Tuesday, August 28, 2007

(tapping microphone) Hey, is this thing on?

I figure if Mother Theresa can bare her true soul about not having faith, then so can I here.

Does anyone actually read this blog?

It says 0 on my site meter, since August 19th. That number sort of signifies what I am feeling at the moment.

Over two years ago, I met a really interesting writer. We met via a writing board on mediabistro.com. She had recently moved to Atlanta from Philly, and she didn't know many people here, etc. She liked my whacked out sense of humor, and I hers.

She sent me the e-bay listing for the Virgin Mary on Toast, and I knew I had found a kindred spirit. We met, once, after many false starts, and I really, really loved hanging out with her. We laughed a lot, over Sushi.

Well, this writer was feeling rather insecure, as well, about her own writing. She was working on a book about a bordello in Chicago, at the turn of the century. That piqued my interest. Her literary agent kept putting her off, concerning the book, which lead to much angst for my erstwhile writing comrade.

So much so, that she sent me two sample chapters to read, to get my opinion. That's always a tricky thing with me, because what if it is truly crappola? How do you tell someone it's crap? I have a knack for spotting true talent. I have always been able to do so.

I'll listen to a singer or a band, way before they make it big, and I'll know that they will be the next best thing. Or, in the case of David Sedaris, I knew he was going to be big, right when he first started out. I sent him a letter to his address in NYC, and I still have the postcard he sent back to me, from he and his partner's place in France. It was hilarious.

Anyway, back to the Chicago bordello story.

I anticipated the chapters, and when I received them, I began to read, fully expecting it to be not-so-good.

It was quite the opposite. I was completely hooked, after two chapters. The prose crackled, which is hard to do, sometimes, when you are writing non-fiction. To me, only Doris Kearns Goodwin, David McCullough and David Hallberstam(R.I.P.), have truly been able to make historical non-fiction exciting.

So, I wrote back to my new writer 'pal' and told her that I knew that the book would be published and that she had nothing to worry about at all.

We planned to get together over and over, however, I would wait to hear from her on the day we were meeting for lunch, and she never called or emailed.

I would take the lead in emailing to find out what happened, and I would get an apology email about 'something coming up,' etc. I can deal with that excuse a couple of times, but after that, I have no patience with that sort of stuff.

So, the last time it happened--getting stood up--I just decided that I'm too old for games like that. I let it go, and went on with life.

Finally, she emailed me, with her apology, and begging me to let her have another chance. I decided not to do that, as at that point I felt like Charlie Brown and she was Lucy, holding the football in place.

I told her that I thought she was a fantastic writer, that her novel would be published, but I can't get into the whole, "Let's have lunch....oops, I'm going to stand you up," stuff. She wrote back, saying something about how she has issues, etc. We all do.

Her book did get published, and it is now on the NY Times Best Seller list. I wondered if I should even email her, but I felt good that I had spotted the talent and that the book was as good as I thought it would be.

She told me I was a funny writer, etc., but it's interesting that she's written for publications that I wish would even let me write classified ads.

So, a few months back, I received my Oxford American magazine, and this issue was devoted to up-and-coming southern writers. Lo and behold, there's a brief story on a friend from my high school. Natasha Trethewey was (and still is) a gorgeous, gorgeous girl, who embodied that rare combo of inner and outer beauty.

As well, she was so damn smart. We worked on the school newspaper together, and I would make her laugh a lot. It was always fun to see her laugh really hard.

I was a year ahead of her, and when I went to college, I heard disturbing news that her mother's husband--Natasha's stepfather--murdered her mother. She was 19, I believe.

Anyway, Natasha is a respected poet, who has written about slavery, New Orleans, Katrina, etc. To top it off, she won the 2007 Pulitzer for Poetry.

How do I keep getting together with, or knowing such writers, but yet I can't seem to write worth a damn?

Sounds a bit selfish, I know, but I'm going to be 42 in November, and all I can seem to get published are second-rate articles, for second-rate trade journals, etc.

I can't even get Creative Loafing--every Journalism student, who graduates, writes for CL right out of college--to even respond to my queries.

I worked a research job at The Atlanta Business Chronicle, around Thanksgiving/Christmas last year, talked to the managing editor about writing for them. She was completely for it. Then, suddenly, I never heard back from her and when I inquired, she said she wasn't interested.

So, I thought I'd start blogging, just to give myself an outlet, but I don't even think these posts are even compelling enough to keep anyone reading.

Don't get me wrong. I am so happy for both of these writers. It's just that I'm approaching middle-age, and I've struggled and looked for any open door, when it comes to my writing, and it just doesn't happen for me.

That either means I completely suck as a writer, or that my lot in this life is to be a mediocre hack.

It's painful for me--no matter how selfish and vain it sounds--to watch all of this and know that no matter how hard I try, I'm just not a good writer.

It doesn't take talent to write about a petroleum and convenience store expo, which I am headed to today, in Macon. Any monkey can do it

Speaking of monkeys...

