Sunday, July 05, 2015

Done. Now Start.

What's that annoying word people use to make you feel like you did something that's allegedly super-human?

Oh, right, it's "accomplished."

That word makes me feel like a part of my brain fell off and is now rattling around inside my head so that whenever I hear it, the sound of the word is overwhelmed by the perceived rattling of a chunk of flesh against my skull.

Not that I think this little book I am holding in my hand is not kind of cool. But let's be honest. I've not even managed to update this blog in years and I've been known to spend whole weekends watching YouTube videos. I've never adopted a "writing schedule" and I am totally unable to quote passages from my favorite books. 

But look at that: a book I made. Without necessarily holding on to some traditionalist view of what it means to be a writer.  There it is. And when I first saw it, I burst into tears. 

You see, I grew up pretending I was going to be a writer. I copied movie scripts and fictionalized them at age 12. I wrote horrible poetry--as we all do--at age 16. I crafted two novels in college and in my 20s that, even judging now, weren't so bad.  But writing as a way of life or a profession takes certain elements and character traits I simply don't possess. I realize now a big chunk of that is the complete lack of financial security being a writer entails. But THAT is an entirely different post. 

What I will say is that I am full of good ideas that never come to fruition. And I suppose many people who pursue any kind of creativity--whatever that means for them--would say the same. 

That little book in my hand was an idea that showed up in the chunk of my brain not rattling around against my skull about 10 years ago. I had written these three weird stories/essays about death because I was going to put together a book proposal and sell it to an agent and then to a publisher and I was going to spark some trend and someone was going to pay me a high five-figure advance because they believed they could sell me to The New York Times, Oprah, or at least Mental Floss magazine.  But. But. But. Wait. 

I'd worked in book publishing. I knew how this would go if I went down this path. And it was not how I wanted it to go. I didn't want to have to do and dance...about what it "meant to be a writer." I didn't want to hope that selling myself meant finding someone "sympatico" or even sympathetic.

I looked to a musician whose work I very much admired as an inspiration. She had left her record label behind and decided to be entirely listener supported. I couldn't do that of course since I did not have 20 years of audience support. But I could find a way to make the book or books I wanted. Surely. What I lacked in financial resources I made up in my personal relationships. It turns out that when you tell people of an idea you have, they *support* you and they might even want to be *involved* in it.  My muses were my friends, ex-lovers, co-workers, casual acquaintances. I did my own grassroots PR for so long talking about these little books that when it came time to actually finish this first one, I knew exactly what to do.

I realize now I had some living I needed to do in order to make books about the dead. 

I needed to know exactly how to say what I wanted.

I needed to be comfortable with saying no. And yes. And I don't know.

It still took a few years past this point of having friends work in their spare time. Of fretting over a story tweak. Of wondering if this was just a vanity project by a middle-aged man. There are much worse vanity projects to have, let's be honest. And vanity is still the hope of telling a good story. Of showing how talented my friends--and artists in their own rights--are. Of wanting to share stories.

So I don't see it as an accomplishment per se. To me it was meant to be in one way or the other. And now it gets to be more than just something I told you once upon a time. It's an object. A story. A collaboration. A labor. A wish. A lark. A book.

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