I am beginning to see myself as a sort of listless ground urchin in comparison to some other writers and English teachers I know. Comparing myself to my peers and colleagues makes me recognize that outside my work as a teacher, I could basically be replaced by a mop taped to a vacuum cleaner playing clips of The Office.
It’s because I don’t have a book, or that’s what it’s beginning to feel like.
Sometimes writerly friends ask me if I’ve been working on anything lately. That’s the really transparent code phrase we use which actually asks “have you been working on anything other than the things you’re professionally obligated to be working on?” Lately, I get to say that I actually am working on something, and it’s pretty fun. But then they ask what it is. Why do I never expect them to ask follow-up questions? I’m a fool, that’s why. They ask what it is, and then I have to admit that it’s a blog and not some tell-all memoir or a novel of whimsical adventures or a children’s book that’ll give tiny proto-humans ice-cream fantasies. I tell them I write for my blog, and that is kind of like telling someone you have a cat when they ask if you’ve got kids.
But that’s bullshit. I like writing here, and the weird implicit hierarchy in which social media writing is at the bottom and highbrow creative shit with works cited pages and epigraphs are at the top is just absolute untenable and unreasonable bullshit. I’ve written more and practiced more and worked more on my writing every day than some of my peers who give me that queasy “oh, so you’re a blogger, not a writer” look. It’s the weirdest thing that some people will feel superior just because their shitty writing is for a novel they’ve been working on–exclusively at coffee shops–and not some low blog.
When I get this reaction from people who I know have absolutely no justification for it, I immediately want to double down. I want to start another blog and devote it just to describing how their nose is slightly off-center and how the way their face rests makes it look like they’re trying to remember the name to a song they’ve got stuck in their head while also being fondled by a garbage disposal. I want to devote all of my writerly self to this thing they don’t even recognize as worth trying out.
But then I have to slow down.
And get annoyed with myself.
And then I have to reconcile my love for writing on the internet with this deep, shameful agreement with my peers. I do think I should be working on a book, or at least some big project. My problem has always been that I haven’t had time, or haven’t had an idea, or haven’t been confident enough in my writing. I don’t really have those excuses anymore. I have time, I know I could get an idea, and I actually like my writing as long as I’m not reading it.
But I don’t know if anyone would ever actually read a book I wrote. I know it all depends on what it’s about, if it’s actually any good, and–most importantly–if it ever gets finished once I’ve started it, but I’m still a little curious.
So I suppose this post ends in a question: anyone who has read my stuff, do you think you’d read something I wrote that extended beyond 2000 words, or are you like my cat and are willing to commit only so much attention to someone like me?