Country Grammar

Down, down baby…. yo street in a rain coat……

Yes, that is literally what I thought was said. I also thought when I was three, being raised by classical musicians, that the opening line to “The Little Drummer Boy” was “come….. Beethoven…..”

I am picturing Sam’s face as I’m looking out the window, not in an “awww, I’m so disappointed and hurt” sort of way, but knowing within myself how much it will make her smile to read what I thought when I was three and how much it will speak to her own musician’s heart. That’s the thing about moms. They love all children, even when it was you 42 years ago.

Or maybe she’s not reading at all. I can’t care about that, it was just a pie in the sky thought. I don’t know if any of the people I love read my web site unless they tell me. However, people do sit with me when I’m writing. Sometimes it’s a real person, sometimes it’s a fictional character that I’m trying to birth.

Edited to add that this person is normally Jonna Mendez, and not because she was a badass spy back in the day. It’s that I want to be her in ten years, just with fiction. She matters to me, but not as a spy. As a writer. I have collected many of her books with Tony, all of them autographed. She’s just the person/picture I see in my head as to how much fame I can handle. That’s because she’s not famous. She’s well-respected. There’s a difference. There’s a chance she’ll be in my work in progress, because she’s the spy I know the most about. My main character accidentally walks into a Situation. It’s possible that they’ll have some of Tony and Jonna’s mannerisms, but not in a way that says I literally know them. I’ve just picked up some of their wordplay, literary mannerisms.

Learning more about grammar, structure, setting, plot, and characters has turned me into someone even worse than I thought I was previously. I’m not just a writer. I’m a novelist. The Dorothy Parker outrage in that statement should be obvious. It’s the most outwardly pretentious profession that there is, because it comes with a lot of preconceived notions (stereotypes) that are true in terms of behavior and miles apart in understanding for their existence.

In my opinion and experience, which is vast at this point because I review books, novelists are grouchy and standoffish not to project as such, but because years and years of people telling us our writing isn’t real, that we’ll end up alone, that even if it is real, it’s not good enough to actually do anything with it, we’ll always be destitute, etc. has made us use our personas as a coping mechanism. We don’t want to be around any idea that will distract us, or make us feel bad about our creations.

We’re competing for the same pot of money, and I’ve still never had another writer tell me my writing sucks and I’d be better off in accounting. No one will tell you that, though. They think they’re being nice by couching it in other things and thinking we don’t see “write through it.” Please. We’ve been writing metaphors about people like you for eons.

We’re not defensive, we’re protective. If we aren’t, we will lose the thing that makes us, well…… us. It’s a shame that no one else sees our brilliance until we’re at the top of the New York Times Bestsellers list and if you haven’t made it, it means you’re a terrible writer and don’t quit your day job.

Someone hashing it out gets ridiculed while creatives in Hollywood are lauded as geniuses. Where would Hollywood be without showrunners like Matthew Weiner and Vince Gilligan? Don’t you think they were once struggling writers with a dream that everyone called crazy and shit all over their ideas? I know Neil Gaiman was. He recently told a story about it. A writer was feeling bad about herself because only two people showed up to her book signing. He told her that two more people showed up to her book signing than showed up and his and Terry Pratchett’s first.

If you don’t think everyone shit all over Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett before they were household names, you’re blind.We all go through it.

Writers aren’t the way they are because they want to be. It’s years of being hardened. Of having to believe in yourself because no one else does. Having to be strong in a way that other people don’t, because no one is attacking what they do for a living on a daily basis. Writers have to automatically assume that when they enter a room, no one likes them. Why? So few people have ever proven them otherwise, because it’s totally okay to shit on writers. They don’t make any money.

Except for the heroes who got lucky and make everyone think that if you’re not a bestselling author, you’re not even worth reading.

As if that’s not the very thing that’s keeping us from making decent money.

The thing that bothers writers the most is anyone coming into their space and telling them how to create, or finding out that your friends have been talking behind your back about the same thing. No one needs to step in and rescue a writer from themselves. We’ll come unglued.

The injustice will eat us alive, because we don’t come into your place of business and tell you you’re doing it all wrong and you have a million ideas as to how to make it better.

Let me tell you why that is so extraordinarily problematic and hateful. The most important thing that a writer has…. perhaps the only thing…. is being able to tell their story the way they want to tell it. Impinge on that, and you risk everything if you actually want to support us, because we will never, and I mean NEVER, appreciate that kind of ire, because even when it’s not angry, it comes across that way.

It says “I don’t value you for the person that you are. I value you for the person I want to create.” Whenever I get into the space of ideas upon ideas, I know I’m spitballing and throwing out ideas in support of telling someone’s story the way they want to tell it. I will never, ever, ever tell anyone that what they are currently doing needs to change.

I will tell you everything you need to know to make your own decisions, and whatever story you write, I am supportive of it.

I am not supportive in the way that says “I agree with you.” I am supportive in that when you tell me what your decisions are, I respect them. I will tell your story the way you want to tell it, but only if you tell me what it is.

Part of the disappointment over losing Sam was losing the part of myself that writes about her. Knowing that it will go away over time and preparing for it, because in this space, I can adore her to bits all I want without taking the risk that she can or will hurt me repeatedly. When she told me that her story didn’t include me anymore, I respected it and have only processed through writing, not direct contact. I’m sure it’s painful and surreal for her, though, because I didn’t know the real Sam long enough to be able to capture her accurately. She’s not seeing herself, or isn’t supposed to. What she’s seeing is the fictional version of herself that I created to deal with my pain.

Nothing about plot is wrong. It’s character. I would have been able to capture Sam and her kids in word pictures that would resonate with her. Believe me when I say that I mean “resonate” in every fullest sense of the word. We’re musicians.

They would also mean something to other people across the world, but that would never be my focus. My focus would be on reaching her, as if it isn’t already. I don’t want to interact. I want to have it out in the way I want to tell it to myself. To be able to take everything I know about myself and everything I know about her and weigh those things to see if there’s anything I could have done to save the relationship, and not even because that matters. It’s what I could have done differently that I’ll take with me.

But going down her street in a raincoat?

Nah. I’m good.


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