Wednesday, April 14, 2010

If it were easy...

...everyone would be doing it, right? That's what they say.

But when I walk into Chapters/Barnes & Noble/etc., it feels like everyone IS doing it. Are they? So many stories, so few publishers. Yeah. I know. There are assloads of books and shitloads of writers, and only a lifeboat-sized space left on the shelf. I know.

I was listening to the Terry Brooks interview again today (see the link to the interview transcript in the sidebar). Fun guy, he is (and no, I'm not calling him a mushroom, although mushrooms did come up in our conversation, right around the time that we (Terry, his amazing wife Judine, and I) were joking about buying children from gypsies and selling the naughty ones on eBay). The interview is pretty unconventional. We ended up gabbing about politics and corn syrup, and I was an idiot, asking idiot writer questions about a genre I knew far too little about--HIS genre, I might add. But he was really quite gracious and affable. Of course, if I had to do it over again, yeah, I'd be smarter. I'd ask smarter questions. I'd talk less about myself and listen more. I'd stop trying to channel Baba Wawa and stop trying to sound more intelligent than I am. I'd break down and buy the book and read it waaaaayyyyy in advance of the interview instead of relying on the comp copy to arrive and rather than using press handouts and IMDB to get me through. I'd get a clip for a mic so I could hear him better.

But I managed to get some good stuff in the 96 minutes. He said something that struck me as particularly poignant, especially at this stage in my life--nearing 40, obsessing about wrinkles and cholesterol levels and dying too young and missing my shot at the "big time." I'm actually 38.7 years old, and I still have people in my life who don't believe I'm capable of doing anything really important. It's like they get off on projecting their own failures onto me, and they're realllllly good at it. "Oh, yeah, Jenn writes. It's a little hobby." What I've discovered in the last little while is that those people suck. Hard core. Maybe it's a test to see if my Emergency Broadcast System is working. You think I'm just a little hobbyist, writing lusty supermarket bodice rippers or canned mysteries or vampire knock-offs? 'Cause when you tell people you're a writer, that's what they think. And then they ask what your preferred shift is at McDonald's.

Terry said, "You need to be in your forties before you can really enjoy things. That's my theory. The first twenty years are kind of a warm-up." I'm gonna cling to those words like a life raft. And I'm going to continue to write, even if it doesn't see the light of day or the ink of the press, simply because I don't know how to do anything else. I don't! What am I going to do if this big lifelong dream doesn't pan out?

They say that when you've done something that garners attention, you're not supposed to give thanks to those people who've been asses to you; you're only supposed to thank those people who were good to you, who supported you, who believed in you. Otherwise, you give the mean people your energy. It's like my mother says--if you itch the mosquito bite, the mosquito wins. Sounds a little New Agey to me, but I suppose it makes sense. Right? And yet, I can't help but fantasize about an Acknowledgments page that would include a comprehensive list of the people who've made sure I knew my place in the social hierarchy. I'll admit it. I was (am?) a nerd. I made the kids on "Glee" look cool (and they ARE because they can sing!). I got the highest grades in the highest English classes because I was just that big of a dork (well, that, and I'm a Virgo, so everything had to be as close to perfect as possible). I'm a kick-ass speller, I hate adverbs, I have a six-inch version of William Shakespeare's signature tattooed on my right forearm, and I worship the Chicago Manual of Style. NERD!

So higher road be damned: all of the girls who made my life hell in junior high and high school, all of the boys who told me I was as flat as the highway between Dallas and Fort Worth (Is it really flat? Does anyone know this?), the people who said I had good childbearing hips and no common sense, the people who told me I should just go home and have babies, and those who've ridiculed my unorthodox lifestyle and career know who you are. Stop being so mean. And know, if I have any modicum of success, you have a small part in it. You told me I couldn't, that I wouldn't, that I'd fail, and I've proved you wrong. I wonder what my shrink is going to have to say about that... It's probably not healthy or good for my karma to be vindictive, but it sure is succulent.

Parting quote from Terry, about the writing life: "You really have to have a lot of belief in yourself, because there are going to be a lot of people prepared to tell you why you can't do this, and what the odds are, and you have to ignore all that. If you think you can't do it, you probably can't." 

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