Thursday, February 1, 2018

Writing, Yes. Fame & Fortune, Maybe So.

While cycling through my morning reading of my favorite blogs and online news outlets, I came across a post by my friend Brian Fay and it got me thinking. I spent a good portion of the last few days writing this post, spending an inordinate amount of time starting it, trying to figure out what I wanted to say about his post. I want to talk about writing, but I couldn't exactly figure out what I was trying to say. It's been a while since I've actually written a blog entry about writing. It could be because I'm actually writing and that's always good news. But Brian's post had the wheels turning and I decided to write. And boy did I write.

Now, if there is an approximate to a writing guru in my life, it's Brian. We met at a teacher's writing institute in Cortland, NY. Brian was a facilitator and I was a participant. It was one of the most amazing experiences in my life. It made me a better teacher and a better writer. It was the closest thing to my "dream writing summer" I've ever experienced. Three weeks where I did nothing but write for at least three hours a day. No kids. No wife. No distractions. Just three hours of me, a laptop and a pair of ear buds with Billy Joel in my ear. (Billy Joel was a phase that summer. I can't explain it but Billy Joel-Live at Shea Stadium was played ad naseum for those three weeks.)

We worked, wrote, shared, ate and listened. I had the misfortune of following the SCSD version of Maya Angelou, Viola, during one of our extravaganzas where we shared our work with one another. Viola is a stunning storyteller with a hypnotic voice that still warms my heart almost four years later. It was here that I met and worked with Brian, a ridiculously talented writer that humbled me and an active blogger.

I love reading his posts. They are insightful. They are inspirational. they are soothing. They get me thinking about writing and teaching, sometimes independently, sometimes at the same time. And it was the latest post that got me thinking. Actually, it was one sentence in the post that moved me to write this time:

Let me tell you two things this isn't going to be about: getting published or getting rich.

It stuck in my head for a while and took some time to wrap my brain around so I could synthesize it and write something about it.

If you've read my blog, you know that my aspirations of becoming a published author aren't a secret. Hell, if you've met me in public, it's likely that you know this about me. I've dreamed my whole life about it. From my earliest days of dreaming that someday I'd be the head writer for the Marvel run of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero to the arrogant boasts of the twenty-one year old me telling everyone in the Wegmans' Grocery Back room that'd I'd be on the New York Times Bestseller list by the time I was twenty-six. Well, I'm now on the precipice of 45, so that obviously didn't happen. I'm not here to lament, as I have in the past, about my failed dream. I'm here responding to Brian's post.

This isn't a rebuttal, because I 100% agree with what he said in his post. You have to "write for you" first and it's absolutely right to say, "Don't even consider anyone else." These are wise words, especially to a neophyte. Hell, they are wise words to any writer. It's the first step and sometimes it's the millionth step. I've been writing forever. Since high school. (Obviously!) Looking back, I wish that I'd been more diligent, both about the craft and hanging on to what I wrote. (If I'd only met Kelly Chandler-Olcott earlier to convince me of the worth of sturdy, old school composition notebooks!) You always write for yourself. But then what? And that becomes the interesting question.

I pursue that question daily. Am I not enough of an audience? Why do I feel compelled to get published?

I don't know. I just know that it's something I want. And maybe that's enough. But it can't be that simple can it?

Is it validation?



I can't say for sure. But I know for sure it's something I want.

It's not to be rich, though that'd be nice for sure. I don't think it's to be famous. I think that would be exciting for a week then get old.

Maybe I feel like I both deserve and need to be heard. But that comes back to ego, doesn't it?

Other people manage to write without the compulsion of being compensated or published. Brian does and I think he's a vastly more talented writer than I am. My friends Mark, Sara and Jen are at least my equals, though likely it's my own ego downplaying their writing talents to make myself feel good. My buddy Neil has been vastly more disciplined and equally as talented in his blogging with no intention of trying to become rich or famous (though I say that without certainty...maybe he does). Each of them is, however, satisfied just writing for themselves. But for me, it's not enough I guess. I share this dream with Mike Winchell, an amazingly talented writing and editor well on his way to fulfilling his dream. We went to high school together, though we never met. (Easy to do in a building with 3,000 people in it.) Yet we've become brothers in arms thanks to the internet. I'm rambling a bit and maybe because I don't have a satisfactory answer to why I want so badly to be published. In the end, I guess it just boils down to the fact that I just do...and maybe that's enough of a reason for me. And maybe it's not reason enough for someone else. In the end it doesn't matter the reason, I suppose. All I know is that in the end I write because I simply can't not write.

So as Brian says, "Do the work."

Let's go write.

1 comment:

Neil Richard said...

I'd love to be rich and famous. Or even just one of them. But in the end, I'm really just trying to leave a permanent mark on the world in some form or fashion. And I think we all strive, to some degree, to leave a legacy behind. We just don't get to choose what that legacy will be. So we just push through with whatever makes us happy and live our lives as best as we can.