My first thought?
"He must not be a writer."
As we saw last week in Louise Ure’s brilliant post — and the subsequent comments — many of us ink-stained wretches suffer from insecurities about our craft. You’d think we actually lived the life of those stereotypic souls who huddled in Parisian garrets, their desks covered with empty espresso cups, ashtrays overflowing with spent Gauloises, and only a single candle to provide warmth on freezing nights.
But, wait a minute . . .
Are we really being honest with ourselves when we dive into the depths of despond about our crappy prose? Is it possible we’re actually enjoying ourselves a little, benefitting from the divine pleasure born of an image of necessary torture for our art? Aren’t we noble, grand?
I won’t speak for you — though I hope you speak for yourselves in the comments section — but I certainly relate to this William Carlos Williams poem:
If I when my wife is sleeping
and the baby and Kathleen
and the sun is a flame-white disc
in silken mists
above shining trees, —
if I in my north room
dance naked, grotesquely
before my mirror
waving my shirt round my head
and singing softly to myself
"I am lonely, lonely.
I was born to be lonely,
I am best so!"
If I admire my arms, my face
my shoulders, flanks, buttocks
against the yellow drawn shades, —
Who shall say I am not
the happy genius of my household?
We writers write for an audience. In truth, I think we’re a rather egotistical lot. This is neither good nor bad . . . just an observation. I mean, we write our stories and expect people to spend their time and money reading them.
Doesn’t that strike you as a bit confident, even cocky?
I don’t question our sincerity when the tremors of "ittotallysucksitis" shake our bodies. The breast-beating we do because our fiction is tripe, is real. And, we’d better step up to the responsibility of making sure our work is as good as it can possibly be.
I’m just saying that we might enjoy the angst more than we’d like to admit.
Here’s a fun last thought:
In one of my favorite episodes of The Simpsons, down-on-his-luck bartender Moe ends up at a writers’ conference that resembles the famous Bread Loaf. The fictional WordLoaf has such luminaries as Michael Chabon, Jonathan Franzen, Gore Vidal and Thomas Pynchon (the elusive writer appears with a paper bag over his head).
When Moe first joins a cocktail party with these literary giants, he pauses, a smile of awe on his ungodly face, and says (verbatim from my sieve of a memory), "Here I am, surrounded by the happiest people on earth . . . writers."
Maybe there’s something to that.
Writers: What say you?
Readers: What’s your image of the stereotypic writer?
Next Monday, Feb. 5, I’ll be on my way to the New Mexico Chile Pepper Conference. J.T. will take that day for me (thanks, J.T.!). I’ll take hers on Friday, Feb. 9 with a LCC 2007 wrap-up. The next week everything will be back on normal schedule.