How Can I Be a Writer When I Have No One to Prove Wrong?
My formative years as a writer were woefully deficient, and I have no one to blame except everyone I’ve ever met.
John Gurdon, developmental biologist and recent Nobel Prize winner, received feedback on his high school report card indicating that for Gurdon to attempt to become a scientist “would be a sheer waste of time, both on his part and of those who have to teach him.”
In 1895, Albert Einstein’s teacher said of him to Einstein’s father that “It doesn’t matter what he does, he will never amount to anything.”
And after one of Elvis Presley’s early performances–before he was famous–the manager of the venue told him, “You ain’t goin’ nowhere, son. You ought to go back to drivin’ a truck.”
These three rose to the top of their respective fields, clearly driven by the need to prove wrong those that forecast their failure.
But have I enjoyed similar messages of denouncement to propel me to greater heights?
No! I most certainly have not. Way to drop the ball, friends and family.
Friends have been encouraging, often taking an interest in my writing. My family has as well, recommending only that I have a backup plan (advice I’ve roundly rejected–HA!). The worst anyone’s ever said to me is that perhaps writing would make a good hobby while I pursue a more stable career, in case becoming a professional writer doesn’t happen as quickly as I’d like.
When, years ago, I uploaded my second novel (Royal Flush) to HarperCollins’ Authonomy.com, to compete for votes with thousands of other books, nobody called me an overeager upstart who’d be washed up before he even made anything of himself. Instead they voted for me, and they told their friends to vote for me, and before I knew it I had all these supportive God damn strangers trying their best to help me realize my dreams of being a successful novelist.
My book rose to the 18th frigging spot, and to top it all off, I’d promised to mention anyone who voted for me in the Acknowledgements, should the book ever be published. I self-published it last year, of course, and almost half the thing is names. (Hyperbole.)
And what about when it came time to have a book launch? Was I permitted the opportunity, so important for a writer’s development, to sit on the side of the stage in an empty bar, head in hands, crying big wet writer tears? Not a chance! They packed the place. Here’s the lousy Facebook event I created for it.
I even made it an ‘open source’ book launch, meaning anyone could contribute to or modify the event. So they basically had to put on the launch themselves, and I’ll be damned if they didn’t promote it, perform on stage, decorate, and fill a table full of delicious food. Jesus Christ! Don’t they know artists are supposed to suffer?
Oh, and listen to this one. Last April I competed in the Rio+20 Big Blog Off, held by UNEP and Treehugger.com, to fly to Rio de Janeiro and blog at World Environment Day. The winner was decided via a month-long voting slog, and by now you can probably guess what happened next. The legion of do-gooders took to Twitter and Facebook, sharing the shit out of the blog posts I’d entered into the competition, and rounding up over 3,000 votes to win it and send me to Brazil for a week of blogging, networking, and witnessing historic events.
This time provincial and national media got involved, so of course I had to sober up, turn off Leonard Cohen, and emerge from my murky writer den, blinking in the sunlight, to give interviews and other such nonsense.
So thanks again, everyone. My autobiography is going to suck.