Does Anyone Really Want to READ About a Writer?

It was a little “slice of life vignette,” a bit of self-conscious dialogue stuck between humorous, unlikely, and cliché – spoken between oddly-named characters in a stereotypical café – yet my creative writing professor’s only criticism was, “Nobody wants to read about writers.” Imagine my fleeting resentment when Stephen King’s Misery skyrocketed to fame and fortune.

It was an impromptu, academic exercise. But, given time, I thought, those oddly named characters would have cooked up some mischief, left that café, and embarked on adventures worthy of a bestseller.

Thus stifled, Maury and his girlfriend Michael never left their seats. They are stuck in an imaginary coffee house, doomed to a half-life of banal banter, forced to smile precious little shy smiles across the rims of kitschy mugs of bottomless, bitter coffee. Their long-suffering waiter is unamused, but I amuse myself by mentally giving him the face of my creative writing professor.

If you imagine that writers are constantly sizing you up, trying to figure out whether you will be the protagonist or the villain of their next brilliant work, you are partly correct. Generally, it’s not you we want to ensconce or abuse on the page – merely a mannerism or a turn of phrase, an accent or an accessory, a habitual quirk that we plan to steal. You needn’t worry – or brag – that we have made you the centerpiece of our imaginary drama. You might, however, refrain from idly scratching things in public.

If you prick us, do we not bleed? Of course we do – we bleed ink all over the pristine page. We stab you back with our pointy-nibbed fountain pens, and the more creative the next demise, the more you understand the depth of our contempt. Never fear – most of us have a deep well of magical wishes from which to draw the cards of our characters’ karmic fates, and would never willingly do jail time over anything you might do to annoy us.

We are sometimes caught between the desire to create and the desire to eat. Few of us aspire to the Bohemian lifestyle, except somewhere in the coldwater garret flat that exists (we hope) only in our imaginations. We go there often enough that it is nice to return to a home with central air and a flat screen TV, and something a bit more modern than a typewriter on which to practice our beloved art. This requires a thing called a “day job.” With luck, it is not soul-killing and lifeless.

I will admit that my former professor had a reasonable point; our characters tend to lead far more glamorous, intriguing lives than we writers do. Especially when we’re merely living comfortably well – neither struggling to earn our bread nor struggling to find ways to spend it all before we die. And yet, there is a certain mystique – mostly manufactured in the fevered imaginations of aspiring writers – there really seems no shortage of interest in the lives of writers.

Mystery writer C. Hope Clark, featured this week on Patricia Stoltey’s blog, writes, “Maybe we hope that duplicating the schedule of a successful author will infuse an extra dose of success in our own. Maybe we just need to feel part of a family, the family of authors. Or we dream of being that full-time writer and wonder what it’s like.”

I’ll tell you what it’s like. It’s like moving to Daytona Beach when you’re thirteen, full of fond vacation memories, never once stopping to think about how life is not vacation. Vacation is just a little bubble suspended in time, where we declare ourselves free – liberated from the ordinary, humdrum, daily doldrums of laundry, grocery shopping, and applying butt to chair to put in the work. It isn’t a whole life, with its rich tapestry of people and experiences to draw from, in a palette that ranges from gray, wispy clouds and muddy autumn leaves to sparkling flashes of faceted emerald and fiery opal. Vacation is just that slice of life vignette, set on a warm, sandy beach covered in oddly shaped people, punctuated by the shrimp-envy squabbling of gulls wrestling over a wadded-up ball of white bread tossed into the brilliant blue sky by a twelve-year-old’s hand.

Life, for the writer, is the other fifty weeks of the year it takes to capture that on the page.

 

HollyJahangiri

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; Innocents & Demons; and A New Leaf for Lyle. You can find her books on Amazon at http://amazon.com/author/hollyjahangiri. For more information on her children's books, please visit http://jahangiri.us/books.
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18 thoughts on “Does Anyone Really Want to READ About a Writer?”

  1. I admire writers and good writing. It’s a skill I wish I would at least attempt once in a while but there’s a bit of an artificial barrier that I tend to avoid crossing over. Maybe I’m afraid of the structure and rules of writing, knowing that I’ll violate basic rules of good writing without even realizing it. Maybe it’s just the thought of getting lost in edits, or just coming up with something interesting to write about.

    1. Dear Todd. How do you think I feel about painting? If I can dabble in art, you can surely dabble in writing. Will you win a Pulitzer for your rough drafts? Let me put that another way – do you value our friendship? 😀 Try it. Play. Writing is wordplay. Have FUN. Let me be, for you, what you’ve been, for me, when it comes to modern art. The demystifier. Write to me about that barrier as if it were a physical obstacle you found in the middle of the night, and it won’t let you out of wherever you found yourself until you grab a pencil and solve the puzzle or smash your way through it. (I don’t care which approach you take – just try to describe it as you’d paint it. Play with words.) Barring that, you must paint it for me. For free. 😛

  2. “a warm, sandy beach covered in oddly shaped people, punctuated by the shrimp-envy squabbling of gulls” OMG, I wish I’d written that!

