I spoke with a man about my writing only to find out he too wrote. While I’d toiled away for three years to finish my first novel, he shared his account of his twenty year tome that chronicled a secret life of love at first sight, unexplored all these years out of shyness and shame.
He’d tripped while jogging and bumped into a girl. As he struggled to break his fall, their lips touched and he said he felt he knew her inside and out in that momentary accidental kiss. From then on he watched her from afar in school, rarely speaking with the woman he felt too familiar with already. He wrote about it regularly over the next two decades, and he told me of their chance encounters over those years. They’d both joined the military and both spent time stationed in Germany, though not at the same facility. He bought a ring and thought to propose to her, but never found the courage. I asked him what ever happened to the ring after all those years. He reached for his lunch box to show me. “I still have it,” he answered.
Now he and his wife shift between living as strangers and enemies in their household and his daydreams return to the love that might’ve been.
“When will you finish writing it?” and “Have you begun searching for a publisher?” I asked.
He looked at me, puzzled. “I hadn’t thought of publishing it,” he answered.
“Why write it, then?”
“I don’t know,” he answered as his eyes glazed over and his mind drifted off.
So I realized, not everyone writes to be read, some don’t have a story to share, rather a burden to unload.
Others write and write and write; all in the hopes of getting published. I read their stories and groan inside. Their tale is a flurry dynamic inactivity, with characters as devoid of depth as any poster-board cutout advertising a movie. I can’t help but wonder, “Why’d you write this?” Though I keep this pointed question to myself, our conversation reveals the answer.
“Vampire stories are selling these days,” they’ll say with a rabid dazzle in their eyes. “They’re what’s hot.” And they look at me as though I should know; my finger should be on the pulse of the publishing world if I’m serious about getting published. I realize, they seek fame, fortune, and what they might mistake for an easy buck; plucking away at their laptop at home, in their jammies.
Fame? Fortune? Easy money? Talk with any high school football star who missed out on a scholarship and subsequent professional career. Ask any band member playing in your local bar how easy the money is or how they deal with fame?
Some of those conversations will end in tears or a stream of expletives. The odds of becoming the next great author rank up there with any other profession. And if you’re in it for the wrong reasons you’ve likely cut your chances in half.
So why do I write? I love a good story and dream of being able to tell one. I enjoy the kinds of entertaining yarns that also make me think about issues relevant to the world around me and hope to share a few painful lessons while offering a thrill here and a tear there.
Am I plucking away at my laptop in my jammies? You bet, but only when my marriage, full time job, and daily chaos allow.