Monday, May 19, 2014

Do you like to write? No. Oh, wait. Yes.

(Below is a compilation of two sets of questions from interviewers that have come my way recently.  I like the questions because they allow me to self assess without a lot of soul searching.  Some of the questions are from an interview for:“View from the Empty Nest”

What are you working on?
I don’t know what I’m working on. My thinking is not linear so it’s impossible to pinpoint what I’m working on.   In the most encompassing sense, I’m working on understanding how the heck life works because I believe there is a reliable way that it works and if we discover the formula we can use it to our advantage.

How does your work differ from other writers in your genre?
I don’t have any one genre.  I’ve written memoir, novels, monologue, blog, advertising copy. My work differs from my own work.  The closest to my present sensibility is a novel titled One Hundred Open Houses.  If you read that book and read my blog it will be obvious they are written by the same person.  My most successful novel is a historical generational saga that is like nothing else I’ve written.  I hardly believe I am capable of writing that way but there it is with my name on it.

Why do you write?
I have two insatiable needs.  I need constant approval (I only found this out recently) and I want to find out who the heck I am.  Writing is the delivery system I have chosen to satisfy those needs.  By the way, I haven’t made any progress. None at all but it’s too late to start on a different system.

What is your writing process?
I’m ashamed of my writing process.  It is spotty and whimsical.  I’m sorry I used the word whimsical because it connotes a certain charm and my writing process has not one iota of charm.  I write at my whim is what I meant to say.  Sometimes guilt plays a part.  I don’t know why people are so down on guilt – if it weren’t for guilt I’d never get anything done.  Guilt is the big mover and shaker of the world.  Let it be.

Do you like to write?
Anyone who tells you they love writing is lying or demented. You have to shut off all the fun stuff and get down to business in a serious way.  Sometimes a long walk or a long shower will flood me with ideas for a current project or for a new project and I rush to the computer.  Seldom are these ideas reliable but they do get me to sit down and often lead to something solid. The writing monkey chose me a very long time ago and he/she is still on my back. I don’t have a say in the matter.  If I’m not writing, I don’t feel worthwhile. (I also don’t feel worthwhile if I AM writing.)

What about writing humor?
People are too enamored of humor.  When women describe the man of their dreams, humor is always at the top.  Really?  Funny men seldom make a lot of money.   Humor is peculiar and very personal.  Humor has been sold to us as something valuable like arugula or cilantro.  I hardly ever laugh out loud and I hardly ever laugh when I’m alone.  Sometimes physical humor (someone falling down, etc.) makes me laugh. The book that far outsells all of the others, Daughters, doesn’t have one funny line.

Is writing humor difficult?
Writing humor is not hard if you are willing to showcase the very worst things about yourself.  Think of it this way:  you are getting paid and/or admired for your faults.  If you have a colossal blind spot about housekeeping, lying, eating, hoarding, etc. and can manage to discuss it as if it is a secret virtue you share with your reader, you will do well with humor. 

What’s the worst part of being a writer?
When people know you are a writer they will say, “Would I have read anything you’ve written?” You should simply say “No.”  The alternative is to recite a laundry list of everything you’ve written (did you read that ad I wrote for Macy’s for electroplated charms?) and wait like a schlump for the person to recognize a title.  Where is the payoff here?  There is no payoff. This is a lose/lose situation.  My advice?  Never tell anyone you are a writer.  By the way the second question is always: Have any of your books been made into movies? Always say yes.  And when they ask the title just fill in one of Johnny Depp’s movies.

So far you have made being a writer sound simply horrid.  Do you get any pleasure out of it at all?
No.  Oh, wait. Yes.  I get pleasure from writing my blog.  I see my blog as the present the writing monkey has given me for sticking around all these years.  In a way, writing a blog is a little like being a copywriter at a big department store (my first writing job). If you write a good ad, you see the customers rushing in to buy the merchandise the next day.  They are confirming that you wrote a convincing ad.  With blogging, the readers and followers weigh in the next morning also to let you know that you have mirrored their lives or given them a chuckle or share a very human fault.  

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Revenge of Chucky

You know how weird things happen and you don't know why?  My blog has decided to take charge of things and is now sending out random older posts without my knowledge or permission.

What did I just hear you say?  Maybe I hit something or did something or blew on something in a senior moment and brought this on myself?  Yes I am in a daze because the Polar Vortex has paused long enough for a day of sun and warmth but I would remember intentionally seeking out an older post.

Here's where it gets interesting.  The blog selected an entry from December titled "A Medically Induced Concussion," a post that talked about miraculous abilities brought on by accidental concussions.

Perhaps my blog had an accidental concussion and now has the ability to do anything it wants without my intervention.  I would be more than happy to be the owner of a self-propelling blog because in truth, I agonize over every post.  Often I have poster's remorse and wish I could take everything back.  But I am more afraid of Chucky's intentions than I am of making a fool of myself by divulging my inner thoughts.

If you continue to get old entries and I have to shut this blog down, please don't abandon me. I will spring up again in some other place and get in touch.  I really like writing this blog.  I am devoted to all of the like-minded friends I've made over four years.  Fingers crossed it's just an aberrant glitch that will sort itself out.

Behave yourself, Chucky.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Happiness ensued.

I was in the middle of writing a blog post about the words “wretched and dismayed.”  I had read them in a book I was going to review (The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair) and realized that wretchedness is a strong focused emotion and crowds out all but its own pain.  You experience your day through the dark velvet curtain of despair.  I was explaining how that is preferable to the general unfocused malaise most of us experience that simply shrouds existence in an indefinable blahness.

When I have an indefinable blahness, I run to food and say, “I have a general malaise, will you comfort me?” and food says, “Come here snookums, you need a hug.”  Contrary to Doctor Phil and Jillian Michaels, food can comfort you.  Really?  Of course, not.

Anyway, after a good snack of ciabatta bread and fresh mozzarella, I looked at my e-mail and there was a message in sepia tone that means my computer thought it was junk.  It even said to me, g-mail thinks this is junk.  Sometimes I get crazy comments on my blog from Russian robots and the subject line says, “there be many ideas to find.” Those e-mails are not only junk they will probably blow up your computer.  The subject line on this e-mail said:  Interest in Daughters. I thought:  either someone wants to marry my daughter (who is already married) or they like my book, Daughters.  I went up to the right hand corner of the computer and clicked “not junk.”

When I read the e-mail, I went into a catatonic stare – my usual reaction to good news - and stayed like that for a good two or three minutes.  Then I read the e-mail again.  Here’s what it said:  I’m an editor here at Amazon Publishing.  I’ve been reading the terrific reviews for DAUGHTERS and would love to consider it for our list. I see on your bio that DAUGHTERS has been translated into 15 languages--which is fantastic! I’m wondering if World rights are available.  If so, I’d like to give the book a read to see if it’s a good fit for our list.

I closed “Mail” and remained in a catatonic stare.  After a while I thought about how just minutes before I had considered the Great Zon (Amazon) an unreachable entity that resided in a galaxy far, far away.  And now?  It was as close as an e-mail.  The Mighty Zon was going to re-publish my book and use its marketing muscle to sell it.  Happiness ensued.