Publication is Shit

“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people that you do.” (Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, page 22)

So we’re at war. Life seems to be barreling ahead whether I stop to reflect upon it or not. And I was doing so good there for a few days. Okay, want to know a secret? I really wasn’t writing for several days in a row. I just wrote once, and broke up those thoughts over different days so it looked I was a responsible blogger. Pretty sneaky, huh? It’s so easy to mislead.

So what’s been going on? Houses. Jobs. Not having either. Snow camp happened. I survived. A trip to Green Bay happened. I survived. My job hunt has oscillated from hoping to find something to hoping I don’t find something so I can write my first great American novel. The pipe dream takes over and I sadistically hope a sudden bout of unemployment will bring it all to fruition. As if a book would solve all my woes. I started re-reading Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird this week to regain the proper perspective. “If you’re not enough before the gold medal, you won’t be enough with it,” (Lamott again, page 218–and no I haven’t finished the book already, I just skipped to the end and read the underlined parts).

Publication is shit. That’s what I tell myself. Obviously it has some practical value. If some sucker never published your work you’d never get paid the piles of pennies that you do. But it really is just piles of pennies. The average writer makes about $10,000 on a book. That’s it. You’d have to pump out three to four books a year just to maintain a lower-middle class lifestyle. Louis L’Amour could barely pull that off.

So I keep telling myself my first great American novel won’t solve my upcoming unemployment. It’s not a wise solution. Even if it did have a big pay off, I’d have to write the stupid thing first. And I’m not exactly experienced at that. In the years since high school, when I thought my short stories were good, I’ve let my fiction skills atrophy a bit, and I’m not sure if they could handle a freakin’ novel. The last short story I cranked out required a class deadline, plenty of caffeine, a sacrificed Saturday evening, and Radiohead at full volume. It wasn’t exactly a pleasant experience. And that was only a six-page short story.

But I’ll plow ahead anyway. I have this idea in my head. It’s actually dangerous to say this here. Every time I mention here that I have this idea it dies a slow and painful death of neglect. It’s as if broadcasting the idea to the entire world creates expectation and expectation equals death. World, meet my idea. Idea, meet–oh crap, it’s dead. Nevermind.

Maybe I’ll overcome it by telling you nothing about my idea. It’s just an idea. Let’s leave it at that. It’ll probably require a caffeine-induced Saturday evening of Radiohead just to keep the idea on life support for all the hype it’s already received. But I plan to pursue that idea. I want to chase it down. I want to pursue it and see if it does have something worth the hype. I want to follow the idea, pursue the dream, and see if I can’t actually write a novel. I love to write. I want to write. I yearn to write. Who else would be sitting at their computer on a Friday night, ignoring friends and family, just to type some stupid reflections on life that no one really cares about? You have to like writing to subject your life to public scrutiny for four years straight for the sheer thrill of it. It’s not like anybody ever follows that little support link up there to see what that’s all about. This thing has no rewards. Except for the sole satisfaction of writing. And amazingly enough I keep coming back for that and that alone.

So you see, I have to write a book. At some point in my life I’m going to have to do it. It may be the suckiest novel that ever sucked, and I’ll bury it in the backyard, but I’ll have written it. Anne Lamott suggests writing shitty first drafts, and I want to write the shittiest first draft of all shitty first drafts. Let’s just hope I have the guts for round two.

I think that’s enough for “today.”

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