A Novel Idea

I don’t even especially like reading novels. 

Before the Covid-19 outbreak, my normal pattern was to read two or three novels during the week and a half I’d go down to Florida every year, and maybe trudge through another half a novel over the other fifty weeks inside of a year. And yet, whenever I feel a sense of malaise or a lack of contentment with my working life, my brain always travels to this far off magical land of being a wealthy novelist. 

The story goes something like this: After waking up in the middle of the morning closer to lunchtime, and taking an hour to read the paper and drink my coffee, I sit down and give a concentrated two, maybe 2 1/2 hours of a creative burst of energy, dictating five or six thousand words for my latest tome in close succession. I then tend to social matters, maybe squeeze in a round of golf or a nap, and then it’s dinner time. Lather, rinse, repeat. 

Some days I would go on the radio and tell people why I think I’m so brilliant, and how I got to be so smart and creative, and give one of those self-righteous, finger wagging tutorials that only a baby boomer could possibly love, about the value of dedication, practice, and hard work. Oh, and making sure that you do “what you love” for a living, that’s the only way to go.  

I would then whisk away to a book signing at a local book shop, where a bunch of doe eyed fans would lavish me with praise, telling me how my latest magnum opus made them feel things that they thought they could not feel, and how my writing was an inspiration for them. 

Obviously, this kind of fantasy is just that: a fantasy. In truth it’s more a crock of shit than any sort of plausible fantasy. And yet it feels so warm and comfortable, like a blanket that just got taken out of the dryer. Who wants to sit in cold and damp reality when you can snuggle up to bullshit? 

And it’s not even that it’s unattainable. If my numerous failed novels have taught me nothing, it’s that actually writing an 80,000-word, cohesive narrative is—and you’ll have to brace for this one—a lot of fucking work! I know, who would have thought? Very few novelists (i.e., none) sit around on a Mac book in a coffee shop and look very self-important in between New York Times bestsellers. Those kinds of people who engage in that creative kabuki theatre, letting everyone see them right that next great screenplay, probably don’t amount to diddly squat.  

From my copyeditor Facebook page, I’ve met a lot of people who work as self-published novelists. That sounds like an even uglier, more disgusting way to make a living as a creative writer. Not only do you have the lack of certainty of a big publisher behind you, but also you need to hustle and sell your thing, and who’s buying a self-published novel from an unknown? Your parents, your friends, and the other associates whose arm you twist on Facebook. All of a sudden, I went from Ernest fucking Hemingway, to one of those “momtrepreneurs” I see online on my Instagram, trying to convince me that their latest pyramid scheme makes them a “business owner.” but they do that because it’s simply not a sustainable model that everyone who is creative and wants the right is going to be able to make money writing novels. 

But as I’ve talked about on this blog in another creative endeavors, you really lose a lot of charge and motivation to do things if the only reason why you’re doing it is money, absent any sort of passion or desire. And I don’t know that novel writing is really something that I’m excited about. My enjoyment of reading them is tenuous at best at this point in my life. Writing them is exhausting. And to be honest I kind of don’t want to do much of anything these days. 

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