This past week I’ve heard from a lot of writer friends who are having a tough time, mostly with their writing. As one friend put it, “hard to write with all this treason.”
It got me to imagining a 911-type number for struggling writers. This service would be staffed by real authors, and it would go a little something like this…
Press 1 if your current work is the worst thing that has ever been written, nay, imagined in this or any other time period.
Operator: You’re special, but you haven’t written the worst book ever. I’m sure. Really sure. I just finished that book, last week. It was about a serial killer with multiple personality disorder who had a twin who was in law enforcement and they face off against each other only to discover that they are both figments of a disturbed teenager’s mind and that teenager has narcolepsy and…he falls asleep, so they’re both gone, forever. No, really. Plus, the author couldn’t get enough adverbs. If I had a penny for every word that ended with “ly” in that book, I could retire. Now, your book/poem/story/play/memoir isn’t that bad, is it? No. Of course not. But maybe put it away, for a few days. Go outside or watch a movie.
Press 2 if you’ve received a bad review.
Operator: You know how people tell you to imagine the audience naked when you’re nervous about talking before a crowd? That’s silly advice. It only makes you more nervous. However, I want you to imagine that the person who wrote you that bad review is naked, and they can never, ever put on clothes. Not even when they visit their in-laws in Missoula during the winter. And they have a terrible relationship to their in-laws, and let me tell you, this nudity thing isn’t going to win them any points. I’d tell you not to look at that bad review, but I know better. It’s like a sore tooth you keep poking with your tongue. What I ask you to do is imagine that reviewer, naked, forever. Oh sure, you can give ‘em a third nipple when you imagine him. Why not?
Press 3 if you have no idea how to fix what’s broken in your story.
Operator: What type of work are you writing? Short story? Okay. What’s it about? Mmm hmmm. I have Lorrie Moore here. Let me fetch her for you. You’re welcome.
Press 4 if you are battling a crippling bout of artistic envy.
Operator: What’s making you feel bad today? Uh huh. Oh, that award. Sure, sure. Who won? Hmm. Yes, well, it wouldn’t have been my choice, but that’s just the thing, it was that committee’s choice. It’s just their opinion. Another committee might’ve chosen you. Perhaps, in an alternate universe, they did. Did you know ice cream is on sale today? It’s a twofer. Do you like ice cream? Of course. Oh no, envy doesn’t make you a bad person. Not at all. Why today I was envying my fellow operator’s earphones and feeling bad because I can’t afford such a nice pair. It’s part of the human condition. You might want to use that to write something. Maybe a poem? Or a story. The thing about envy is, everyone can relate to it.
Press 5 if you think you’ve played out this blog idea as far as you can.
Operator: You have, sweetie. Now go take a nap.