I used to keep my writing, and my aspirations to be published a secret. I held it close, convinced that like a birthday wish, if anyone found out about it, it wouldn’t come true.
I’d sit for hours upon hours, lost in my own worlds and write until I wore the letters off three keyboards.
Then one night, on a trip home from a New Jersey seminar for the insanely motivated, I began to share. Mostly, it was to keep the driver of our short bus from falling asleep and driving us over an embankment.
But regardless of the reason, I began. Not only with my wish, but with the stories themselves, explaining about the family tree with the twisted roots, about the fears of the gods and their plans to save themselves from extinction, and the memoirs of the weirdo magnet.
And one by one, my co-workers woke up and found themselves entertained my my stories. By the mere summaries of my stories, to be exact. And by the time we hit Kennebunkport and stopped for one last pee break, all nine members of the team knew. I wanted, above all else, to be a published writer, to support myself solely through that vocation.
So when one of the partner doctors took a four month hiatus to Mexico to write a book, I was annoyed. I may have developed an eye twitch.
He’s going to write a book. The King of Runonsentances. Of course he is. In four months. A book about morals, the qualities that make a person a wise and just leader.
This, from the man who fired my mother, and gave me her job and a 20% pay cut when I returned from a seven week maternity leave.
Bitter kind of cut off my air supply for a while. Unhappy, envious thoughts made me smile through clenched teeth at his Bon Voyage party. Screw you, asshole. If I had four months of uninterrupted time, I could get one of mine done, too.
I’m only a tiny bit ashamed that when he came back home that Spring with no book, I did a little evil happy-dance. Of course it’s not done. Writing is hard. I am proud of my passion slapping your fingers for mocking its complexity.
A year and a half later, still no book. But the plan is still there. A little part of me, okay, pretty much every fiber of my being wants to get a book published before he does. Even if he is looking into vanity presses.
Then there’s Jay. Great guy, funny, with a bend toward the theater and a passion for creating a play based on our work environment. And yes, it really is that funny.
“It would be so easy,” he’s said, more times than I can count. “Shit writes itself.”
Now I, as a writer, am driven nearly apeshit by that statement.
“Everything just happens; truth is stranger than fiction. . . ” His justification for this statement comes in many forms, but it doesn’t come in the only form that would be helpful. Namely the psychic-link-to-paper form.
And because I write, and because he does have a good idea, I allowed myself to be recruited to help him with his play.
So I made my conditions clear.
My house. I’m not commuting for someone else’s passion.
No more than once every couple of weeks. Because I’m also not laying aside my own passion to satisfy someone else.
Bring your own food. And other consumables. I am not a soup kitchen or The Dude. I’m too poor, so if you want it, bring it.
That’s it. I thought it was pretty reasonable.
So we got together, myself, Jay and Steph and had our first session. Bust.
And no one had much will to keep it going. Probably on account of the fact that writing is hard. If it wasn’t, every asshole would have a publishing contract, because really, there are very few jobs that are cooler than being a writer.
After a few weeks we tried again.
Maybe it was the Spring in the air, or maybe the fact that we weren’t locked in the back “smoking” room, choking on our own emissions. Whatever it was, we were productive. Copious notes, lots of laughing, and when we were done, we had a rough outline of the first two acts. Not bad.
And so I started writing. And it was pretty damn funny. Thirty-five pages in, I emailed it to everyone for some feedback.
Finally I had to ask.
“What’d you think?”
“Oh I haven’t read it yet.”
WHAT? Dude, this is your passion. And you haven’t read it? How many people only have to do half the work to achieve the goal they are most in love with? Come on.
So I wrote a bit more, then stopped. I had things to work on of my own.
And then he came to me. “I like it. See, I told you shit writes itself. How much more have you got? We really need to get moving on this.”
Don’t chastise me about lack of progress. I’m the only one who’s done anything in weeks. Pat me on the back. Tell me I did great. Be excited to move on. But don’t sound like my boss. I’m already chaffing under two of those. And don’t tell me shit writes itself.
Another session, a little more progress. A bit of a snag, because I’m not writing the plunger scene. It’s just not going to happen. And what happened to the song you were supposed to write? And Steph’s part. Where’s that?
And they chatted about what would get me moving. Why I didn’t grab this and run, run run. After all, shit writes itself.
Because the concept of 50 plus hours a week devoted to keeping the job that puts food on the table, another 2o eaten up by the crappy little sole prop I started to help my parents keep food on their table, and my own family in health insurance, and the whopping hour I stole each day to play with my toddler seemed to somehow compute as “lots of free time.”
Take that King of Runonsentances!
And now, now the other doctor is writing a book. A memoir. And honestly, it has the seeds of funny, what with the accordion and the orthopedic shoes. How it will be with tone, language, timing and everything else that goes into making a book good is beyond my psychic scope, but at least it has good bones.
I was still ruminating over my feelings about this when I got fired.
“I’m taking the play in another direction. I have some other people interested and I just wanted to know what your thoughts were about what we have so far.”
My thoughts? It’s mine. I wrote it, every frigging word. Yeah, we talked about which stories to include, which people to represent, but they’re mine. I made them come alive, captured the herding cats nature of Joyce, built the Source convention with the guy smiley host and testimonials in my own brain.
Yeah, the experiences were there, shared by all of us, but the story is mine. You can take what’s on paper, but be damn sure I get credit where it’s due.
Because shit doesn’t write itself. Like the poignantly witty bumper sticker plastered to the back of countless trucks says, “Shit happens.”
But it certainly doesn’t write itself.
Writers write. And writing is hard.