Thursday, February 23, 2006

Dear Angry People

The garbage trucks of America are lined with guys who thought they could play in the NFL.

Sounds about right. Hey, did I ever mention that I was considered a better player in high school than two guys who've ended up having long, productive careers in professional football? That's right. Put a few drinks in me these days, and I'll tell you all about it. What'd it get me, though? Aside from occasionally having some long-in-the-tooth townie see me in a bar and tell me I "look good," what, really, was the point?

They stuck with it. Worked harder. Listened better. Had the fifteen extra chromosomes necessary to play pro ball. Sure, I worked, but you have to eventually face reality, and it smarts. Three inches too short, two steps too slow, and blessed with a ceramic body, I wasn't equipped for the long haul to compete with guys like that. I was nice in high school, but I flamed out. I knew it, my father knew it, my coaches knew it, and the whole fucking town knew it. Wasn't ever gonna happen.

So what the hell you gonna do? Cry about it? So what? I did my best, and that's all I'll ever need to know about myself. I couldn't have gone any further than I did with football. Life held other things. Not, perhaps, the sort of things I had expected coming out of high school, but life has gotten better recently. Not exactly my plan, but the realization that I'm not at the wheel here, at least in terms of where I've found myself applying my talents, has made it easier. Going with it, instead of sitting around, flipping beer cans at the dog, griping about how I wuz robbed. Who cares, dude? Does anyone really think dreams die harder for athletes than for anyone else?

The streets of Manhattan are lined with people who think their blogs should make them rich.

That sounds about right, too. Trouble is, those same streets are lined with people who think they need to send me links to their blogs because they think I can help. So, what I'm thinking, since people seem not to be aware of certain realities, is that I'll give a pretentious little look back in Clublife history, so some of you newcomers -- those of you who keep writing me -- can get a little taste of how I went about getting to this point, wherever the fuck any of you thinks that is.

Upon investigation, I was suddenly transformed into Homer Simpson in Donut Heaven.

Yes, dear reader, that very sentence appeared on this blog on June 13, 2004. I kid you not. I italicized the entire thing here, in order to make a point, but I had initially italicized the words "Donut Heaven," to accentuate the idea that I was being exceedingly witty. Good one, Rob, circa 2004. You're on your way, kiddo.

None of you actually read that at the time, because I had, well, no readers. None. So I got away with it. I could find more shit like this, too. Plenty more. But that's enough for now. This blog, in June of '04, was crap. There was no 'voice' involved, because every post read like I was turning in a two page paper for English Comp 101.

So I wrote. And I wrote. And I kept writing, until the sentences got too long and involved, and I picked up that nasty adverb virus that rendered me incapable of writing a paragraph without at least half the words ending in -ly. With the help of others, after picking up a modest readership through the quality of the stories -- if not, as yet, the writing -- I made it through that stage, and found something. A voice. And you know what? It's still not that good, because I know I'm better at it now than I was a few months ago, and I'll be better, still, a few months from now.

But it takes time. And patience. And the willingness to sit down and write, just for yourself, night after night after night, until you start getting the point. Took me over a year before anyone noticed, and another six months after that to get a book deal, and I'm still not happy with where I'm at in terms of pure writing skill.

You know why I'm not happy with my abilities, though? Because I've been doing this long enough to know what's good and what's not. Am I good? Yeah, I'm okay. Can I string together a sentence like William Gibson? Phillip Roth? My man Neal Stephenson? Hell, no. I can pull one out of my ass every once in a while, but I'm not there yet, and I know it. The difference, however, is that I'm well aware of where I am in comparison. I'm also quite confident in my ability to get where I need to be, eventually.

Writing is perhaps the most delusional of the arts. That post containing the sentence above? Damn, did I think that was a monster of a piece. Three paragraphs about eating a snack after work. Brilliant stuff, I figured. Memorable. The fucking thing probably took me two hours to write, and now, to me, it's virtually unreadable. I cringed looking at some of the shit I was seeing when looking for some truly shitbag sentences to post here. The 'donut metaphor' may have been the least embarrassing of those I considered.

My point? This takes time. If you're not a writer, you can't just start a blog, write a paragraph or two a day for a few months, send it to me claiming you're brilliant, then excoriate me for not immediately writing you back with a promise to "hook you up" with my agent.

Sure, I'm lucky. Catching this break is the opportunity of a lifetime, and I'm determined not to fuck it up as badly as I've fucked up most everything else I've ever tried. But, and this is a pretty big but as far as I'm concerned, I haven't fallen ass backward into anything here. There are dues to be paid in any worthwhile endeavor, and while writing isn't exactly akin to digging ditches, I've put in more than my share of time doing this in obscurity.

So, think you're trying, do you? Working your "ass off," while I'm lucking into things like some kind of savant who hasn't actively tried -- harder than you, incidentally -- to learn how to do this better? Wrong. My advice? Lock yourself in a room for a few hours, every day. Read. Write. Read. Write. Read. Write. Read. Write. Compare. Go back to the drawing board. Write more. Read more. Write more. Repeat. Do that for another year, then email me back and see if we're onto something.