so inifitely to my discredit. Here am I, with seven years of hard work behind me and only some twenty five stories, articles, and rhymes marketed to show for it. Here am I, slugging away at a cheap, little known magazine which may already be bankrupt, weaving fanciful and impossible tales and absolutely unknown outside that magazine’s limited clientele. When compared to the clever, intelligent and gifted writers of today who have already reached their zenith, I admit there is little to my favor.

But what few people seem to realize is that these men served their apprenticeship just as I am serving mine. Their work is the finished article — mine the crude, groping handiwork of the beginner. Seven years of hard work — but how many of these demigods reached the pinnacles in seven — or ten, or twenty. Many, I grant you, leaped into fame with much less labor than I have already done. But they were geniuses. I am not a genius, neither am I clever, educated, or especially intelligent. But I have faith in myself and a capacity for work. What I am writing now is less than nothing in the long run, even though it represents my heart’s blood. The world is not interested in heart’s blood, but Success Accomplished and nothing else. The toil, the sweat, the torment means nothing. What the world wants is perfection and of what lies behind, men reckon little.  A man may toil a lifetime, toil like a giant and perform the deeds of unthoughted heroes, but if he does not succeeed, as the world measures success, all his labors and hardships go for naught and he is a jest and a by-word, soon forgotten.

But I’ll succeed if I live, in my eyes and according to worldly standards. And when I come to the end of the trail, if I have lost, I can say that at least I never whimpered for sympathy in my work. And if I win I can say I made it absolutely on my own with never a helping hand and that I owe nothing, not one damned thing, to anyone. Still, it sometimes rasps that I should be condemned utterly for what appears under my name today.  No one judges George Bernard Shaw, Upton Sinclair, or Jack London by what they wrote early in their youth when they were struggling up the long ladder and neither will I be judged by my earlier efforts, when the dust has drunk my brain and my dreams.

But God, the utter futility of it descends on the soul of me like a thick fog through which I can see no light. Surely, for by the time I have gained the heights of success I will old and hardened so by life that the taste of success will be as dust and ashes in my soul — a man without hope, without joy, and without friends….

….The emptiness of success I know –though I have never tasted it– is a reality for always through the cheers of the mob will come like a writhing serpent the memory of the jeers of the mob when I worked and sweated pure red blood. And I will always think: you uplift me now, but you scorned me then, and where is the difference? For I am now and I was then, and then I built the cornerstones and the foundations, and now I stand on the spire and where is the difference? Damn you all. That’s what I will think in the days to come; but now I must bend my back to the cornerstones and foundations and make them firm so that my spires may rend apart the stars and all the world may see the glimmer of my skeleton against them when I stand on my spires at the end.

Year by year, day by day, hour by hour, the steel pierces my heart and my brain and I grow harder and harder and less human. Oh God, for the gift of satire and malediction to make men cringe and writhe and curse. God, for the power to sit in my study and send out spears of hate and vengeance to shatter the brains and blast the souls of men.

Let it be. I am a fool to say all this stuff, but I see I that I have not yet learned the first necessary truth of life — to lock up in the heart and the soul all truths and dreams and visions of dreams. Each time a man opens his heart he breaks his armor and weakens his battle might.’

-Robert E. Howard, October 1928, from Glenn Lord’s Selected Letters.

Published in: on January 11, 2012 at 7:00 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Keep things in perspective, Ed. Never forget where you’ve been and what you’ve achieved, and what visions you WILL materialize for others to reap and become inspired by, long after we are gone. Disappointments – and I know how much they can hurt – allow us to value our triumphs more so than without them. No matter how hard it rains, the sun always returns.

  2. Hey Ed,

    Lonesome Driver in the Ether here. Wow, that quote packs quite a punch. I’ve read a bit about Robert E. Howard, but haven’t stumbled across that quote before. But I’ve also read several of your books, and have enjoyed them all immensely. You’ve got a good, distinctive voice and an obvious way with words (not to mention a talent for researching difficult subject matters and making them cool and entertaining). You also have a pretty strong drive and work ethic. I don’t know what sort of professional disappointment you’ve run into, but with the above combination it’s only a matter of time before you start seeing success, however you define it (IMHO). I don’t know if these small words help, but I feel fortunate to have stumbled across your work a year or so ago, and I hope to see more from you in the future. With all of the recent changes in publishing, I hope good things happen for you in 2012 and beyond. I’m just getting started on my writing and publishing journey, and I’m sure in the years ahead I’ll need these words from good ol’ Two Gun Bob.

    Take care and keep your chin up, we need to know how The Rider’s story is gonna end!


    • I appreciate the words of encouragement, fellas. I had worked like hell to secure a part writing for a major project for a big name property I have now and then contributed to in years past only to have my efforts returned to my at-the-time-agent unread because the project had been declared dead. Well, about three days ago it managed to rise from the grave with a bevvy of writers on board and locked in and it just felt like a punch in the gut. Just the usual insider nonsense, I assume, but I happened to read Bob’s words for the first time at precisely the right moment and took heart that a guy who is now so respected (well in some circles anyway) had nearly identical moments of just…utter loathing and self pity decades ago. Haha. Not to worry, the Rider will ride again. I just wish he’d chip in for my kids’ college fund already. 🙂 I wish a happy and profitable new year to you as well. Thanks again.

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