Wanna hear something awful about me?
I am an insufferable purist about certain things. I think decaf coffee should only be used in emergencies, for example. I don’t think anyone whose music career is less than 30 years old should cover Bowie. I think you should at least be conversant in the Star Trek of James T. Kirk before you come at me with any Trek stories made in the 21st century.
And in my heart of hearts, I think writing is an art that shouldn’t be motivated by the desire to be published.
But…I do so lust.
What I really want is a book tour. I want to have obviously-intelligent throngs of people (throngs, small groups…a beach volleyball team…a family of four…this all counts) gather around me and ask probing questions about my scholarly/funny/brilliant work.
“I never could have done this,” they’d say as I sign the inside cover of my best-seller. “It’s beyond my farthest imaginings, how you constructed a tale so intricate, yet so insightful and funny. It changed my life. I’m moving to Thailand and dedicating my life to the less-fortunate because of you.”
“I’m obviously overwhelmed, Aalliiyyaahh,” I’d say with real humility, and I’d inscribe the book, “To Aalliiyyaahh, YOU ARE the change in the world.”
I know it’s wrong to be motivated by a) an image of a writer’s life that I’m pretty sure is a fiction of its own, and b) the validation of strangers. I try to reason this ridiculousness out of myself, especially since this doesn’t even seem like a thing I’d be comfortable with, much less desire. The unpredictability of the public has always made me really dislike the public. “Fame is nothing I want,” I tell myself. Then the devil on my other shoulder chimes in. “But ‘widespread appreciation’ sounds nice, right?”
This is something I want on a molecular level. I want strangers to love and appreciate the thoughts in my head and the things that I say, as though each utterance were sustenance itself. Ok, maybe every tenth utterance. Maybe they really like chapter 12. I will take any laud you can spare.
For the love of all that is holy, TELL ME MORE ABOUT MY EYES.
I’m exaggerating for humor’s sake, of course. It would be ludicrous to be motivated by the love of faceless strangers. There would also have to be obscene amounts of money. Like, DANIELLE STEELE money. I want to brush away adoring fans only to find more adoring fans behind them, but bearing fistfuls of Franklins.
But what about the story? Shouldn’t I be motivated by the characters? The plot? The theme, and pacing, and tone? Isn’t just writing the story enough? God, I wish it were. I have had more than one character in the waiting room of my brain, pacing, smoking, and getting irritable.
“What’s my next scene?” Russ demands, He shows me blank pages and then spits his tobacco. It doesn’t hit anything because I haven’t written in the newt, or the chipmunk, or the forehead of an unfortunate child’s doll where it would have landed. “Dammit,” Russ says. “Did you SEE THAT? I SPIT MY TOBACCO AND IT VANISHED. THAT SHIT AIN’T RIGHT.”
“I’m so sorry,” I say. “Girl Scouts started selling cookies this week and I had to look into server administration for work. Do you know how hard that is? Gosh, it’s really complex.”
“What? SERVERS? This is BULLSHIT,” he rants, stomps off and then disappears because I haven’t written him a setting. Low, from the void, I hear a distant, “FUCK. Where AM I?”
So yeah, sometimes I’m motivated by characters, but a lot of the time, I’m angling for glory. It’s wrong. I know it’s wrong.
But here I find myself in unfamiliar territory: for perhaps the first time ever, I don’t want to be right. God help me, let me be so, so wrong. And Lord, let me be wrong through a terrifically successful writing career, with throngs…or groups…or perhaps knitting circles…of fans.
And Lord, one more thing: Let there be a fat ton of cash, too.