|You really shouldn't leave the house, you know that?|
photo by Andrew Butitta via Flickr
I just got back from Publix and on the way home there was this song on the radio and I was, like, this song is so me. The lyrics went like this:
Oh ay ohhhhhh ayo ayo eh Yeaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh YehhhAH ahhhahhh Ahhhhhh, OOHHHHHHH Ohhhhhohohaoh Yeahhhhhhhhhh Yeahhhhhhhh ahhhahhhahhh Oooohhhhhhhhhh ohhhhhohohoah.
Seriously. Those are some of the lyrics, paraphrased of course. But, you must know the song. I'll find it for you before I leave. Anyway, truer lyrics have never been sung, I'm sure. So, now I'm sitting here at my desk (not the writing desk but the other desk) getting ready to--oh, hey, wait a sec--okay now definitely binge eating those tiny chocolate muffins from Publix. It's been a hard day, trust me.
I took part in a writers forum this morning and I showed up thinking it was going to be a panel discussion with questions from a moderator and the audience. As it turned out, each writer on the panel was going to speak for about fifteen minutes and then take questions.*
Right. Yeah. That's going to work out just fine for me. At least I got to go last. Then again, unfortunately, I had to go last. Naturally, what I said--my completely unplanned, unrehearsed speech--would be informed by what all the others had said before me. So, I will paraphrase for you, as well as I can, my ramblings this morning.
I'm yadda yadda. I write in a bunch of genres under all these pen names. I write downer fiction and romantic comedy, because the downer fiction is so depressing, I need some laughs after it. [This led me to get all moody and so I began...] I started writing very young as a way of trying to make sense of my world. I was raised by a woman with narcissistic personality disorder and a...well, I guess my father had a shrug disorder. His life has been just one long shrug. [Pretty sure I got some laughs there, maybe because of the body comedy that went along with it.] I remember writing a short story in fifth grade [may have said something about that story, but it's all a blur now.] and my father found it and read it and said it was really good. [At this point I think I tried to explain how that made me feel as a child. I don't think it went well.] The next Christmas my parents gave me an electric typewriter. The next memory I have of that typewriter [Did I say that? Very strange. It seems this speech has suddenly become about a typewriter.] was when I was a young adult. My father had left us [audible "aw"from the audience] and I was living with my mother. I wanted to go to a writers group but I was afraid to go alone so my mother went with me. At the end of the meeting, we all took pieces of paper from a bowl with phrases on them and we could write about them and bring them back next time. I got "red umbrella." So, I was at home later typing away, writing about the red umbrella when my mother came into my room and said, "Now, Dana. Don't you write anything that would upset those people."
I stopped writing the story, put away the typewriter, and never went back to that writers group again.
Hey, great story! Then I think I went on to talk about becoming a drunk and thinking that I was writing such great stuff only to come back to it sober to find out it was utter crap. Good times. Whoever said "write drunk, edit sober" was full of crap.**
Anyway, it wasn't all that bad of a speech. But at the end, I did talk about what an independent snot I am and about how I do it all myself. After all the other writers talked about how important it is to have an editor and a cover artist, etc. I stand up and say, "Forget that! I don't care what anyone thinks." Somebody called out, "Beta readers?" Like, seriously? You don't even use beta readers? And I'm like, no. Not me.
It's true, though. I just don't want any help from anybody. And where does that come from, do you think? It starts really young, I'll tell you that.
I remember once, as an adult, sending my father a short story I had written. I just sent it to him. I liked it. It was a pretty good story, and it was set in Asheville, where he grew up. I might have asked him what he thought of it. Well, he called me and wanted to come visit me. He showed up with my story, red-lined, sat me down, and proceeded to go through my story line by line telling me what was wrong with it and how I could fix it.
Another time, I gave my mother a book I'd been writing. This time, I did ask for some critical comments. Two weeks later, I went to her house to get my book back. She hadn't read it.
So, thanks Mom and Dad. It took me until I was an adult to realize that things work out a lot better if I just do them myself.
Anyway, this nice lady came up to me at the end of the meeting and she said, "Your father didn't leave you; he left her." And I said, well, he left the country, so what's the difference? Paraphrasing, of course. Then I think I said, "He's back now." As if that means anything. Still, it was kind of her to say. And she said a lot of other very kind things which made me feel like my speech maybe did something, good or bad. It was a speech.
So, note to self: when giving a speech in the future, go for the sad stuff. People will feel sorry for you and maybe buy a book.
*Now, this was totally my fault. It had been suggested by the organizer of the event that I go to a few of the other events to get a feel for the format. But I rarely leave the house, so it serves me quite right.
**We all seem to think that Ernest Hemingway said, "Write drunk, edit sober." But apparently he did not.
Still, I found this article about "science!" saying that there might actually be something to the idea. Rubbish! Rubbish I say. (I haven't read the article. If they're saying to write with abandon and then edit with a more logical mindset, then absolutely! But drunk? Not for me.)
Okay, here's the song.