Being an Artist

I might as well admit it. Despite all my efforts to portray myself as primarily a veteran or linguist, I am an artist through and through. By the time I was six years old, I knew I was born to write—I was to be an artist with words. That meant that my vocation was to create beauty using words.

As reported here before, I tried to escape my fate. I trained to be an actor, then a dancer. Because languages came easily to me, I became a linguist. Writing didn’t pay, so I became a spy which pays very well. But through it all, I wrote.

Because of the thirteen years I spent mostly in Vietnam supporting troops on the battlefield, much of my writing was about Vietnam. Because the war was so unpopular, publishers refused my stories and books. Then, when a new generation of Americans curious about what happened in Vietnam came along, my work started to sell. I now have six books and seventeen short stories in print.

To me, the role of the artist, to create beauty, approaches the divine. It is a sacred duty. And if it requires penury and sacrifice, so be it. I am blessed with a generous annuity, thanks to my years of spying, so that I am free of financial worries and can devote full time to writing. That said, writing is the hardest work I have ever done and the most fulfilling. It doesn’t matter what I think of it. It is my calling. I must do it.

My curse is writer’s block. I’ve been subject to it ever since my partner, Su, died a year ago last March. One of the two novels I was working on at the time was based on the 1967 battle of Dak To in Vietnam. The other was drawn from the twenty-plus year relationship with Su. I have been unable to make any progress on either of those books since Su’s death.

So here I am committed by fate to work that I am unable to do. Maybe time will heal me.

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