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4. Writers are unhappy.
I know this is a stereotype. I also know it’s true. Just look at a writer’s photo – just about any writer’s photo. They frown. They brood. They burn the camera with their heavy-lidded eyes. They look brilliant – but goofy? Fun-loving? Ebullient? I don’t think so.
Here’s the thing. We all ponder the universe from time to time. We reflect on our values. We search our souls for a good answer to the question, “What does it all mean?”
We are all deep.
You know, sometimes.
But I don’t believe people can think that hard and be happy simultaneously. A person needs to alternate: work hard for a few hours, then talk about “Indiana Jones” while sucking something sweet up a straw.
Which leads me to another thing. An author can’t even stop contemplating for that tiny fraction of a second while someone snaps his or her photo. That does not leave a lot of time for crazy joy.
3. Writers are useless.
Another stereotype. Another fact. But what good are writers?
I say this with a teensy bit of hypocrisy. I feel that, many times over, books have saved me. Not the way a doctor would, but more the way a good friend would – except at the time I read these heroic pieces of fiction I didn’t have a whole lot of friends, and certainly none with the kind of wisdom I found in literature.
However, most writers don’t write the kind of sentences, paragraphs and well-organized novels that change people’s lives. And even if they do, how can you track such incidents? No one sends an author a little note reading, “Dear Chuck, At 8:01 p.m. Thursday, June 19, 2008 – Kelly LeVan of White Rock, N.M., finished ‘Choke’ and it inspired her greatly. Because of your book, she wants more out of life.”
Writers don’t extinguish fires. They don’t set bones. They don’t even deliver furniture or re-sod your lawn. They just type, by themselves in lonely rooms while other people interact with the world. Maybe they have a dog around that they forget to feed. That’s about it.
2. You can’t trust a writer.
Well, you can. You can do whatever you want. But I wouldn’t, because in certain moods, I confess, I am a writer. I pop words frantically, furtively, sometimes even without a glass of water. And I do my best to treat my friends as if they are real people.
But I’ll be listening to my friend speak and in some sneaky part of my mind, I’m thinking, “Ooh, I should write that down” or “She’d be such a great character. What if I put her in Nigeria but make her want more than anything to train sled-dogs?”
Or some nonsense like that.
I would never tell a secret. But those details about your divorce, your unexplained weight-gain, your same-sex crushes, that thing I still can’t believe that priest said to you – I’ll change it around, don’t worry. No one will recognize you with a new name, a penchant for wearing huge gold boots and a pet caterpillar named Wellington.
The more I like a person, the more I want to reinvent him or her in a story.
Hopefully, my friends know this and just adore it about me.
1. A writer is not real person.
This is a total lie. Writers have organs and emotions and lives just like anybody else. However, just as a writer has trouble seeing his or her friends as actual fleshy creatures, a writer cannot see him- or herself as one.
We want to be our characters.
I remember one time, I spent a day at a library in Southampton, Mass., working on a novella titled “Pillowroach.” Before I left, I picked up my pages off the printer but forgot to take my disc. When I returned a couple of days later and told the librarian what had happened, she said, “Oh! Are you Rebecca Pillowroach?”
Beaming, thrilled, overwhelmed with a kind of naughty satisfaction, I said, “Yes. Yes, I’m Rebecca Pillowroach.”
This was, of course, the name of my protagonist. I had forgotten: I had written her name, not mine, on the disc.
And – oh blessed gods of municipal libraries and communal computers – as the librarian handed disc over to me, she even said, “Here you go, Rebecca.”
Maybe writers can be happy, in nostalgic intervals. I mean, I still feel a little tingly, a little magical when I think about Southampton.
Which is weird for many reasons – not the least of which is that a) Rebecca’s closest friend was her brother, Bobby; b) she made a very bad decision about going to the lake with Dr. Beck; and c) she was obsessed with ticks.
That’s right: the insects.
Who would want to be her?
E-mail Kelly a better reason to be ebullient at firstname.lastname@example.org