Maybe you’ve guessed I don’t keep this blog up for the fame or fortune, nor the many interesting requests I get from people who want me to post reviews on their dog accessories, toys or skin care systems for free (your readers would really love to know about our new, interactive floor mat … would they now, really?).
Although, maybe you have a life and don’t spend a lot of time thinking about my motivation. I occasionally get comments from people who are worried about my sanity, or the safety of my children, but maybe that’s not you.
If you want to know the truth, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it either. I enjoy dumping the contents of my brain out, sorting through the garbage, and then sharing whatever seems to make sense. Sometimes people tell me it makes them snort coffee out their nose.
I was going for poignancy, but okay.
I’m also a huge procrastinator, so sometimes when I’m supposed to be working, I’ll think of a crazy-fun blog topic that I must share right now, and that takes precedent over the stuff I do to pay the mortgage.
The point is, the blog, as much as it feeds my ego, doesn’t pay the bills. Or mostly not. It probably pays for a couple of beers.
Recently I did receive a paid gig, though, for a site I contribute to. A book review.
Now we’re talking, I thought. I have a writing conference in September, where I’m supposed to have samples of a book project I’m putting off. I’ll have motivation to get that material ready and be able to pay for the conference. Double whammy.
Then my mind wandered further, as it does, and I started dreaming of getting MY BIG BREAK, when the publisher who wants the book review sees what I wrote and says HOLY CRAP, how have we never realized this exceptional talent was out there? Screw all our other authors, we have to get this lady signed up RIGHT NOW before anyone else reads her brilliant baloney.
That’s followed by a book deal and a movie deal and I’m just blown away because all the time I’m working on a serious, literary project, and there’s really much more demand for my stupid stories about bok choy and driving lessons. I mean who knew?
So I read the book I’m supposed to review, and I come up with a couple possible themes for my piece for the publisher to consider.
Among the ideas I jot down for consideration are two that make me laugh out loud, and one I throw in just because I think three is a good number to choose from. Sure enough, the publisher chooses the third option, one I realize later is excruciatingly cliché and milquetoast and boring.
I agonize over this review for the four whole days before the first draft is due. I come up with something I’m not crazy about, but I wonder if maybe that’s okay, because some of my most popular stuff has been stuff I’m not really crazy about.
But the stakes are higher here. Remember? I have a book deal scenario in my head.
Something I’ve written is being read by someone at a big house publisher. Granted, what I’ve written is not the next great American novel, but a 700-word review of a book they already know is great, but my BRILLIANCE will shine through. I’m sure of it.
Except it doesn’t.
The publisher sends feedback that my piece “needs a little tightening,” and they “don’t understand the references to Charlie Brown or Einstein,” and that the “writer needs to establish the SMiM (Single Most important Message) (sic) earlier in the piece.” I’m thinking: JEEZ! I forgot the SMiM! And what the Hell was I thinking with the Charlie Brown thing?
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but a disproportionate number of writers are plagued by demons: anxiety or crippling shyness, or agoraphobia. Some of the funniest writers I know struggle with depression. Not me.
I thought my biggest problem as a writer was the freakishly overwhelming stability I live in. Not that I’m complaining, but, jeez, sometimes it’s hard to make fun of people who are so normal, and let’s face it, fairly awesome.
And I really never have a problem making fun of myself, because my ginormous ego is okay with a little poke now and then.
Except, in this case, when someone notices I’ve forgotten the SMiM!
Dear God. How have I gotten anywhere without the SMiM?
So, tonight, I’m back at the drawing board with the piece, trying to tighten things up and still maintain my own voice (which, presumably is what they were interested in when they asked if I would do this), within the context of the incredibly cliché and boring theme I should never have suggested in the first place ….
… and holding a little icepack to my battered ego which apparently can be bruised once in a while.
Then in bounces Jack to announce he has successfully installed the software he ordered for the computer he built, and almost broke, and then rebuilt, and that the right stuff is showing up on the right screen, and that all the bells and whistles are ringing and whistling appropriately.
I may not always be on top of my own game. There may be no huge book deal in my immediate future. I may not ever be the great American writer, or even the kind-of-okay-American writer.
But I do get to take partial credit for a kid who can do whatever it was he just did.
It’ll give me a huge ego boost if you vote. And if you snort coffee out your nose.