Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Writer's Life - Issue 4

The life of a writer

by Ryuno

“Give me your heart, make it real or else forget about it. -” Rob Thomas

It gets worse.

You finished your book and the few ones who read it seemed pleased enough, as people always do when you give them something they even remotely for free. It took you a whole year to get it the way you wanted and then a few weeks for the editor to get it decent and readable but only a few hours for the readers to absorb it completely. How unfair.

Still, they bothered to read the whole damn thing, which is fairly more than you could say about certain publishers who did not care enough to ask for a partial because they were too busy delaying your favorite series and doing a worse job at translating/localizing than people on the internet. They know your characters by name, they see through them enough to tell they are not entirely honest to one another and speculate. The pride you feel when they try and predict your next move story-wise is too beautiful for a sin, being almost paternal. I can state that because I was pretty much the father figure for my brother and thus am familiar to that sensation, although saving the whole story for another day is something I plan to do unless my word count here is too low and I find myself completely devoid of ideas. Or not willing to talk about the Scott Pilgrim movie.

But then the heat is gone, your story becomes old news and you start wondering if you really should keep working on the sequel instead of writing something else publishers can reject driving your family to complete dismay as the life of the child they had such high hopes and dreams for seems to be going downhill and it never was very good to begin with but it had potential and such.

You are brought back to where you started, except now you are a completely different person.

Before you didn’t know that a few words change book and a book changes a kid and that kid will change the world whether you like it or not because of Butterfly Effect but it can change it in a way much more positive (to you and your wicked ideals) if said kid gets to read your book because, well, if you don’t understand the mechanisms by now it might be a good idea to read this paragraph again and again.

Now you know you’re here forever.

Charles Bukowski had it right, the bloody alcoholic yet brilliant fellow; either you go for it even if it means fighting the world or you quit before you start wasting your precious time on what will remain a dream. The man was one of us, and by that I actually mean he was pretty much as gauche as I am. No, really.

His life sucked too.

The man was not merely a wreck, but the whole package: he believed to be an illegitimate child (although he was possibly just an “unplanned” one), had an abusive parent and was picked on by other children, was shy and had bad skin, drank since his early teens, got momentarily arrested in the same year he managed to publish his first short story on a fairly good magazine and after that only got to publish something again two years later on a mere limited-run collection. He got these really awful jobs (and once you find your vocation, my pretty, every other job is unfitting) and didn’t write for ten years. He went back to writing after being treated for bleeding ulcer. Then he married a Texan girl who was a poet and then they divorced, but definitely not just because she kept saying his poems sucked. He kept on writing, drinking and went back to the post office, although on a different and fairly better occupation where he worked for over a decade and almost led to his insanity. Many unfortunate romantic affairs later, he died of leukemia.

What I just did was accentuating the negative, but it doesn’t make it any less true: that was the life of the man one could easily consider the greatest American poet. We’d better keep remembering him for his contributions to literature because his legacy makes him more dimensional than a mere tragic hero. All the suffering you find in his work, all the realistic and non-juvenile angst in every sentence, the way the romantic feelings hit too close to home for comfort: those things felt real and brutal because they were and there’s no denying it. That is what happens when someone with an extreme life takes the “write what you know” seriously, and I dare say it is the only way to achieve such results without sounding too coldly calculated and mechanical: to let art imitate life, and to have witnessed things worth imitating.

Yes, it is a terrifying thought: not only be able to cope with sadness and, but to appreciate them and find ways of inserting them in your works. But this is the only way we can get even and actually heal, saving others and making them grow as persons, doing so out of nothing but our selfish desire to fictionalize our scars so the ghosts won’t come back anymore.

You’re here forever, and to deliver what they don’t know they want but they surely need is to give all of you, every you in a way you’d never want to comprehend. To share the burden with strangers and make them witnesses of the person you didn’t want to be: full of traumas and prejudices, a walking turmoil. And that, my darling, is why they will love you unconditionally and be very, very mad when your son come and try inserting new establishments in your novel series with much less grace than you did or compare the delusions and works of others with yours.

From now on you know that if your life sucks and you’re not keeping it to yourself, you’re doing something right.

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