www.flickr.com

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Hick Chic Guide To Being A Writer

(Edit, from Wednesday) I love this country. We have an awards show for authors. There's a red carpet and actors in tuxes and everything. Canadian actors, of course. But actors. And we have a host who is the son of a former Prime Minister and his younger, hippy, pretty wife who had partied with Mick and Keef back in the day. And there's another party down the street, a literacy fundraiser, with a host who is the son of another former Prime Minister and his gorgeous eastern European wife. Do other countries have PM's kids who grow up to be good lookin entertainment types? Do they televise awards for writers??? All the writers look slightly embarrassed and uncomfortable. Author as rock star. Incongruent. Somebody famous introduces each author with an arty taped segment featuring the writer talking, reading passages, and doing writerly things like gazing out a window. Then one by one they come up to the stage to collect the leather bound copy of their own book- while at home Heidi gasps lustily. Leather bound copy. Thank you Justin Trudeau! Yay Canada!

Ok now you can read what I really wrote about...


I fancy myself a writer.

Wasn't that writerly of me? I used a somewhat British sounding expression. I used the word "fancy" which was not meant in this case as a description of adornment, as in, "Them taillights is pretty fancy, Heidi," but more in the way of, "Mmm, I fancy a sweet right now," which in Canadian would be, "I wanna Marsbar, eh?"

Damn I'm good with the words.

This is a big day for me because tonight, in the fair city of Toronto, the place that smells like human sewage and dead fish, many writer type people will push themselves away from their desks, take a shower, try to look less dazed than usual and put on some nice clothes. They will all gather in a room with cameras, where they will smile with tight lips and golf claps. The result of the evening is that somebody there will win The Giller Prize which is basically a huge pat on the back and a bucket of cash. It's enough cash that the author won't have to work at the grocery store to pay the bills.

I won't be there.

I will be in my rec room, hopefully with a nice cold beer, watching intently on my one channel, twitching with envy.

I have not written a Giller-worthy novel and in fact, have not read any of this year's nominees. I have file folders full of rejection letters though, and I poke at this current novel in progress regularly. I guess that makes me a writer.

But what does that mean? When I tell people that I "do some writing" I always feel awkward. I've got three completed at this point, but only one that's truly finished. But if I tell people that I've written a novel, the reaction is usually one of awe. I don't really get it because to me it's just not a big deal to write a novel. I've done it three times! Last year, I signed up for National Novel Writing Month and finished one off in 30 days. That was with me dragging a nasty depression/anxiety problem with me. And an undiagnosed attention deficit thing. And a puppy. It's a crap novel with plot holes and characters who switched names halfway throught but that's not the point: the point is I did it. I love to write. It's something I can do.

IT'S EASY.***

When I think of A Writer, I think of her:
Margaret Atwood. She has bright sharp eyes. I imagine her with her glasses perched on the end of her aristcratic nose, methodically sorting through words that will become her next huge seller. I have never seen her teeth.

When I think of A Writer, I don't think of her:
What a friggin mess. (Believe me, I have teeth.)

Writing takes so many different skills.

-First, we have to be able to type. That's still a difficulty for me. It's improving.

-Imagination. The ideas have to come into our heads freely.

-A half decent grasp of the english language. A totally decent grasp is way better. Like.

-Discipline. That novel is never going to get finished if it's rattling around in my head. It took me seven years to get throught the first one. Seven friggin years...and I was not writing the whole time. It's long but it's not seven years worth of typing. Having two babies in two years kind of slowed the process down. But the writing has to happen, regularly, if it's going to result in a novel. I'm not Stephen King's hugest fan in the world. Sometimes his writing amuses me, often brings up very surprising gut feelings, and sometimes downright bugs me. But I have a lot of respect for him. He knows his audience, he knows his genre and he is consistent. He writes every day. Every day, people. Like a job. (Plus he's just slightly nuts and I love that about him.)Know what my favourite Stephen King book is? "On Writing." Brilliant. Part autobiography, part how-to. I learned so much from it and plan to read it again. Many times.

-Training. I didn't go to university for creative writing. I have to learn it the hard way. I have several books on my shelf to help me out; dictionaries, thesaurus, The Elements of Style. I should really crack them open more often...

