It has been a long time since I have read a book in less than 48 hours. It has been a longer time since I have read a book that has truly caused me to think of how I perceive myself as a writer. And I can't remember a time when both have happened in tandem.
Yesterday morning I picked up How I Became A Famous Novelist by Steve Hely, and about 20 minutes ago I finally turned the last page. While thoroughly entertaining and a fantastic spotlight on how fickle the publishing world can be, the book has also prompted me to think about where I would fit in the broad spectrum of authors characterized in this fictional memoir. Without going into great detail (since I believe you should find a copy and read it for yourself), I will say that I fall somewhere in the middle of the "Honest" and the "Literary Con-Artist" of writers characterized in the book. I'd like to say I'm closer to honest than con-artist, but I suppose that depends on the day and the writing assignment.
It is true that I love to write just for the sake of writing. I was told by my high school English teacher that this was the mark of a true writer. But I also happen to love writing for the sake of being read, and have come to sinfully enjoy the ability to make a few dollars spouting my thoughts at random.
As I meet more and more writers (there are so many!), I have found an interesting thread. The majority of those who love to write become deeply embroiled in the seriousness of it. They take the time to get degrees in Literature, use proper sentence structure, properly use verbs and adverbs and make sure to not use too many commas. This is where I have at times felt like I am not a "true" writer, even though technically I have been paid to write for some time now. I don't take my writing very seriously. There, I said it. The secret is out.
I want to be read and liked now. Dare I say - I even want to be "popular" now; while I am young and able to enjoy my success. It is this part of me that makes me not take writing so seriously. The sad truth is, it doesn't matter if I use perfect punctuation or completely capture the right feeling for the page, or even if I construct characters who are blessed with just the right amount of humanitarianism and charm... if no one reads it then it is all for naught.
And so I waver between wanting to become a famous (and wealthy) novelist with throngs of faithful readers hungry for the next installment of my "Greatest American Written Series of All Time", and wanting to write something true and profoundly intense that will touch a person when they are at their most needing moment. When I begin day-dreaming of royalties and hobby-farms, a silver Aston Martin and gold-leaf ceilings... I am reminded that really I am supposed to just be writing for me. But secretly, deep down, it isn't about the desire to weave a story from the mind's eye and put it to paper. Deep, deep down it is about the possibility that I may have an idea that will be as enjoyable to write as it is to read; and that with each page that turns, coins will fall from the heavens.
And so with that thought, I am off to fold laundry and pull weeds in the back-yard. All of this self-inspection is getting far too serious for me.