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When Will Then Be Now?

October 6, 2010

While watching a recent episode of “The Simpsons” (I bet you all saw it, the one where Lisa goes to arts camp and falls in love with creativity and art), I remembered myself at a tenderer age, and how I used to feel about writing. Picture, if you will, that it is 1993: popular music doesn’t suck, two people can fit into one pair of jeans, and I’m ten and full of grand ideas about being a bohemian artiste. Now, fast forward to today: popular music…uh…let’s not even get into that, one person barely fits in their own pair of jeans, and I’m in my late 20s and writing has become less of an art and more of a business.

What the hell happened to me? Am I “older and wiser” or am I just cynical and burnt out on writing articles about parrots? Should I weep for my lost innocence or allow myself a proud grin of experience? I’m not really sure, but just for kicks I decided I would analyze how my attitude towards “the craft” has changed.

Then: I used to write a lot of poetry. It was pretty bad, actually, looking back on it now, but considering I was in sixth grade it could have been a lot worse. Fiction was not a great strength of mine; in fact, the idea of writing anything cohesive that was longer than a page or two scared the living crap out of me (ok, I have to pause for a second and say that “living crap” has to be one of the most disgusting phrases ever devised in colloquial English. For me, it conjures up a mental image of poo-monsters rising up from the sewers and staggering around on the hunt for corn. “Graaaains,” they moan. “Night of the Living Crap.” Yeah, there’s a horror movie that will never be made. I hope…). As for non-fiction…in those good ol’ days, I don’t think it occurred to me that there was such a thing. I mean, I knew how to write an essay and I read non-fiction books occasionally, but it never dawned on me that one could make a career out of writing that sort of thing. I guess I thought that non-fiction titles just sprang up by magic, like a form of literary spontaneous generation (In general, I think a lot of people think this way about writing. They have no idea where it comes from, they just take it for granted that some nerd out there is going to contribute accurate facts to Wikipedia. It’s like produce in a grocery store: no one knows where it came from, they just eat it.)

Now: I gave up on poetry a long time ago, after it had been proclaimed dead, resuscitated, and then proclaimed dead again after a brief convalescence. I gave up largely because I was finally forced to agree with this essay. The author, who is obviously a literate and thoughtful person, says that if people like him can’t find the time or inclination to study poetry, then no one can. And I had to agree, because I AM literate and thoughtful, and there are a huge number of unread poetry volumes on my bookshelves.  These days, I concentrate heavily on the work that pays me, which is all non-fiction. I feel guilty about taking “time off” to work on fiction instead, because fiction doesn’t pay. Working on a short story is like taking a vacation. A vacation packed full of demonic possessions and epic lawn gnome battles, but a vacation all the same.

Then: I read constantly. I even read during class, putting my book in my desk and quietly turning the pages. I can’t tell you how many times I got into trouble for READING in class (ok, so I wasn’t paying attention to the teacher, but at least I was doing something constructive). Reading was fun. It was an escape. If I got sent to my room for misbehaving, I was thrilled because my room was full of books and it meant I could sit and read uninterrupted for as long as I remained unapologetic for my behavior. I also read a lot of great classics, “serious” authors like Faulkner, Joyce, and Nabokov.

Now: I read very sporadically. Every once in a while I pick up a book and finish it in a day or two, and then I don’t pick up another one for months on end.  Reading is no longer as fun; it actually seems like work to me now, because it kind of is. And when I DO actually pick up a book, it is often fluffy. Not literally fluffy (well, maybe sometimes, if I haven’t dusted off the bookcase in a while), but fluffy in the sense of being fun and light-hearted and perhaps a bit low-brow: I read things like Terry Pratchett, Agatha Christie, and the Harry Potter books. I haven’t actually sunk to the sexy vampire level yet, but who knows? It might be just around the corner. That guy who plays the werewolf in the Twilight movies IS pretty hot.

Then: “I love language and I’m inspired by everything I experience!”

Now: “Must…make…quotas.”

Then:  “I don’t care about money, I’m an artist. Hey, mom, can I have twenty so I can go to the movies?”

Now: “We need groceries. I like money.”

It’s kind of sad how much things have changed, but at the same time I guess we all have to grow up eventually. The lack of passion really gets to me, though, because this is supposed to be my great dream come true. I grew up telling everyone that this is what I WANTED to do. If I were REALLY smart, I would have just kept writing as a hobby and not tried to turn my passion into my profession. I just keep hoping that someday in the not-too-distant future, I will have officially “paid my dues” and I can start writing fiction more prolifically again. Until that day, at least I have this blog.

Last year:  (said with disdain and mild disgust) “What do you mean, you think I should start a BLOG?”

Now: “I love you, blog.”

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One Comment leave one →
  1. LeslieRider.com permalink
    October 12, 2010 10:04 pm

    I liked this blog very much. It was very thoughtful and entertaining. And I must say I can relate to much of what you said.

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