Thursday, June 23, 2011


It Could Happen to You (film)

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But, I’ll be an exception I hear you think ( we authors have special powers , you know).

Perhaps. Could happen. But, let me tell you, it doesn’t happen that way for most of us – even if we have early successes.

Part of the reason is that it takes a truly incredible amount of time to become proficient at the core skills of writing; and part of the reason is that you just need time to build up experience of life; and learn to understand, and then communicate, its nuances and complexities. And then there is the business of dealing with agents and publishers. That requires the skills of a Sun Tzu combined with the pragmatism of a professional hit man. And body armor for your back is strongly advised. Those people think treachery is just another form of socially acceptable behavior, are born stiletto in hand – which is why they naturally gravitate to publishing - and like to keep in practice. Many are charming.  Check out the sexual orientation of the target in question before making your move.

How much time are you talking about? Take a deep breath, sit down, and have some medicinal brandy at hand. Absinthe used to be all the rage, but that is no longer so popular since it shrank Toulouse Lautrec.

I’m talking decades. Those ten year things. A couple, possibly more of them. Marathons are easy in comparison. Writing is more akin to going on the Crusades, probably several times,and could well have the same casualty rate. Fortunately, chastity belts no longer come into the equation. When it comes to sex, we writers don’t do as well as poets and painters, but we do ok. In the interests of research, you understand. And sometimes that’s the only way you get to know what’s going on. Think of it as REE – Research, Espionage and Exercise. As for love, that’s why poets were invented.

But, how do you – we - keep going? We write a lot and while we are writing we don’t think of our problems. That’s the whole point. Better yet, after a while, when you’ve learned to get in the zone on demand, you will find the process both exhilarating and curiously calming. And then there is wine, the company of friends (who won’t understand you, but will support you in other ways), the pleasures of the sex you feel drawn to – and books. If you are going to learn to write, you have to read. A lot.

Any suggestions? Too many to list, but I will draw your attention to the Paris Review series of interviews with writers originated by George Plimpton. They’ll give you a taste of the world you are entering. And then there is Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast which will convey a pretty good sense of the emotional costs that accompany this very dangerous quest. It’s supposed to be non-fiction, though that is arguable, but, either way, it’s a beautiful book. And what finer purpose has a writer, but to create such a wonder.

All will be forgiven if you do – especially if you are dead.







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