-Reading. That's another thing I learned from Professor King. How can we write if we aren't keeping that reading muscle flexed? Reading other work shows us what we should and shouldn't write. (And it's so enjoyable.)

-An attention span. This goes with the discipline thing. Gahhhhh.

-A place to write. I just got my nook set up the way I want it this weekend. I'll show you a photo sometime. My desk overlooks the family room, I've got my kleenex box, my basket full of ponytail holders and the nail clipper- I cannot work without a nail clipper- and behind me, shelves of books. And the rear speakers for the surround sound. I am so happy now. It used to be very cluttered and it distracted me. Now I can work. Unless another hangnail sprouts. Clippers!!!!

-An income other than writing. This is not paying me well. Not one bit. I have yet to make a single penny. Jethro says this is an investment. Maybe it's a good thing I went nuts and couldn't work for him anymore.

-Patience. This is very hard.

-A dog to walk. Nobody can spend this much time in a desk chair

-Spongeability. That's not a real word, is it? But I can't think of any other way to describe that quality, that way of absorbing all that's around us, and let it sit, heavy and moist in the brain, until it gets slowly squeezed back out into a story.

-A plastic horse. He's on my desk. The neighbour's little boys gave him to me after my horse died this summer. It's a nice little reminder of who I am and what I do and what keeps me going. And, that I can't just write. There's more to me.

-A cat to walk across the keyboard. That's a good trance breaker. He hasn't been moving much this week anymore but if he does leave his heat vent I'll nab him for some lap time. I might even let him type a few sdzddddddddddddd.

-Thick skin. Here's where things get difficult. The rejection letters really make a writer feel...rejected....

-Resilience: the drive to keep going after walking into a book store and seeing crap that you don't feel is deserving of publication.

-Time. I'm the only one who can make it.

-Ability to follow directions and jump through hoops. Uh oh. I'm so deficient here. I have to get better at it, because once the book has been written, the real work starts. Now I have to research which agents and publishers would be a good fit for my work, what they want from me, and what size envelope they want me to put it in.

I keep at it. I have to write, I really do. Any time I've gone too long, too many months, without writing, I go seriously nutty. I get cranky and growly at my loved ones, mostly because of the amount of noise in my head. If I want the voices to stop, I have to write it down.

It can be rewarding though. The right combination of words can be a pure pleasure. That helps to keep me going.

But there are also some books that fire me up intensely. I've just become of huge fan of Susannah Clarke. How she conceived of her masterpiece is just beyond me. I wanted to keep reading. At times it made me want to never write again out of shame for my own weak skills, but it rekindled my need to strive for better.

But sometimes walking into a bookstore is like being kicked in the gut.

Because of things like this:(Notice that it's a novel. Just in case you were wondering, the words, "a novel" have been scrolled across the front cover. It's a novel. Get it?)

Laugh or cry? I don't know. I just don't know.

Which leads me, inevitably, to this:

Say what you want about Courtney Love...it's been said before, I'm sure. But regardless, I've gained a little measure of respect for her. I could be jealous that somebody decided to publish a book for her. I could wonder how exactly this happened. Whose idea was this, anyways?

But at least she isn't attempting to pass herself off as a novelist. This is a scrapbook. It's a mess, just like the woman herself. What a nutjob. I like her because she makes me feel mentally stable and I don't get that feeling too often. Thanks, Courtney.

And do notice the glasses perched on the end of her aristocratic and expensive nose.****

So I settle myself in my little nest and get busy. The dog snores, the washing machine hums, and I stretch my arms up over my head. "If they can do it, I can do it. If they can do it, I can do it..."

Back to work.

***I lied.

****I perch my glasses firmly and crookedly on my face, just below my unibrow.

29 comments:

Life, or Something Like It said...

I think that you just listed most , if not all, of the reasons that I am not a real writer.
I too, must write SOMETHING or the noise in my head gets to be too much. It feels like my head will explode. Too much crap in there, can't use it all.
You on the other hand, are one step closer to your dream. Hang in there, cuz when it happens, you'll be in for the ride of your life.

Dirk_Star said...

From now on when I think of a writer, I will think of you!

Write on gurl!

Heidi the Hick said...

