But perhaps most damaging of all is our myth of the soul mate. We have certain expectations — nothing short of total emotional support from our spouses. We also require rocking sex, a perfect other half of the parenting team, and our go-to playmate. We expect to share everything in our lives with just this one person, and then we wonder where all the magic went. There’s no magic if there’s no mystery, and there’s no mystery if you are sharing space with your significant other every moment of every day. Add to that the instant buffet line of possible replacements that you can find on any dating website, and it’s no wonder people are finding it difficult to commit.
The idea that as a literary person there are a certain set of books you must read because they are important parts of the literary conversation is constantly implied, yet quite ridiculous. Once you get done with the Musts — the Franzens, Mitchells, Vollmanns, Roths, Shteyngarts — and then get through the Booker long list, and the same half-dozen memoirs everyone else is reading this year (crack addiction and face blindness seem incredibly important this year), you have time for maybe two quirky choices, if you are a hardcore reader. Or a critic. And then congratulations, you have had the same conversations as everyone else in the literary world.
Or, you could join me on the Dark Side aka the Side that Consists Almost Entirely of Quirky Choices (I’ll allow you one or two Must reads, if you’re hardcore). Come on, I dare ya. It’s toasty warm and cheesy over here…
I tend to think of blogs as more realistic and down-to-earth about their topics than their print equivalents. Litblogs reflect how people really do read, compared to that horrid New Yorker list or the best books of the year that the New York Times vomits out. Likewise, food blogs are more how people eat on a daily basis, compared to the Gourmet cookbooks that think you have endless hours stretched out ahead of, with which you can pound pastry dough into submission.
I have always filtered the world through books, and I still do to a large extent. Writing is just an extension of that.
There are people in this strange little world of ours who have romantic notions about being a writer, and that, to them, is much more important than actually writing. This is the order in which people like that think. “How do I get a book deal” comes before “How do I become someone who has something to say?” Writing is an act of ego, but your ego should not be the only part of your personality involved.
I was having a conversation with a writer the other day, and he stated that the best things are always by-products. Happiness is a by-product, and I loved that he said that. You can plot your journey to success or happiness or wealth or whatever it is you’re looking for, but if you’re too focused on the end result, you’re going to miss anything good going on around you.
I do worry a little that the modern age has taken the failure stage out of the creative process. Now if you can’t get your manuscript published, it’s because the publishers are cowards, can’t see your genius, and you can self-publish it (and then send out slightly crazed emails to critics). There is a lack of humility, a failure to recognize that getting knocked on your ass is actually good for you.