This particular series of crap coming out of my head started with a simple comment from a friend wanting to hear about how I landed a book deal. I don’t think he really wanted a series of philosophical musings about the process, but, hey, never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line, and never ask a mentally ill writer to expound. I’ve been surprised at the response to my ramblings on this topic. People are sharing and retwittering (I really need to learn how twitter works) and contacting me with questions and comments. It almost makes me want to put a little more work into my blog; maybe do some actual planning or revision….nah. It is my thought vomit. It comes into my head and out on this virtual page (no backspaces were killed in the making of this blog).
My working theory on this surprising interest is that I am just another one of the sperm swimming upstream (see prior blogs for reference). I didn’t win the Nobel prize, and I’m not going to be on Oprah. I have a modest publishing contract, and that seems attainable. People rightfully look at me and think, “That asshole did it. How hard can it be?”
So, my step three was striving to be a writer among writers. Ever played basketball with eight year olds? I’m barely five foot seven, and I can dominate those little shits. I can post up like Bill Russell against some fifty pound punk. It does not make me a good basketball player, and it certainly does not improve my basketball playing skills. I don’t actually have any basketball playing skills. If I only played against eight year olds, I might be fooled. Similarly, being a writer among non-writers does not help. Your great aunt will think everything you do is incredible. People who can’t properly use their/there/they’re will be awed by your words. You will be fooled. I offer up Facebook poets as exhibit A.
I am part of a tightknit band of serious writers. Our little band is part of a broader community of serious writers. Every day, someone I know publishes something. For purpose of this blog, I’ll define “serious” as someone who says, “I’m a writer,” when asked what they do. They are likely also teachers, bartenders, baristas, or sell tents (I do the tent selling), but they are writers. We’re not the glitterati with multiple book deals, six figure advances, and concerns about which conference to keynote speak. We’re the aspirational blue collar grinders of the writing world. We’re “Rent” with letters.
I read their stuff. They read mine. We don’t play kumbaya. I have a friend who has a PhD in literature. Think I’m going to give her, “It was a dark and stormy night…?” Every day I read exceptional stuff that a friend wrote. I don’t ask these friends to read something unless I’ve applied serious work to it. Even then, my work is likely to get bitch slapped across the room. Want to be good at basketball, crochet, basket weaving, or writing? Do it with others who are really good at it.
At least thus far, I was far more successful as a business executive than I am yet as a writer. I received a bunch of awards and was paid really, really well to make investors obscene amounts of money. This series of blogs is from the perspective of a neophyte writer floundering away. From a business perspective, I can speak as an expert. My primary hiring principle in the business world was I wanted to be the dumbest person in the room. Assuming I was qualified to hold my position, if everyone in my staff meeting was smarter than I, just imagine what we could accomplish.
So, I want to be the shittiest writer I know. And I might be.
Let me sum up (TWO Princess Bride references in one blog!)
Step one: Don’t suck
Step dos: Write your Folsom Prison Blues (even if Cash plagiarized it)
Step three: Be the shittiest writer you know
Step .14159…: Be inspired by the incredible writers you know