How Not to be a Famous Author

A sampling of my forbidden notebooks.

I checked out Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones from the library nearly six weeks ago. It’s due next week and I can’t renew it again, so I’m trying to scarf it down now. I might end up buying it, but I think I used to own it and gave it away when I did a big book purge a few years ago, so I’m going to need to reconcile myself to spending the same money twice before I can purchase it. Also, I tend to ignore the books I own because they don’t have due dates and so the library books always seem more pressing. I can always read the books I own, therefore I never do.

Writing Down the Bones was one of the books I was supposed to read in college. I probably did, sort of. But like with many of the books from my writing classes, I don’t think I was ready for the message when I was 19 years old. That probably comes as no surprise to my writing profs. I think I got too much praise for my writing when I was younger and thought I ought to be able to do it without effort, so I wrote without effort and then stagnated after I left college and no longer received praise for my writing (or no longer trusted the opinions of the people around me who praised my writing: non-writer friends, my husband, my mom). Now, that I want to write and write well and realize that’s not something that just happens, I’ve developed the humility necessary to seek out the voices of experience to help carry me as I prepare to suffer for my art. So to speak.

Goldberg, like Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird, talks about just writing and letting it be bad. You’ve got to sit down and write and let the bad stuff out so that you can get to the gems. Goldberg, Lamott, and my beloved writing prof, Susan, all stress how important it is to just make writing a routine. Show up at the desk and get the pen moving or the fingers typing. Don’t think too much, don’t control the writing, just write.

Since starting this blog, I’ve been writing a lot more regularly. I try to post every day and usually I meet this goal. Last November I even completed the National Novel Writing Month challenge, so I know that I can, if necessary, maintain a writing schedule. But aside from NaNoWriMo, I’ve not been doing much more writing than what I post on my blog.

I worry my blog writing isn’t crappy enough.

It’s quite possible it’s crappy, even very crappy. But I’m not letting it be crappy. I’m trying to make it witty and interesting and cool enough to be featured on Freshly Pressed again (last time I did it by accident, and I’m trying hard to make that accident happen again). If I really do have to write a certain amount of crap before I can write the good stuff, does filtering the crap before it posts to the blog count as that crappy writing?

And why am I blogging anyway?

Well, I think the biggest reason is self-importance. I value my opinions, and I think other people ought to, too. I want to believe that I’ve got something really important to say and that if I don’t say it, it may be lost to the world forever. And what a pity that would be.

Then there’s the interaction with others online, which, frankly, I only want to do if the people who are commenting agree with me on my first reason for blogging. And it helps if they’re specific about just what it is they love about what I wrote. But of course, I still have the tendency to disbelieve anything positive people say about my writing, so the good feelings are short-lived. I need to write another post—another even wittier, even more insightful, even more awesome post so I can bask in your adulation until the stroke of midnight when my blog stats reset and I start from scratch again.

Last but not least is my “it fulfills my goal of daily writing” reason for blogging, and I’ve already addressed that one.

But it seems like there must be more than that, because every time I think about quitting the blog—and even announce that I’m going to step back—I keep writing posts. I just can’t stop blogging. Like Homer Simpson, “I want it all: the terrifying lows, the dizzying highs, the creamy middles.” Also like Homer Simpson, I sometimes fear I might offend with my “cocky stride and musky odors” (especially the musky odors—a high-greens diet in a humid climate is a pungent combination in the chemistry of my particular body. Lucky for you all, it’s only my words and surly attitude that are transmitted via the blog).

I guess I’m still going to blog, even if it means I need to make more time in my day to write down the crap. Or I suppose I could just intentionally post the crap here. Yes, that’s all I need. I even hesitate to keep journals because I worry that one day I’ll be a famous author and someone will want to publish my journals. *shudder*

That’s it, then. I’ll spend the next 30 years blogging daily and pseudonymously, working diligently to never be a famous author so no one will ever know what’s written in my journals.

So far, so good.

5 comments

  1. Pingback: Too Much Information | INSANITY OF MOTHERHOOD motherhood midlife madness
  2. Melanie Meadors · September 20, 2011

    HA! LOL I will have to remember that. A complete oversight on my part!

    I went a couple kick offs here and experienced much the same thing. Mostly college kids, and… yeah. But also, the write ins were kind of… hyperactive? Not conducive to writing, and when you have kids and stuff, you can’t waste your writing time listening to that. If I wanted to drown out giggling and stuff, I could just write at home!

    Then again, your illustrious mind may well have been too much for those NaNoers. Someone on your intellectual plane just can’t expect others to be able to relate. 😉

    Like

    • CJ · September 20, 2011

      Much better, Melanie.

      And I never even bothered with the write-ins. I’m a “writing in quiet” kind of gal and would only leave to write in a coffee shop or somewhere if that was the only way I could get away from my kids. Then I could bribe myself with a latte, too.

      Like

  3. Melanie Meadors · September 20, 2011

    I have found that there is a big difference between my process of blog writing and my process of fiction writing, but of course, when I write nonfiction/articles, the process is sort of similar. I let my blog posts ramble, and the articles obviously need to be a bit more focused. But it seems to use the same part of my brain. When I write fiction, I know I am going good when I get into this state that is almost like hypnosis, I get really hyper-focused. That could just be my ADHD though ;).

    I really hate the guilt feeling I get when I do not write often “enough.” It freezes me, and makes the whole situation worse. I’m just now getting to the point where I’m feeling OK about taking a break. Even so, I don’t know if I am really OK with it, or I am just pushing it out of my mind! But i fully plan on doing nano again this year, and I am getting pretty excited. I just have to figure out which project I want to work on. I’ve been doing it since 2003, but the last two years were gross failures (pretty much in every aspect of life!). I’m excited to get back into the swing of things :).

    Good luck with your writing!

    Like

    • CJ · September 20, 2011

      I’m excited to know in person someone else who’s doing NaNo this year. I went to a local kick-off event last year, but everyone seemed so…young. And confident. In other words, I didn’t really connect with anyone.

      Writing Down the Bones is, I think, going to be a good book for me to have read. I didn’t remember her Buddhist background from when the book was assigned in college, but I really like her description of writing as a meditation in itself (like your experience of the hypnotic effect of fiction writing…I’ve also seen it called “flow”). I hadn’t thought about it, but I definitely have a similar relationship with writing as I have with meditation, and I get a similar effect (and feel similarly hesitant to tell people I do it. At least no one expects any concrete results from meditation like they do from writing).

      Oh, and I’ll overlook it this time, but in the future, I expect your comments to contain more lavish praise of my brilliance. 😉

      Like

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