When I decided I was going to be a writer, quit my day job and live off the royalty checks from my best seller come box office movies it came as brutal smack across my bare arse that my ambition didn’t match my knowledge or skill. Boohoo times two. I ran to Barnes and Nobel, and dished out a few hundred dollars. I bought books, dozens of them. How to’s on everything. They are lovely books. Each of those books has oodles of tidbits every writer (except me) knew or must know before they can be famous with a movie, a ShowTime series, and a have Wikipedia page written by their Mother.
If I had bothered to read those books, it would be a different confession. I wouldn’t be self-teaching myself via my daily writing, nor editing my first book on my own-I’d have an editor doing the dirty work–I would have only positive comments on all those books, but I don’t, because I never got past page nine or ten on any of the books that I bought on the mysterious craft of writing. They were boring and never made sense to me. I accepted that I was dumber than dirt. Like when I am reading lofty literary fiction. It makes me sleepy reading through one hundred and twelve words when nine would do.
That was another slap to the backside, kick in the gut, upper cut to my chin. I’m not literary. On a good day, I am vintage Goodwill, or trade. That realization was like swigging castor oil. It’s a hard swallow, even if it’s oil and its purpose is to lubricate. I hated myself for my lack of brilliance, not knowing what a dangling participle was, but worse, how to fix it. I wanted to die. I had to learn, had to go to school. Of too school I went. My first writing class a fellow student said the best book ever written was Coetzee’s Disgrace; that night on the way home from class I stopped at Barnes to buy it. I couldn’t wait to turn back the pages of the book and read it. I held out some crazy hope that if I read it, I would be literary like my classmate. I didn’t understand what my classmate wrote about, but it was big, and he used words that I had to look up, and there was an abundance of imagery, and he wrote in third person and talked around feelings, and other vague similarities, which confused me, but I knew if read the best book every written, literary would grow on me like a Chia pet grows green fur. I didn’t grow fur or become literary.
I threw the Disgrace across the room before I hit page forty. I hated it. I wallowed in literary self-pity. I didn’t quit writing, but I was lost in long moment, a year of moments, thousands and thousands of words. I looked for a clue. Why was I un-literary? Why didn’t I roll around in the opaque stuff like Martin Aims? How could I be so, so, so nothing but still have a burning desire to write when I couldn’t appreciate what all writers are supposed to be, aspire for, write like. I loathed myself. Oh woe is me I wrote to my imaginary lover, the too brilliant genius that read every word I wrote (and never said anything about my dangling participles). “The ten-thousand hour rule, ” he whispered to me one afternoon. “What…” I panted. “To be good at anything requires an investment of ten thousand hours….”
After that, I read Stephen King’s memoir on writing. In his words of wisdom, I found peace and I got over everyone else’s prejudices and myself. Now I write what I want and in my voice. I don’t give a damn about anyone else. Even better, is I don’t apologize anymore for my zany voice and POV.
Your favorite book and/or a book you hated but read anyway because you thought it would make you appear literary?
It’s my blog-o-versary this month. I thought about writing something ‘versary worthy but after going back to my earlier posts I found this one under all the others, dusty and tattered. It sums up who I am as a writer and remains true after twelve months of blogging, it seems fitting this should be the post to celebrate my one year.
Thanks kindly for reading, commenting, for sharing your stories with me, and for guiding me with your wisdom and war stories.