Rage, RÁJ, n. [Fr. rage, from L. rabies, rage, madness…from rabo, to rave, to be mad; to desire eagerly. RABID] Violent anger accompanied with furious words, gestures, or agitation; anger excited to fury; vehemence or violent exacerbation (the rage of fever, the hunger or thirst); extreme violence (the rage of a tempest); violent desire.—The rage, the object of popular and eager desire; the fashion…to be exacerbated with fury; to be in a passion, to act or move furiously, or with mischievous impetuosity (the sea rages)…to prevail with fatal effect (the plague rages).
—The New Webster Encyclopedic Dictionary of the English Language
1. Furious Words, Gestures, and Agitation
On July 24, 2001, I declared “The Year of Rage.” At that point in my life I was agitated to the extreme; I had no money, no job, and not a lot in the way of publishing credits. It had already been almost two years since I made the serious commitment to “make it” as a writer. Yes, there were some bright spots along the way but, overall, I wasn’t anywhere close to reaching my goal of making a living on writing. Was I agitated or—even more important—furiously agitated? The answer was a resounding yes! With bills to pay, no financial prospects, and a recent engagement to be wed I had to think fast. In this agitated state, perhaps compounded by the insomnia I was experiencing, I made a gesture with the aforementioned declaration. No, not just a gesture—it was a furious gesture. The Year of Rage was to be defined by the completion of one piece of writing each working day…for a year. The resulting furious words were to establish me in the minds of editors and readers alike. That was the idea, anyway.
2. To Rave, to be Mad, to Desire Eagerly…Rabid
Does a person have to be crazy to think such a thing, much less attempt it? Well, I wasn’t entirely foaming at the mouth, but it could be said that I wasn’t exactly in the best state of mind. For a lot of us setting huge goals is a way of ensuring failure. At the time I was reading up on methods of increasing production through organization. One phrase I came across in those books was: “Reach for the stars and you get the moon. Reach for a tree branch and you end up in the mud.” I latched onto the phrase with savage ferocity and settled into attacking the keyboard at every turn. When I was out on errands, going to appointments, etc., I always kept a pad of paper and pen with me to write, write, write, and keep writing.
3. The Rage of Fever, Hunger and Thirst
So what exactly satisfies the palette of one whose creative passageways are contorted with the exertion of artistic frenzy? By my definition one completed work was constituted of one page of ultra-short fiction or poetry, one short story or short screenplay, one screenplay or stageplay, or one novella, novel, or collection. Before I knew it the trickle had become a torrent and the results were immediate. During August I had three flash fiction acceptances. In September I completed a collection of twenty-three short stories which then entered the submission process. Poems were pouring out of me from reservoirs I didn’t know existed. The resulting successes left me feverish in my desire for more.
4. The Rage of a Tempest
Was I meeting my quota, completing one work a day? Most of the time the answer was yes. Sometimes, inevitably, I didn’t live up to my expectations. That is not the point here. I had embarked on a journey, leaving the relative calm of safe harbors behind. The tempest I was riding was one of my own creation, invigorating and surprising me every day, every week, with an outrageous stack of completed material. While there were some acceptances, that large mound of paper remained largely as it was, undisturbed except in the case of revisions. Having set myself on this course I had to see it through to the end, which meant making some changes.
5. To Act or Move Furiously With Mischievous Impetuosity
As if my goals were not impetuous enough I decided to raise the bar by making an amendment. In addition to fulfilling my other writing duties I would send out a minimum of one submission per working day. There was a temptation, I’ll admit, to make the amendment retroactive, but even I am not mischievous enough to get up to that kind of trouble. To say that I began to move furiously is quite accurate. No longer was I the sedentary writer with a sedentary body of work; I got off my keister and made sure the bulk of my work would get out there to the world.
6. To Prevail With Fatal Effect
Just over halfway through the Year of Rage I stopped to ask myself, is there progress here? I’ll let the facts speak for themselves; I was nearing five-hundred completed works, with dozens of acceptances and forty-one pieces tied up in the submission process. Along the way I pieced together three collections, one of which was released as an e-book. On top of all that I picked up the position of editor for an online literary journal, which allowed me to network with authors whom I never would have met otherwise (many are also editors of magazines, giving me a contact in those markets for future submissions). Even if the creative well ran dry and the tempest were to be quelled I could still continue with the one submission per day, as my backlog of work was still fearsome.
7. Object of Popular and Eager Desire
Moi? It’s a nice thought, and while I am catching on with the readers and editors, you won’t be seeing me on The Late Show any time soon. The goal, as I see it, is momentum. The object in motion stays in motion while the object at rest stays at rest…until, of course, another object interferes. That object can come in the form of family crisis or national crisis, or more likely in the form of a financial crises, but the worst scenario of all is you yourself being a source of the slow down. Allowing my rage to whip me into motion started this string of victories I have accumulated; allowing my self-satisfaction or sloth to kill my momentum now would be the ultimate defeat. Whether or not bold gestures and declarations will become the rage among other writers remains to be seen. For now, though, I intend to see my own rage through to the end.
[written early 2002]