    Okay, you must get those peeps out of the coffee shop and dump them on the beach at midnight. And there’s a gull. AT NIGHT.
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  3. RE: “Nobody wants to read about writers.” Imagine my fleeting resentment when Stephen King’s Misery skyrocketed to fame and fortune.
    AND THE MOVIE WAS HORRIFYING! BUT: King, altho I do NOT like his stuff, is a VERY GOOD writer. SEE, I get enough GORE from this weird Blonde, who writes. KING, would be OVERKILL!

    RE: If you prick us, do we not bleed? Of course we do – we bleed ink all over the pristine page.
    BANDAIDS! AISLE ONE! SAY, ANYBODY GOT A FOUNTAIN PEN?
    Now, she will write a story about an author who used an obnoxious Reader man’s heart blood to write her next story…… It might be a best seller, too……

    But let me say this:
    Well, it may be easier than writing about a reader….. (Maybe I should just take my wit and go. I really am witty. Well, I am half right about it. Think about what that means…. ) 

    RE: Vacation is just that slice of life vignette, set on a warm, sandy beach covered in oddly shaped people, punctuated by the shrimp-envy squabbling of gulls wrestling over a wadded-up ball of white bread tossed into the brilliant blue sky by a twelve-year-old’s hand.
    Life, for the writer, is the other fifty weeks of the year it takes to capture that on the page.
    NOW THAT, YES THAT WIS QUITE A PICTURE. WELL WRITTEN TOO. YA KNOW, YOU SHOULD PUT THAT IN A STORY….. ADD IN ENOUGH BIRDS, OR ANGRY BEES, AND IT BECOMES HITCHCOCKIAN….. SHUDDER. OR, OR, YOU COULD GIVE IT A NICE ENDING…..
    “Little Holly, dug playfully in the sand. The ancient lamp that she found, she thought, might actually have a genie in it. Well, she took it off under the privacy of the beach umbrella. She rubbed. The Genie came out… (I BETTER LET A REAL AUTHOR FINISH THE STORY!)

    1. Yeah, the way you tell it, someone’s gonna need to open the umbrella. 😉 Thank you, Pete, for the kind words. I followed your witty repartee, and it would be most unkind of me to say that I saw exactly where you were going with it, so I will just say that I am more of a “skull half full” sort of gal, than a “skull half empty” one. 🙂

      1. Maybe the Genie fixed you up with a decent job, a great husband, cool friends, and a pest. But them I am King of the Nuisances! (Hey! Three out of four is not bad, and the 4th one comes in handy at times!)

        But, since this is Holly at age 8, I envision a doll, an ice cream cone, and a cool drink being on the wish list.

        Meanwhile, at age 50, Holly wakes up from a dream. “Gash Darn it on toast….” she says, as she pokes her long suffering hubby. “I coulda wished for a dozen more wishes as my third wish!” The poor man, hopelessly confused, as often happens when you have a Blonde around, and just woken up from a dream where he was fishing, mumbled “Of course, dear!” Then he rolled over and went back to snoring.

        Query: Genies always give 1 or 3 wishes. Why never 4 or 5? I must be a greedy wisher. (There is a story there, too, about the greedy wisher, whom the genie taught a lesson to.)

  4. Hmmm… not sure which question or comment to address, so I’m just going freestyle… as I usually do.

    Do people want to read about writers? Of course we do! Wasn’t that the premise of Murder She Wrote? Ellery Queen, both a writer and crime solver? Aren’t we enamored with J K Rowling as much as her books (okay, I am, so everyone else better be!)? Hasn’t your aforementioned Stephen King become as much of a celebrity as a writer?

    Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s move to the other point. I view most of my life as a story, something that might become worthy of writing about. I try to remember most details, then make up the names later because I can’t remember names for some stupid reason. Often when I leave a new encounter I might say something like “This will be interesting to write about later”, and I wonder if those people ever believe me… even when I’ve done it (though almost none of them ever see it lol). That’s just who we are… and Taylor Swift’s made uber millions off it.
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  5. Of course (I hope), because I just spent 15 years writing about three characters (and publishing first book), and the main one is a writer.

    No one has complained about this. The other two are actors – and no one has complained about that, either.

    You just have to make the writer fascinating. People tell me they love her. I gave her a lot of stuff to work out. I even let you read what she’s writing (which sounds like writer*squared boring).

    It came to me in a fell swoop; you don’t mess with those things: you write them.
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