Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Boy for Sale

My daughter and her common law husband took possession of their condo on Saturday.  They had taken a year to wait for escrow to clear, for the home inspection to happen and then be addressed, and finally for all the little bits of nonsense to be sorted.  People talk about their child's first words, or the first time they walked, or their first day of school.  It's odd, because these are all events that are not optional.  My child's first mortgage, on the other hand . . . that's an accomplishment.

On Saturday, I did what parents do, I helped my daughter move.  And in the process, met my daughter's large, male friends, some of whom I've met - when they were just boys.  They're still boys, but now they have careers and debt.  They're in their mid-twenties now and in the process of understanding themselves.

Several of them had read my book, Pete's Garage, because my daughter had pushed it into their hands. They liked the book, and told me about how they liked the book.  They had me sign copies.  And then I spoke for awhile to my daughter's in-laws, the other parents who were there to help their son move into his first condo, and they had read the book too.  Then my daughter's mother-in-law (common law, but hey, what can I call her if I don't use her name?) told me that Pete's Garage had made her cry.  In a good way.

Whereupon I did a very strange thing.  I didn't ask what part of the book made her cry.

Writing a book is an adventure into inadequacy.  In effect, you keep your inadequacy stick in the closet, and when you think you're going to write a book, you get that stick out and start hitting yourself.  When that stops hurting, you go buy a bigger stick.  When you get used to that, you call friends over, give them the stick and tell them to hit you with it, hard.  Only they don't, so you yell at them, "Harder, Harder!" until they get the idea and really lay into you.

After awhile, you realize they really can't hit you hard enough to make it help, so you write "Inadequacy" on a big brick wall, and then you hurl yourself at the wall as hard as you can, for as long as you can.  And if you can keep working long enough on your book through this sort of abuse, you'll get the thing finished.

Worse, you'll get to like this sort of thing.

Part of the process is that you will pathetically want to know everything about what other people think about your book, or what parts they liked, and why they liked them.  You won't be able to help yourself.  It is part of the process.  Remember, what you feel is inadequacy.  You're looking for a balm that will cure that . . . but unfortunately, no such balm exists.  You just have to accept that you're not good enough to write the book you really want to write.  You're only good enough to write the book you're able to write, and no better.  That is why books are never finished, they are abandoned.  You abandon your book when you realize the son-of-a-bitch is trying to kill you:



The relevant passage comes at 7:20.

I first saw the Owl and the Pussycat when I was 17.  I was just old enough to have pretensions about being a writer, and just old enough to understand the fraud, fakery and pomposity that goes along with telling people that you write, that you are a 'writer' or an 'author,' that you have a book and so on.  I wanted that very badly as a kid.  And then I saw this film.  Later, I saw it again and again.  And when I finish this post, I'm going to watch it.

Because it was written by a writer who understood about truth.  Who understood that writing is a dirty, miserable, self-abusive occupation.  The moment when you need support, when you're writing the loathesome, squalling, fetid little monster, you can't get it.  You can only get support after the monster is birthed and crawling about the world, making people like it.  Only then, you don't care. You're numb.  You just hate the fucking thing.

Good thing children aren't like that, eh?  That's because children aren't monsters, they're marvellous engineers of their own destinies.  Writers who say they love their books "like their children" are slave-traders looking to sell their 'children' on the open market cheap.  "Yeah, I love this yowling little brat. You can have it for nine dollars."

I am at that point with How to Run where the painted wall is the only critic that matters.  I can feel the end drawing near.  In the meantime, I am selling the monster's little brother, How to Play et al.  The caterwauling imp is available for nine dollars.  I'd like to get rid of it as much as I can.

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