Everyone has their own life’s story. And sometimes I am approached with a frequent idea that begins with something like, “So I heard you’re a writer.”
I am often told about life from someone else’s perspective, which I appreciate. More often, however, I hear the most popular idea which is, “If I wrote a book about my life, I guarantee you it would be a best seller!”
There would be a lot of best sellers out there if this were so, but nevertheless, this is when I refer to my stock response, which is, “So then write it.” This changes the energy of the conversation almost instantly.
I never downplay anyone or their ideas because I never liked when any downplays me or my dreams either. Besides, what do I know? Who am I to say?
Instead, all I say is: We all have our own interpretation of the world. We see things the way we see things. This means my view might not always match yours, which is fine.
There used to be a man at my “Day job” that poked fun at me. He used to call me Shakespeare. He did this because someone told him I wrote a book once. Someone told him I write poetry. someone told him to tel me to, “Stay gold, Pony-boy,” as in the main character from a movie called The Outsiders.
I guess to him, there was something funny about my dreams. Maybe it’s my blue collar side of the world, Maybe this was his shortsightedness about me with my dirty hands and swinging wrenches. Maybe what I do challenges his intellectual snobbery. Or, maybe none if this is the reason. Maybe he pokes at me because he’s a dick. Maybe the truth is he likes to make fun of people and that’s just him. Who knows? or better yet, who cares?
I have been approached by people that ask if I would ever write about them or their life. They ask this because maybe they don’t know where to begin. Or, maybe they don’t feel comfortable enough with their own voice so they were hoping I could lend them mine.
My answer is always the same. I tell them to start writing down what they want people to know; however, something I’ve noticed is most people never follow up. The idea is too challenging, perhaps, or maybe it’s the work they have to put in that intimidates them.
I was approached a few times to write a tell-all book about the corruption in New York City’s commercial real estate business by a few different people.
I immediately turned them down because this idea was not for me. I am not into writing for someone else’s revenge nor am I here to straighten the crookedness of someone’s lifestyle.
I have met several people that told me they were published authors. And I have listened to people tell me about their writing. And I have met writers that talk about their book. I decided that some of them have defined what type of writer I want to be.
See, I write for a much different reason. I write because I love this. I write because this is my place. This is all very personal to me.
Writing is my reset button. This has become my therapy and in many cases, my writing has helped me determine where i draw my line in the sand.
I can control what comes next. I can control what I reveal and what I choose to keep to myself. I can create fiction. I can expose my truths. I can heal this way and learn how to move forward and onward.
This is why I write.
I envision myself here, in my own private little room, which is far away from the world, but yet, the world is right outside my window —and I can look out at any given moment, to gain perspective or find motivation. I can, if I choose, create a picture for you to see. I can allow you the view from my eyes by using a pen and paper. I can show my heart and help you to feel something outside of yourself, which is my goal.
This is why I come here to see you because first and foremost; this is my version of art and first and foremost this version of art has become lifesaving to me.
I was on the phone with a slightly full-of-herself woman, telling me about the publishing industry, which is something that I am somewhat familiar with.
She was telling me that the idea of me being the picked up by one of the mainstream traditional publishers is unrealistic and highly unlikely; therefore, her alternative was that I should pay to be published.
I told her, “Sorry. I’m not interested.”
She proceeded to tell me about the writers she has published and the work she does. None of this was impressive to me.
She asked if I believed what she does is vanity publishing, to which I replied “Absolutely,” without hesitation.
She told me that I had no shot if I go about this otherwise.
I said, “That’s fine.”
Vanity publishing is when people pay to have their writing published. And I say this is fine if that’s what you want to do. I also say this is not for me.
I can see why people would do this from a business perspective. I can see why people would try to jump-start their writing career —or, perhaps someone has a political angle or a business option they want to expose, which is fine. But none of this is for me.
I remember back as a teenager, there were a few girls in my neighborhood that went to a photographer and paid to have head-shots taken. They did this to build a portfolio.