But biddie, it doesn't come instantly! I'm looking forward to your future "Life or something like it" memoirs. For real. Buckle up baby, here comes the ride!

Dirk star...Well! You can come back.

The Adult in Question said...

OMG! I can't believe Nicole Ritchie has a book...I must read it. I don't know why. But I must. And Courtney has a book, good for her for doing something other than drugs. She looks like she might have a brain when she wears glasses.
I consider you a real writer. I really do. And besides people don't write speeches about non-writers.

Heidi the Hick said...

THAT, KC, is a very good point...

Redneck Nerdboy! said...

Okay, that entire first paragraph really moved me with prose!

her indoors said...

you will do it.
love that word spongeability!

dilling said...

Have you read the Writing Life by Annie Dillard? It is a nonfiction narrative about being, what else, a writer? http://www.anniedillard.com/p.s. An American Childhood is one of my very favourite books also by Annie...
and, you, Ms. Hick, are an engaging writer of great caliber and we will all be saying "we knew her when" and maybe, just maybe, we will all get a signed first edition...maybe?!?
I have nail clippers in every room of my house, in the ash tray of the car, coat pockets, etc, to catch and cut off any little hangnail that will rear it's ugly hangnail head...I just can't leave'em alone so I must nip them in the bud..ha.

Timmy said...

I think that its awesome that you can express yourself through writing. I have always aspired to be a journalist, even went to school for it. Yet, here I sit...day in and day out writing nothing but mortgage loans.

UGGH!

Simply Amethyst said...

I'm with Dink on this one...

Nicole Ritchie has a book mainly because she has a recognizable name, I'm sure...At least Courtney has some experiences to write about...

Heidi the Hick said...

It's called a "platform" and means that if you already have some kind of claim to fame, you have an audience. So, Nicole has drug addiction, a famous dad, and a bust up with a notoriously famous friend to use as her platform.

So far from what I've read, a blog is not a good platform. Apparently you have to have a gazillion megawillion hits to use a blog as a platform.

Well screw that, I have readers that I LIKE so there ha ha!!!!!

Heidi the Hick said...

It's called a "platform" and means that if you already have some kind of claim to fame, you have an audience. So, Nicole has drug addiction, a famous dad, and a bust up with a notoriously famous friend to use as her platform.

So far from what I've read, a blog is not a good platform. Apparently you have to have a gazillion megawillion hits to use a blog as a platform.

Well screw that, I have readers that I LIKE so there ha ha!!!!!

Heidi the Hick said...

Red- them is some purty taillights ya got there, Nerdboy!

Indoors- I am so pleased that you like that word!!!

Dilling-thanks for pointing me to Annie Dillard, whom I've heard of but haven't read yet. I think I have to! And I can't even begin to tell you how relieved I am to hear that you can't function without nail clippers.

Timmy you're doing a fine job of expressing yourself with your writing!!!

Amethyst- I'm kinda glad I don't have Courtney's life experiences...I'll just use my imagination instead!

Notsocranky Yankee said...

I'm sure you'll be published soon! Patience, Heidi, patience.

Jo said...

I just love stephen king don't read but have watched most of his films.
And that pussy cat is so damn cute.

Balloon Pirate said...

Here's a sentence from Ms Richie's work:

"[Chloe] was sitting on her ass in a funky puddle, the perfect metaphor for the pond of loser juice she'd been swimming upstream in ever since drugs had won her over."*

There. Feel better?

Just because she can get someone to put her barely intelligent thoughts into a book, doesn't mean she's a writer.

yeharr

*How does one swim upstream in a pond? Of 'loser juice', or otherwise?**

**loser juice?

Heidi the Hick said...

yankee- I'm reminding myself to BREATHE!!!

Short for Joanne- I recommend having a read of Stephen King- pick one that you've seen the movie version of. He's not a difficult read and you get details that movies can't give you!

Heidi the Hick said...

Pirate- as usual, so glad that you dropped in to put everything in perspective for me.

I was so slack jawed over the way she pointed out her perfect metaphor to us, that I did not even catch the part about swimming upstream in a pond.

Loser juice. Ummmm....yeah.

DINK PINK said...

