I hate writing about writing, but sometimes it can’t be avoided: it occupies most of my time and it would be weird not to mention it now and again. So mostly, I try to avoid it — both here and in real life, because if I did nothing but blather on about how Immortal Story is My Muse and Lover*, virtually everyone I know would scream “STFU_writer!” And rightly so…I encourage this response, in fact, and most people are happy to oblige with “NOBODY CARES!”
Nevertheless, I confess: in a context entirely separate from my job, I do get together with like-minded individuals and do the fiction thing. Sometimes it’s critiquing other people’s pieces, sometimes it’s the literary equivalent of musicians jamming — riffing on an idea, suggesting a way to patch up a plot hole, whatever — but it’s always fun.
Until talk turns to publication. I like hearing about everyone else’s forays into that world — whether it’s finding an agent, selling a book, and so forth — but I tend to deflect the “have you sent/shown this to anyone? are you going to get an agent?” questions, because the answer is basically…no.
I’ll use a sports metaphor. Bear in mind that I have virtually no interest in sports, but I do have a soft spot for minor league baseball — maybe it’s because North Carolina only has minor league teams; or maybe it’s because, growing up in Pennsylvania, you knew that the Phillies would ALWAYS choke but that the Red Barons* might squeak out ahead of the Pawtucket C*cks*cking-motherf*ckers every so often.
Major League Baseball is full of steroid-infused goons whose owners charge fans as much as possible to watch their favorite players doing as little as possible because said players so pumped full of drugs that, among other athletic feats, they can no longer physically turn their heads. Minor league baseball, on the other hand, features average-looking human beings pitching and catching and hitting and running and striking out. It also has “Bring your Dog Night” and breaks up innings with trivia contests based on The Newlywed Game, or lets local companies sponsor segments in which small children are allowed to chase the mascots around the field for prizes. Anything could happen, and usually does, to the point where you frequently turn to the person next to you and ask “Wait, what just happened?” It’s just a big glorious mess where the stakes are so low, you might as well be asleep…except that if you did fall asleep, you might miss something weird and cool. If this example isn’t working for you, think instead: late night television.
All of this is to say, I’m a minor league writer. I like messing around with words, I love goofing around with story ideas. It’s fun for me — especially when I can just let my imagination go, when I’m not limited to 40 or 100 or 500 or 1200 words, depending on the task assigned. I honestly don’t know what I’d do if I were a “real” author. I don’t know if that’s some form of impostor syndrome talking or whether my day-to-day dealings with books “written” by Real Housewives of X or (and this one actually inspired a colleague to change jobs, although she’ll claim otherwise in mixed company) extruded by the James Patterson Syndicate have shown me that books are not published because they are good (although inevitably some are), they are published because someone — or, more likely, a committee — thinks they will make money. I suspect the latter, based solely on the number of celebrity-penned children’s books that float through the office.
I’m an oddball. Always have been, always will be. If I were to have an agent, it would have to be someone who “gets” me, and I’m not sure that person exists — at least, not in literary representative form. (The people who understand me best and like me the most for all my quirks have nothing to do with writing; many of them don’t even read. Make of that what you will.)
But several years ago, I made a conscious decision that — since in practically every other area of my life I’m required to convey the impression that I’m a relatively normal human being, even if I barely pull it off — when it came to writing stories, I wouldn’t tone myself down, I’d just give in and be the freak that my classmates always insisted I was. And I’m good with that. I’m there. Bring your dog, have a drink, chase the mascot.