So yesterday morning I was where you’ll always find me on Saturday mornings (IHOP, duh, no more stupid questions please) and I was writing and eating pancakes, you know, normal stuff. The waitresses there are great – they all pretty much know me, even the ones who don’t wait on me. My favorite, Marissa, she doesn’t even ask me anymore – food just appears at my table.
Yesterday I had someone new and as I get out my notebook and my headphones and start to get in the groove, she asks me if I’m doing homework. Now, in her defense, I looked like a schlub and I own that – I had to go to work afterwards and if I have to work on the weekends, I get to wear whatever the heck I want, that’s the deal I make with myself to get through the front door. But I’ve sailed quite a bit past early twenties, can’t really even claim mid-twenties anymore, and am pretty much entrenched in late twenties at this point in my life. Homework, really?
So I say no, I’m writing a book. She smiles benignly and walks away. And that’s when it hits me – I’ve only been asked this question three or four times on my morning writing jaunts and no one ever asks a follow-up question. I mean, if you met someone on the street who said they’ve writing a book, wouldn’t you at least ask what it was about? I’m not saying I have a very succinct, elevator pitch ready for it but, come on.
So then I started obsessing, like I do, that this is a bad thing. Do I not look writer-y enough? Do I not look capable enough? Is there some psychosis associated with sitting alone at IHOP 50 times a year that makes me inherently un-literate? I try to convince myself that there isn’t anything nefarious going on here – they’re waitresses, they can’t stand here talking to me all day while people are demanding french toast and orange juice. But it still bothers me.
As my breakfast is drawing to a close I realize that I’ve written in almost my whole entire notebook. This is epic and grandiose in ways that most people won’t understand. Like some people collect stamps or kitschy figurines or candles, I collect notebooks. I can’t walk past them and not want to buy one, it’s a sickness really. But until about a year ago, I didn’t write in them. I bought them to fill with stories, the ones in my head and the ones that one day would be, but they stayed tirelessly empty. Until one day I opened it up to the first page and just decided, without much fanfare it was true, that I was going to start using it. I didn’t think I’d last past the third page – that’s always when my conviction started to wane before.
But it didn’t. If anyone opened it up, they’d be thoroughly confused. It’s not in any kind of narrative order, I wrote what I felt like writing whether it be the beginning, the end, or a scene I never even used. It’s not all sentences, some pages just have lists of words or chapters. It’s not all legible, the length of time I’d been at the table or the number of ideas in my head spurning me to bad penmanship in no time flat. It’s not even all the same story.
But its a victory – and a big one – for me. I’m pretty awesome at beginnings, at the set-up, because I don’t plan before I write. I like to let the characters tell me where they want to go. It’s always exciting and exhilarating to figure out what I’m trying to say, where I’m trying to go. But eventually I have to pick a place. I have to make a decision and I have to have an ending and a meaning and a point. Points, not so good with. Because if you asked me what I write, I’d tell you characters. And characters are always just stumbling around trying to find meaning, connection and that tends to mean love, something I know literally less about than astrophysics.
But last week, I was sitting at my computer trying to write a scene in a karaoke bar and suddenly my female lead, she was smashed and she started drunkenly bemoaning the fairytale Cinderella. It was random and awesome and completely unexpected all at the same time. And it was just . . . fun. Genuinely and utterly fun.
I like to say, and say a lot, that it doesn’t matter if I ever get published or not. I’ll be writing, whether it’s with a pen, whether its even with words, my whole life, regardless if you ever see my name on a book jacket. Its hard sometimes to realize that not everyone has it, these ideas bouncing around their heads that demand to be realized or consequences ensue. But even though I say it, I’m not sure if I’ve ever meant it before. I’m a writer – we’re emotional, we’re needy, we want to share.
I got a pen last month for being at my job for 5 years. When you think about it, that’s almost 20% of my life. My co-workers have taken to saying they can’t wait to see me get that check and that clock for 40 years. And it kind of annoyed me because this wasn’t where I wanted to be in 40 years – I wanted to be . . . and the only answer that ever came to mind was writing. Not published – writing.
No one may ever read my books, no one except the friends I press them on for advice and suggestions. But I’ll go back and read them, and enjoy them, and smile at the things that I know that you don’t – about why I named her kids Chad, Jordan, and Jam; about why there’s comic book superheroes named Prism Fighters; about why they went out for fondue instead of margaritas.
I’m not going to stop trying – though first I really have to start trying – to get published. But its a lot about timing, about being current and ahead of the curve, about making people fall in love with your idea and you. And I told you how much I know about love. But maybe it doesn’t matter quite as much as I’ve needed it to. If being happy is really the only worthwhile goal, I can be happy writing drunken tirades and waiting around for my clock. And getting to the end of many more notebooks.