Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Inspiration: What is This Thing?

Sometimes, I wonder why I want to write publish novels. Writing I will always do, because I like a good story and no other author ever tells quite the story I want to hear.

Sometimes, I wonder why I work and polish and rewrite 'til so late at night that I go into work yawning the next day. I don't tell anyone I write, so I can only shake my head when folks ask why I'm yawning.

"It's my neighbor's dogs," I say, while making a little shooty motion with my hand. It's mostly sincere. I really would like to do violence to those ill-mannered, unneutered rottweilers.

My Mister says I should just tell people I write. Um, No. I mean, does Spider Man or Wonder Woman ever tell people they save the world? It's not just that the fun of having a secret identity would be ruined. No. What keeps me mum is the fear of my own personal kryptonite - advice.

People are always so well meaning.

"Romance? Don't you want to write something that, well, that matters?"

"Science fiction? Does anybody read that? What you ought to do is write one of those legal thrillers like John Grisham."

"Do you know how slim your chances of ever getting published are? And you hope to make a living this way?"

Jeebus, Krishna, Moroni! Save me from this plague of idiots. Nobody ever told Superman that his chances of reversing time by making the globe spin backwards were slim to nil. And while a well-placed word might have saved us from the travesty that is Superman III, my point still stands. Telling someone they can't do something is not helpful, it's mean. It encourages them to stop before they have a chance to ever find out if they really could be a contender.

My book may not be something the well-meaning advice givers would ever want to read, but I'm not writing for them. Whenever I get depressed or discouraged, I fire up the old computer and listen to Act one of "What is this Thing" (This American Life episode 247). It reminds me that there are millions of readers out there who might want to read what I write.

And that, unlike so much of the well-meaning "advice" I've received over the years, is very encouraging.