I’ve been working on this one story for almost a year now, and I still can’t get it quite right. I suspect it’s because I don’t work on it as diligently or regularly as I should. The structure’s off, the journey’s un-arced, the denouement is but a de-pooment! I open the Google doc — and again, again — I am annoyed and perturbed. It’s the same old words not doing their job the way I want them to, and — again, again, yadda yadda — I just can’t seem to get it over the line into something that one could deem “complete” or, dare I say, “decent.” How many classes, pep talks, and writer’s groups must a gal join before she just gets her caboose in gear, and gets this ditty over the line?
I’ve learned that the writing rodeo requires a spectacular work ethic. Particularly if you’ve got a 9-5 that’s chewin’ up 40+ hours of your time. (And this can haunt you for awhile. See: my last entry that is kinda about the same thing? Yikes). But some people do actually have the chops, which I know, because some people my age have published books. They’ve managed to churn out something good in a reasonable timeframe, lock down an agent, and perhaps pop out a few bestsellers. Meanwhile, I’ve got this short short — verging on flash fiction! — that continues to haunt me with incompleteness, hovering toward the top of Google Drive docs, being all like, “Sup fool?!”
So what about those of us who are in their early 30s (some might say very early 30s) and feel like they’ve done squat? Why haven’t we delivered our novels? Well, the craft is sluggier and scummier for those of us without said super-human work ethic — lying somewhere between a prayer and a final act of desperation. If you happen to churn out a masterpiece, it’s despite yourself. You may not even remember writing it, and you have no idea how the thing it became came from you.
So when I see writers on Instagram with flowers and cushy pillows and blushy-contoured cheeks with that pucker kissy face thing and a laptop in the background, it feels like seeing an alien when you expected to see yourself. The internet perverts the preverseness of writing. It’s glowing up what I mostly experience as a nasty, funky joint. Writing is a shack where a gremlin, not a fairy muse, visits. It’s the last cave on earth with the last jug of wine rots and a farting, dying, mangy thing that may have once been a golden retriever stinks up the place. It may also be realizing that you just plagiarized some analogy in Stephen King’s On Writing in this paragraph. So let me cut out my own shit, and cut to the point: I don’t like seeing writing being turned into something Instagrammable, something to be squared off into a hashtag!
If I stumble upon a writer’s feed that looks more Kardashian than the aforementioned rotting-dog-cave, I don’t feel like we’re even pursuing the same profession. If they post an errant mention of writer’s block or procrastination, it feels like a ploy for Likes, via looking real, via a platform designed for artifice (and corporate monetization!).
But maybe it’s because some writers are better at playing the game than others. They understand that Likes and follows help with pitches and book deals, and their strategy is a thing to admire. And I, on the other hand, am a gameless gal. I, on the other hand, just relish in my futile adolescent rebellion and in throwing up a few metaphorical e-middle fingers, mainly using social media to post the occasional communist meme of Britney Spears, which — implausibly! — has not landed me fortune and glory.
I fear that entering the build-a-following thing means blurring the lines between human and brand, which seems, let’s say…fairly un-groovy. (h/t LA ancestors of the ’70s). But in today’s world, going all in on the #writerslife is a smart and savvy move. And maybe it’s even fun, or genuine-feeling sometimes. (Though, I think studies would back me up that it is mostly a dumpster fire!).
Per usual, the conclusion resides somewhere near this thought: we’re all just people, and we’re all just trying to navigate this life as best as we can. Some go all in workin’ the system, and other try to skirt about it in some kinda way to eke out a more palatable alternative. So #LOL, here I am at Bolt Eaho coffee shop, with my overpriced corn muffin, writing this thing, pondering this one story I’ve got about a robot preacher, and wearing a shirt with neon bicyclists all over it. If I’ve learned anything from Hustlers, it’s that we all hustlin’, baby.
And it’s at this point that I catch myself. Writing this blog gibberish is really just me procrastinating. Sigh. Sometimes I wish I could just record myself telling a joke at a bar, because that is our version of telling stories around the cave, and sometimes I think that’s where I’m the best storyteller. At least, when people have several beers, they seem to be more amenable to my stories. Maybe more readers just need a drink or six to make the artists out here look a little more gussied up. Consider it, why don’t ya?
And now I’ll end with this. Last week, I couldn’t sleep, maybe because I was toiling around with all this funky gunk somewhere deep in the folds of my noggin. So, before Bryan could pass out in bed beside me (his noggin conks out pretty quickly), I asked him to tell me a story. He said “ok” and then he said “hm” and then he said
once there was a house. It sat in an empty field, and on the day of our story, it was crystal-clear outside. The sky was so blue, and there were a few of the fluffiest clouds in the sky. It was the only house for miles and miles. There was absolutely nothing else around.
this sounds like the start of a horror movie.
hush. In the house there was a lady with big windows that let the beautiful sunlight in, and she had a cup of tea with her, and a giant library with all her favorite books lined the walls. It was the library she’d always wanted, and around her were pictures of all the people she loved and has loved. And she went out to her porch and opened her favorite book to read. It was the book she herself had written. Because this woman was now in her ‘80s and had just published her first book, and she was so proud of it because even though there were times when she felt like she was too slow in her writing, or wasn’t making as much progress as she wanted, or didn’t know how she’d ever get there, she kept at it, and now she had a book out in the world. And it was a book that her friends loved, and her family loved, and she really loved it too. And she was happy to be alone in the house, taking a break by herself because she enjoys her own company, and she was so happy to be surrounded by books. And remember, she was also surrounded by the photos of all her favorite people, who’d she return to soon, and that is why she loved it all so much.