YOU CHIC ARE SO DAMN FUNNY AND A GOOD WRITER AT LEAST ON YOUR BLOG SINCE I HAVEN`T READ ANYTHING ELSE BY YOU, I LOVE TO READ, I READ EVERY NIGHT FOR AT LEAST AN HOUR OR TWO BEFORE DRIFTING OFF. I LOVE DEAN KOONTZ..IT`S KINDOF BECOME AN ADDICTION TO SAY THE LEAST! YOU ARE SO PRETTY HEIDI, IREALY WISH YOU WOULD SEND ME A PIC OF YOUR ENTIRE FACE, IT`S KINDA LIKE ON THAT SHOW HOME IMPROVEMENT..THE NEIGHBOR, THEY NEVER SHOW HIS FACE BELOW LIKE MID NOSE OR SOMETHING. OH WELL IT KEEPS US ALL INTRIEGED ANYWAY! SORRY I AIN`T BEEN AROUND, IT`S JOURNEY AND ALL THE SEARCHING FOR ACCURATE INFO ON WHAT TO DO FOR HER AND TRYING TO GET THE DR`S TO PULL THIER HEADS OUT OF THIER ASSES AND LISTEN TO ME! LOVE MARMAR

Tod said...

D list celebrities with their name on a book are the scourge of the book shops here. Who wants to read about some losers attempt to get on TV and who they slept with in the process? Oh wait...the same people that watch the shows. It's sad. Rant over.

Keep at it Heidi. You'll get there!

The Adult in Question said...

Where are you links on the sidebar???!!!!

Heidi the Hick said...

KC- I've still got them,but this is the second time they've disappeared. Actually the last time they went it was your mom who told me. I have no clue what's goin on here. Not a clue.

MarMar- I read before I fall asleep too...sometimes it keeps me awake! I think I good book makes you wish you didn't have to sleep!

I am like the Wilson around here. Did they ever show all of Wilson's face at the end of that show???

Tod- it's not just where you are- our bookstores are clogged with it too!

Jethro said...

Scratch... Scratch...

Yep. It's me.

All this just so I can bark at the other dogs... Heh heh!

Heidi the Hick said...

Whoo!!!!!!

YEAH!!

Jethro's here to piss on a few trees and truck tires and mark out the territory!!!!

YEEEE HAW!!!!!!!!

DINK PINK said...

HIDI, THEY DID ACTUALLY BUT THEN IF`IN YER THINKIN DOWN THOSE LINES THEN YER BLOG WOULD HAVE TO COME TO AN END AND NO-ONE WANTS THAT HONEY!

Jo said...

Hey hun I might just do that although I have never read a book in my life, well not since school.

Matt Mullenix said...

Hi Heidi!

A couple of my faves in the how-to-write genre:

Stein On Writing by Sol Stein. It's fantastic.

Looks like he has another one I haven't read but bet is good: How to Grow a Novel

Another great read: Writing for Story: Craft Secrets of Dramatic Nonfiction by Jon Franklin

There's a compiliation of Hemingway quotes and excerps on writing--it's well done: Ernest Hemingway on Writing

And one of my favorites, not a how-to by maybe "why to:" What I Saw at the Revolution: A Political Life in the Reagan Era (Paperback) by Peggy Noonan, former speechwriter for Reagan and a wonderful storyteller. What happens when a poet/writer/idealist meets the real world? It's great.

Stephen King's "On Writing" you've already found. But have you read his Danse Macabre? It's about writing horror, which, for King, is tantamount to being about writing. I read all King's nonfiction and interviews. He's really fantastic in that venue.

Heidi---you are a writer!

SkippyMom said...

I just saw this big pic of you and I have no idea how you and Bid think you look like my Squirrel in any way, shape or form....you are paler than her, darker hair than her and completely different eyes. And since she had her mouth WIDE open in the pic and I can't see yours....I wonder how the pic got compared....LOL

Am I missing something? You are gorgeous for 35 - but, ah...I like the Squirrel as herself and you, um....well - her not compared to your likeness, being that she is 14...LOL.

Perhaps if you posted a pic screaming with your mouth wide open I might see it - otherwise....not so much!

cheesemeister said...

What we need to know is who the ghost writer for the Nicole Richie book is so we can exorcise them quick!