Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Looking for a Thick Skin

Any idiot can write a blog (more on idiots later) and my guess is that there are many idiots that do. But not every idiot can say that their blog is now found on! I'm listed on the right under "recent additions" and then under the "Family" section. I'm right underneath "Mormon Mommy Wars" which is one of the few blogs I actually read, because if I started reading too many blogs my productivity would slow way, way down. As it is, I feel the need to check the Consumerist and Freakonomics blog several times a day, and if I added more to that list I'm in danger of my bottom fusing to the chair I'm currently sitting on, because I might never move.

So what does that mean, exactly, that I'm listed on I have no idea. But it's a little like seeing your name in the newspaper, it doesn't matter that all it is is birth notice or maybe list of property tax evaders, it's YOUR NAME and now everybody who reads the paper has read YOUR NAME! It's just the cool factor, I think that's why I'm happy.

I also needed a little shot of confidence, or possibly my bruised ego needed a little massaging. As I've been threatening to do for a little while now, I took the plunge and tried some creative writing. Unfortunately, it looks like the pool I dove into wasn't as deep as I thought. I might have smacked my head on the bottom, and I'm not sure how I feel about it.

A couple of weeks ago I went with my parents and youngest brother to Barnes & Noble when we were trying to walk off a way too big meal at Outback. I don't think I've ever been to a bookstore with anyone else who likes books as much as I do, that was an interesting experience. Anyhow, I wandered over to a section I had never been in before, full of books for writers. If I can't make it as an author of fiction, I think I'll write a book about how to write - apparently, it's quite a racket.

There were about 8 shelves worth of "how to write" books, which made me wonder, is it really that hard? I'm guessing there aren't as many books in the "how to do quantum mechanics" section, or even the "how to perform open heart surgery" section. (The "how to fix clicking swamp coolers" section must be large, since it is so challenging to replace the missing screw that is causing the clicking that I had to pay $89 for the privilege.) If I could learn organic chemistry in one shelf or less, why do I need 8 shelves to teach me a subject that I ostensibly already spent 12 years in public school learning?

Because bookstore owners know that there are probably a lot of readers who might read a particularly bad book and think, "If this yokel can get this drivel published, then certainly I can too. How hard can it be?" Well, pretty hard, as it turns out. But fortunately Barnes & Noble is well equipped to handle those less naturally gifted in the writing department. The idiots out there are particularly well-served by the selection at the Orem B&N, as the Idiot's Guide to a variety of writing topics far outnumbered the for Dummies books. Apparently idiots are able to learn how to write poetry, novels, erotica, and children's books, or any combination thereof, and get it published. The dummies can only write children's books, get it published, and have good grammar. Maybe B&N knows that it has more idiots shopping there than dummies. Or reversed - all the dummies have been here already and wiped their selection out, but the idiots are waiting for "The Idiot's Guide to Reading" to be published so they don't come to the bookstore as much.

So I ended up getting a couple of books and doing some of the writing exercises in them, because I think the key here is practicing. Out of the blue one morning, I came up with a plot for a short story. It intrigued me and I churned on it for a while before I spent a few hours over the next couple of days pounding it out. And you know what? I liked it. I thought it was pretty clever and not too bad. I suppose I was even a little bit proud of myself for actually doing this.

The problem is, though, I don't have much of a thick skin when it comes to criticism. Ryan had some comments about my story, and I instantly felt bad about every author I've ever bashed. It hurts to have your work criticized, especially when you aren't too confident to begin with. How do published authors not want to curl up in a ball and cry for a week when something they write garners two thumbs way down?

So with that in mind, I'd like to make some public apologies.

To Stephenie Meyer (author of the Twilight vampire books that I love so much): For thinking your second book was a bit of a disappointment, and that your main character is in serious need of a backbone.

To Dan Brown: For disliking the ending of The DaVinci Code so much that I had to put the book down for half a day before I could finish it. And for assuming that all of your other books would be so poorly written that I haven't even bothered reading them.

To various LDS Romance authors: For considering your books nothing more than a nice, fluffy read when I want to escape from real life.

To Victor Hugo: For skipping 3/4's of what could easily be thought of as my model for long-windedness in Les Miserables. I'm sure you had a purpose in putting in all of those details, and it wasn't that you were getting paid by the word.

When it comes down to it, all of these books not only were published, but were serious best-sellers. And maybe I wouldn't have done it the same way, but they were still some of the most enjoyable books I've ever read. I just hope they don't take it personally.

I am going to bite the bullet and post currently title-less story. I will keep my fingers crossed that I am not one of the talent-less American Idol auditioners, you know the ones that come with all of their family members who curse at Simon when he tells them the horrible truth that they don't have a lick of talent and that the earth would be a happier place if they never opened their mouth again. Those same auditioners whose loved ones didn't have the guts to tell them that maybe their weekend would have been better spent on the couch watching a 12-hour Lord of the Rings marathon, instead of waiting in line to have their hopes and dreams crushed on national television. Who are always, always surprised that it turned out the way it did.

I don't want to be one of those people, but if I am, someone needs to let me know. After all, it's not like this has been my goal since I was a little girl, I won't take it all that hard. So maybe writing won't make up my oeuvre. But if it's not my oeuvre, where else will I be able to use all of my pretentious French words? Fortunately, I will always have my blog, my now almost famous blog, that might get read by actual strangers, and all of the great stories that make up real life. Because no fiction can really ever top that.

Here's a link to my story.


Anonymous said...

Great story, didn't see that ending coming. Did Ryan criticize the story because he didn't like the thought of you looking through that book, maybe for ideas?


Ryan said...

Actually I didn't care for the first person narrative. But I will keep better track of the books that Emily brings home from the book store from now on!