15 minutes of wasted sun on my face
Every now and again, I feel the urge to write about writing. Don’t worry, this isn’t one of the articles where a writer you’ve never heard of gives tips on how to be a well-known writer. If anything, this is an article giving tips on how to stay unknown and why this is a sound policy.
You’ll note I did not call myself an author. I’m not an author. An author is someone who earns money by telling rather engrossing stories in great detail. Writers earn nothing because they tell stories in the same way a painter paints a house. When the house is done he can’t consider himself a painter… just a man who put paint on a house.
This might sound a bit vague, but as Justice Byron White so famously observed about pornography, “I can’t define it but I like to rub my dick when I see it.”
This dovetails quite nicely into mentioning that numerous critics have less-famously observed that my writing usually seems like I’m just jerking off.
I guess I am. And I’m doing it proudly. A pride that grows with every magazine or website I see with a smiling author simply bursting with enthusiasm at the thought that someone might read their works. They sit there stewing in their mock-humility, every second before someone asks them to tell them a little bit about their book seeming a million lifetimes. Their face frozen in a smile that they have no doubt spent hours practicing in front of a mirror at home, a smile that says “This is the story I was born to tell,” as if that will make the book any less unbearable.
I’ve never written anything that felt like I was born to write it. In fact, there are usually quite a few things suggesting I don’t write it all… good taste and common decency being just a couple of them.
I can’t help feeling that at least a few of you are still hung up the fact I said that a painter isn’t a painter. You might even be someone who puts paint on houses, seething with resentment at the fact that I’ve never even asked to see some of the reclining nudes, pastoral landscapes and bowls of fruit that litter your basement studio.
You paint houses and I write dumb stories. End of story.
Well, not quite. In fact, putting the phrase “end of story” smack dab in the middle of the story is a sure way to identify me as pornographic.
I read somewhere, in a magazine filled with articles that make this blog look like Dostoyevsky, that you’re supposed to get at least fifteen minutes of sun on your face every day so I thought I’d take a walk and see if I could get a good idea for a story. I present Exhibit A that the walk was unsuccessful. Along the way there is a bench that faces a major highway so I sat and watched countless people roaring by on their way from one place to another. An author would have returned to his desk with a great novel about the highway as a metaphor or some epic travel adventure but before I could come up with any such heady stuff, I was distracted by a beetle flying by and trying to land on a leaf.
It hovered and made a few passes as if he meant to make them but it was clear by the way his little legs lurched out every time he got close that the terrible truth was that he was a crappy flier and an even worse lander. Finally, he managed to plop down at his destination and before I could examine him any further and make some poignant observation about how his destination wasn’t really where he meant to be, along came another beetle doing the same bad job of flying. Just like his winged predecessor, he crashed around while before managing to grab enough leaf to haul himself to a complete stop. “Beetles are such a joke,” I said contemptibly.
Then I lifted my eyes and for a split second all the drivers in all the cars and trucks whizzing by were beetles.
Before you rush to my defense and point out that the last two paragraphs might be considered poignant by a fourteen-year-old girl or a middle-aged folk singer, I should point out that after re-reading such a mundane thought, I can’t help but feel I should be downgraded from a writer to a beetle.
End of story again.