The Writing on the Wall
How many of you have a favorite book? You all do, I'm sure. Fine, some of you don't have a favorite book because you could never narrow down the endless literature that has accumulated over the course of human history to one volume that you could single out as your favorite. I mean, how could you possibly choose between The Iliad, Catcher in the Rye, and Everybody Poops?
Take a moment to think of your favorite book. What do you think about? Perhaps the story hits close to home and you can relate deeply to the main character and the problems he is dealing with in his daily life. Or maybe you learned a valuable lesson about yourself or the world told through the eyes of a fictional character. There are probably some of you who just love the story and your favorite book take you to a faraway place or on an exciting adventure that provides a temporary escape from the stresses of real life. All of these things are perfectly valid and wonderful reasons to celebrate your favorite book. But do any of you think about the author and the process to write such an inspiring, exciting, educational, or thought-provoking piece of prose or poetry?
I guess it was in my early 20s when I first had the inkling to write a book. The problem is I didn't know what to write. I've never thought of myself as a talented writer. Words were never something that came easily to me. Numbers, on the other hand, always worked in my brain. I remember being very young riding in the floorboard of my parents old station wagon when we lived in Georgia (I guess safety and seat belts were optional back then) doing my sister's math homework. For those that don't know my sister is six years older than I am. My best guess is that I was doing 6th or 7th grade math homework when I was in kindergarten or first grade. Numbers came easy for me but words were a bit more challenging.
Like I said before I seemed to go on a braggadocios rant about how good I was at mathematics, I never had a story to write but felt the allure of writing a book. Over the next 15 years or so I started a few but none of them really came to fruition. Probably because even when I was writing those first two or three paragraphs or trying to outline the plot of the story it always seemed pedestrian. All my story ideas were simply rehashing other stories that I had read or movies I had seen in the past. Nothing I could come up with seemed unique or interesting so I'd put that story aside and start on something else. Maybe I should write a movie script instead? Nope, those ideas were remakes of everything I've seen. How about a book of poetry? Not really a good idea considering the volume of verses I've produced. Why couldn't I come up with a unique idea?
Fifteen years later it finally occurred to me. I didn't want to write a book. I didn't even want to really write a movie or a TV show. I was enamored with the lifestyle of the writer that I built up in my head. I wanted to be Ian Fleming sitting on the porch of his estate in Jamaica, Goldeneye, banging away on the keys of his old typewriter, smoking cigarette after cigarette from that long cigarette holder, and drinking too much Scotch while creating his tales of James Bond. I didn't really have a story to tell I just wanted to spend my winters in a beautiful home in Key West and a cabin in Wyoming, hunting deer and elk in the summer while fishing for marlin in the winter, again banging away at my typewriter while drinking Scotch but skipping the shotgun like Ernest Hemingway.
In reality, that isn't the lifestyle of a writer. Just like any other job, writing is hard work and long hours. We have pictures of Hemingway hunting, fishing, and serving during war time. There is video of Fleming talking about life in Jamaica and his time serving in Naval Intelligence for the British during World War II. But those pictures and video are just moments in time. Snapshots. What aren't shown are the hours and hours spent grinding away in front of the keys of an unforgiving typewriter. Weeks and months of doing nothing but focusing on creating and shaping a story until it is exactly what they want it to be. Writing a chapter. Reading a chapter. Realizing the chapter is terrible and rewriting it again. Hundreds of story ideas started then discarded because it wasn't good enough then starting all over again.
Writing is hard work. Creating a book, novel, short story, movie, TV show, or poem takes time and dedication. If you want to be an artist, be an artist, but don't do it for the wrong reasons. Don't become a writer because you fancy the lifestyle of Ian Fleming. Don't become an actor because you want big mansions and lots of money like a Nicholas Cage or Lindsey Lohan. Don't become a painter because you want the cool, hip, mysterious fame of a Banksy. Become these things because you love the art and are willing to work hard to share your art. You probably won't become rich, you probably won't become famous, but you will be doing what you love with will lead to a happy life.
Or if you're good with numbers you can become an accountant that writes a blog for fun.