Right now I really feel the after-effects of the monkey eating my five dollars, so long ago.

Both of the writers I have written about here will be at the Decatur Book Festival this weekend. I haven't decided if I am going to go or not. On one hand, I want to cheer them on and give Natasha a big hug, but on the other hand, I have this feeling that I'm going to shatter into tiny little pieces after seeing them.

Maybe it's time to just realize that I'm meant to stay in the shadows of others. Maybe I'm the Willie Loman of writers, period.

What was the great line that his wife angrily says in his defense? "Attention MUST be paid."

Even better--I feel like John Kennedy Toole right now. In many ways, my life has mirrored his. If you don't know who he is, look him up.

He was a brilliant and funny writer, who won a Pulitzer only after he shot and killed himself. He shot and killed himself, because an editor told him that his book wasn't any good, etc. He died thinking he was just a hack.

Irony, irony, irony.

Not that I would even consider suicide, however I understand the feelings. Oddly enough, the character I most identify with is Miles from the film, "Sideways."

I think the screenwriter sums it what I feel like, in this scene. It's brilliant, and I yelled out "YES" in the theatre when this scene was shown:

Miles Raymond: Well, the world doesn't give a shit what I have to say. I'm not necessary. Had. I'm so insignificant I can't even kill myself.
Jack: Miles, what the hell is that supposed to mean?
Miles Raymond: Come on, man. You know. Hemingway, Sexton, Plath, Woolf. You can't kill yourself before you're even published.
Jack: What about the guy who wrote Confederacy of Dunces? He killed himself before he was published. Look how famous he is.
Miles Raymond: Thanks.
Jack: Just don't give up, alright? You're gonna make it.
Miles Raymond: Half my life is over and I have nothing to show for it. Nothing. I'am thumbprint on the window of a skyscraper. I'm a smudge of excrement on a tissue surging out to sea with a million tons of raw sewage.
Jack: See? Right there. Just what you just said. That is beautiful. 'A smudge of excrement... surging out to sea.'
Miles Raymond: Yeah.
Jack: I could never write that.
Miles Raymond: Neither could I, actually. I think it's Bukowsky.


Well, I'm off to Macon for my exciting assignment!!!


Nicholodeon said...

Hi Min
I read your blog regularly, but don't usually comment because even when I come across a superbly written, engaging, enticing piece of writing 'out here' I don't send a note to the author. I just go away and savour the beauty.

So what do I learn from your current posting? To express appreciation for things well done, or badly done, or done at all. I can't comment on your style etc but on how your writing affects me.

It brings to me a sense of hope...an awareness that excellence is still rampant in a world which seems to value second-rate, frayed and tattered offerings. 'Why do my best when I can get away with 51% and management won't care.'

Your writing also triggers my thoughts, dreams, meanderings, I go away with something I can carry inside. Something that doesn't have calories, too.

As an artist I long ago decided I will draw and paint what pleases me. To paint cute, woebegone cats on velvet that sell in trailer parks is for me to prostitute myself. Occasionally, what I paint sells, and I experience a sense of gratitude. But the fulfilment comes in the painting of the work.

I suspect you could 'write to sell'. That doesn't bring fulfilment, but rather, as you indicate, a sense of disappointment, of failure when no one buys.

Again, I don't judge the quality of my blog by the number of postings it attracts...it is not designed to appeal to everyone. I use it to express my disagreement or agreement with certain things going on in the world.

The act of writing crystallises my thought for me. And even if no one reads it, my thoughts are potentially available for whoever might blog through.

When you write about your self doubt as so beautifully expressed in this current blog, you 'name the beast' and in so doing, I believe, you gain control of it just as the Princess gains control over Rumpelstiltskin when she names it. And how is the act of creation carried out? By naming things.

This having been said, I ask do you have to compare yourself with the other two writers? When I do that, I either come out greater than or less than, rarely equal to.

Suggestion: Go to Decatur and 'confront' your demons, just as Mother Teresa did in her writing about lack of faith, or loss of faith. Self doubt is fine, and I indulge in it when my blood sugar is low...I think I am not afraid to do that, and it's healthier for me to explore these feelings rather than store them up somewhere.

I also have a blog for my pet Schnauzer, and it attracts quite a bit from other dog lovers. But my idea in this blog is to share with others my deep love of this little pet.

Well, Min, I hope this posting isn't too long, but I am doing it for myself as much as to respond to your question whether anyone reads your blog.

All the best.

The Lady Mistabel said...

Another thing, dollin, get rid of the stats device so that you won't be tempted to check it to see if no one has read your posting!

Little church guy said...

I too often wonder if anybody reads my stuff. My relatives say they do but leave no comments. Just as you did I put a counter to work. I noticed that each time I checked the counter advanced, so that I was never sure whether it was counting my visits or if somebody else was actually reading my stuff. I guess, in the end, it doesn't really matter. You have an opportunity to write your stuff and polish your prose which is really good.