Thursday, September 6, 2012

How To Be A Writer. 2.

Today someone sent me an email asking if his wife would like my book.

How do you respond to that? (By you, I mean me, obviously.) How do I know? Maybe she only likes romance, or is a 50 Shades sort of person (in which case . . . oh, never mind). Maybe she will, maybe she won’t. I can’t be so pinheaded as to not realize that there may be people who have read it and don’t like it – they just don’t tell me about it afterwards. Far as I know, everyone loves it and it should be a bestseller.

(No, it’s not, but publishing being what it is, things are what they are.)

(By the way, I hate clich├ęs such as, “things are what they are,” “at the end of the day,” “where’s my machete when I need it?”)

This is the same guy who a week ago expressed some amazement that the book has done as well as it has. Really? You need to say to someone, “I’m just surprised it’s done as well as it has.”

This from someone who knows me only from an email list and hasn’t read any of my work. I just said, “Eh,” and moved on. This is what you do with comments like that, unless you want to engage in a discussion of everything you stand for. I wanted to respond, “And I am surprised that you’re still breathing. I can’t imagine the amount of thought you must put into staying alive every day.”

But I didn’t.

After today’s question about whether or not his wife would like it (in which my response was, “I don’t know, other people seem to,”) he responded again with this gem:

“I guess I was just thinking that if it wasn’t nice to the psych health care field she might not like it, but then again that doesn’t seem likely. I’ll pick up a copy in the next week or so.”

Yes. My entire point was to be nice to members of a profession to the exclusion of telling the actual story. Or, alternatively,

No, my entire point was to be mean to members of a profession to the exclusion of telling the actual story.

Sheesh. People. I hadn’t actually considered whether I was being nice or mean to people in the psych health field because that’s not what it’s about. It’s about friendship, and finding hope when it seems there is none. It’s also about what we’re willing to do to save others. Those are the themes. Mental illness is just the backdrop.

It’s an important backdrop, but there it is all the same. I wish people in the psych field would read it. Or students studying in that field, because it’s a real-life case study of what happens without a safety net, and a first-person account of what is actually in the head of someone with mental illness, someone who’s desperately trying to put his life back together.

Some days I want to move on, but then I realize I really do want people to know this story, so I press on with talking about it.

When you’re a writer, you have options. You can write about anything and there’s a niche for it. And if there isn’t, you can make one for yourself, if you can find enough people interested in what you’re writing about. You can put as much of yourself into your work as you want. Sometimes I write to entertain, and sometimes I write to inform, and sometimes I write because otherwise my head will explode.

My husband has asked that I please not explode. It’s very difficult to get brain out of the carpets.

The choice is ours. Some people who have read the book feel like they know me, and that’s all right with me. (Though they could email me more often – it wouldn’t hurt to keep in touch.) I didn’t hold back, and this is a story that’s so very important to me.

When we write, we take little pieces of ourselves and we stick it on the paper, and we hope people like what we’ve done with it. Our writing is not us, and we have to keep ourselves separate from it, but it is a part of us. So tend it with care and nurture it, and don’t give up on it, even when you’re certain that would be the best course of action.

I myself give up at least once a week, but then I keep going anyway. I don’t know if it’s because I’m slow to catch on or determined, but since the result is the same, it doesn’t matter. Ignore the people who want a nice little story that won’t offend anyone, and go with what you want to write. Use your own pieces of yourself.

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