Sometimes people ask me what is the best part about being a writer. Usually I tell them it’s the creativity, but actually it’s not having to wear a suit or a uniform when I write. I spent twenty-six years having to put on a uniform every time I went to work. Writers can wear anything they want. Dickens dressed in an aardvark costume when he wrote A Tale of Two Cities, and JD Salinger wrote in purple tights and a pink tutu—rumor is he sent them to the cleaners and they lost them. That’s why he never wrote another novel. When I write I don’t have to wear formal attire. I’m not going to tell you that I’m sitting here writing this in my underwear, because I’m not. But I was a few minutes ago until I took them off.
When I speak to groups, I often compare writing novels to songwriting. The late Glenn Frey, who co-wrote most of the rock band The Eagles hits, once said he learned to write songs by living in an apartment above Jackson Browne. Jackson Browne was already an established songwriter. Every morning Browne would get up and make coffee then sit at the piano—probably in his underwear—and start playing the song he was working on. Then he’d go back to the beginning and play it again, changing a note or two. Then he’d play it again, maybe adding some words. Then he’d play it again changing the words or adding a bridge and so on and so on … Glenn said he learned that writing songs wasn’t some magical power. It was repetition, going over the song again and again and changing things until you get it the way you want it. I tell my groups that it’s the same way with writing novels. It’s repetition, changing the words and story until you get it right … but I’m lying. Writing really is a magical power, or actually magical elves as in the Brothers Grimm fairytale The Elves and the Shoemaker. Every night I throw some words down on the word processor, and the next morning the story is finished because of the elves.
I’m kidding of course. Writing is hard work that requires deep concentration, blocking out everything around you until you’re in a trance-like state where you are in the story. Stephen King described it as going through a hole in the paper to be part of the story. Sometimes I sit in front of the computer concentrating so hard that my wife thinks I’m dead and is making plans how to spend the life insurance money, until I start snoring.
Anyway, it’s getting late and I’m tired. I think I’ll run up to bed and finish this blog post in the morning.
Okay the moron’s gone. I can hear him upstairs snoring like a hippopotamus with sleep apnea. I’m Fladir his writing elf. Yeah, we do exist. I come from a long line of writing elves. My great uncle Otis worked with Tolstoy, and I have a cousin helping Joyce Carol Oates. I got into this profession hoping I’d be working with the next Faulkner or Hemmingway, but instead I get hooked up with this Bozo who wouldn’t know a predicate from pemmican. (I should have went to culinary school like my mother wanted me to and baked cookies in hollow trees.) The guy’s a pig. He wasn’t lying about how he dresses when he writes. Believe me, I put a towel down before I ever sit on this chair. I never know what’s been dragged across the seat.
You’ve heard of trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear? There are days when I would kill to at least have a sow’s ear to work with. This guy gives me nothing. His new novel The Almond People started out as a story about alien creatures made of almonds that send out mystical chinchillas to pee magic urine on people and turn them into giant toad stools—It was the most ridiculous story I’d ever read in my whole life, and I turned 203 last July. I threw most of it out, changed things around and got rid of the chinchillas and the almonds. It’s a good story now, not that he’ll ever know. He’s too lazy to even read the stuff when I’m done with it. Now The Almond People is about regular people and how big of a price they are willing to pay for a true miracle. I guess there’s even a moral: Evil needs man to succeed. But just read the book and enjoy the story. I wouldn’t want anyone to think this joker has the brains to even know what a moral is.
Anyway, I have to go and look at the help wanted ads. I hear Patterson’s elf is thinking about retiring; it’d be a good fit for me, or maybe I’ll go back to school, get my engineering degree and design toys for Santa. (By the way, if you read The Almond People and run into this jerk, tell him you thought the Death Farts were a nice touch. He’ll know what you’re talking about even if you don’t.)