The next day, the same girls walked around telling people they’re a model now. (No, you went to a photographer and paid them to take your picture.)
One of them bragged to me about this. She showed me her pictures and they were pretty. She was naturally pretty too —and I’m not saying she wasn’t.
However, what I am saying is the same photographer would take the same picture of anyone, regardless to if they were pretty or not. At the same, that person could walk away with the same bragging rights because they paid for it. With regards to writing, I made a commitment to myself that I will never be that person.
I would never say I am a model because I paid to have my head-shots taken nor will I ever settle for calling myself a published author because I pad for the title.
I explained this to the woman that represented a vanity publishing house. She was somewhat dismissive of me and unsettled about my response.
I explained that the author I want to be is not the one that pays to be published because in my opinion, this is not being published at all. Instead, this is just going to a printer and having copies made, which is fine for some people, but I have a different perspective.
She explained the countless reasons why I will most likely never make it.
I laughed and said, “Okay,” because what else could I say?
My point is simply this; whatever writer I become will be on my terms. I will not pay to have this happen for me.
If my talent does not deserve the prize then I will only work harder. If I need to improve, I will improve. If I need to adjust then I will work to adjust—and if I am refused, then so be it. I am refused. But at least I did not lie or compromise my integrity. At least i did not pay to pretend and be something I am not.
I explained to the woman that I have been published before. I explained that I had stepped away from the business end of writing for different reasons and that my focus has changed quite considerably.
Whoever I am; at least I am me. At least I did not pay to have someone make me into somebody else. That’s not why I started writing at all. I started because this is my dream.
So, whether I am published or not is a small part of this dream. The bigger picture is the here and the now with you and me in my small private corner of the world. This is where no one can take what we have and no one can hurt us. I have created this place for us and others like us that need somewhere else to be, even if for just a minute, so we can enjoy our terminal uniqueness and be okay with us and the way we are.
Before the woman hung up on me, she explained that she is an artist herself. She explained that she is a musician and that she would love to be picked up for her talent but the world just doesn’t work that way.
She told me this is why she paid to have her music produced. And I understood the reasoning.
She said, “I would love for someone to come along and give me a music deal but that’s just not in the cards right now.”
I replied, “Then you need to work harder.”
I told her, “I am fine if I don’t make it on my own but I will not compromise my integrity just to fake it as someone with success.”
I don’t think she liked my response . . .
She told me “Good luck,” and then hung up the phone in a way that was only slightly condescending. And that’s fine. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this and I know it probably won’t be the last. As i see it, there will always be someone out there looking to get someone to compromise themselves. As i see it this happens at every level from the lowest failures, all the way up to the highest success.
Meanwhile, make it or not, the woman was wrong about me. I currently have a manuscript in front of a board of editors at a mainstream publishing house in London.
This could mean something or it could mean nothing; but whatever happens, this means that if I make it then I will have made it on my own. This means I will have made it because I worked for it —not because I paid for it to happen. Hence, my dignity is intact.
In my opinion, this defines the writer I want to be.
I saw a long-time friend of mine on Friday. He used to work with the man that poked fun and called me Shakespeare. We agreed that man was not a good person to be around.
I thought about the last conversation I had with him. I thought about the last time he made fun about me and my writing.
He asked if I was still trying to be the next Shakespeare. I told him, “No. I’m still trying to be the first me.” and of course, he had more to say about this.
See, I don’t mind this. I’ve hear this plenty of times. I don’t mind the tough breaks and the falls so much. They still hurt and the rejection sucks —I’m not saying it doesn’t.
But I don’t mind if I never take off or if this is it, just us, here in my little place I call The Writing Room. At least this way, everything I have is real and whatever I have is something i have because i earned it.
Note to us:
This dream we have is very real. Sometimes it is painfully real. But no matter what, we cannot, must not, and will not allow anyone or anything to tarnish or cause us to discount or compromise this dream. We can’t do that because if we do then the real dream will never come true.
Plus, we worked too much, too long, and too hard to give what we have away, just to gain a little attention.