Wednesday, September 24, 2014

That Cabby Inside Me

You know what I like?

I like feeling small.

I like to read something that makes me realize I have not arrived in my writing and that I still have a long way to go. A very long way. I like to pick up a book and feel a delicious sensation of, "Oh, that's how it's done." Do you ever read books this way? I think I sometimes feel a certain healthy detachment from my work. I mean, I'm certainly proud of my skills as they are today, but I also possess (through having cultivated, learned, or just discovered it, I can't say) a rather Sir Percy Blakeney opinion of my talents. I don't mind mentally chucking aside the soon-to-be uploaded file of Anon, Sir, Anon when I pick up Dorothy Sayers' Have His Carcase. Of course I could pretend I think I'm as fine a writer as Sayers and that might sell a few more books, but I am quite happy with a conversation that goes something like this:
Reader: "You mean to say you don't think your writing is the top?"
Me: "Well of course it's the top of some things. For instance, it's the top of what it was three years ago and it is the top of certain books I've come across. But as for being the toppy-top, why this is the real ginger." (waving Carcase about)

Is it telling that I see that inner voice in my head as a 1940's journalist with his heels on the desk and a slightly flattened cabby-cap on his short buzz-cut? My inner voice presents itself many ways. This time it's a writer who looks like a cabby and smokes cigarettes in a sociable fashion. I like this fellow. You see, if one doesn't take oneself too terribly seriously, it's easier to take criticism, to view one's place in the world aright, and to improve. After having started the aforementioned novel at my brother's fiancee's house, I drove home through a monsoon of sorts and reflected on how generous my readers have been in giving Anon, Sir, Anon a fighting chance with four and even five-star ratings. Of course I don't pretend to emulate Dorothy Sayer's style, nor do I think Anon, Sir, Anon is on-par with her much-advanced skill. I can't wait for that reviewer who says, "I don't see what all the buzz is about. It's not at all as good as Agatha Christie." I am prepared to pump his hand, stuff my fists in my pockets and say with a foolish smile, "I know, right? Wasn't she amazing?"

I like feeling small.

I like knowing there is something to reach toward because how dull it would be to have arrived. "Oh look, Mount Amazingness has been reached. Recomputing purpose in career." I don't have a problem admitting that my skill-set is far from complete and it excites me to notice how far I've come since Fly Away Home, and by next book, how far I'll have come since Anon, Sir, Anon. Not that I've actually researched this phenomena, but I could almost guarantee that most famous authors see their early books as stepping-stones to even better things. I will always love each of my books and there is no reason to be ashamed of something you wrote being...younger. We can be glad we no longer behave as we did at fourteen, but does that mean there was something wrong with behaving a fourteen year-old? In the same way, I don't think that, down the road, I'll want to apologize for the lack of sage wisdom and effortless skill in Fly Away Home. It was a freshman novel and a very good introduction at that. We'll stop badgering the poor darling for not being Anna Karenina.

I am off to enjoy me (now cold) cup of tea and forge my way through the deliciousness that is Have His Carcase. On this visit, I learned that my sister-in-law's parents have a plethora of Agatha Christies and Dorothy Sayers and P.G. Wodehouse--pretty nearly any title I could want. They put my library to shame. I told you that I would have the vlog up. Well, I have it is trying to publish and because it is *gulp* eighteen minutes long (you guys asked a lot of questions!) and my family's internet connection moves at glacial pace (you know how it thrills me), it is on it's second try and only 11% rendered. Snap. So you will probably get the vlog tomorrow morning. For now, go enjoy this rainy officially-fall day by letting yourself read a book for pleasure's sake.


(Also, I have this weird urge to try to draw my sisters and myself as Disney-inspired caricatures. O.o)


Lady Bibliophile said...

YouTube videos are a challenge to upload. I had to try 5 times one day for an 8 minute video, and we have fairly decent internet. Hope it works for you, and I'm looking forward to your answers! :D


Anonymous said...

“Do you ever read books this way?”

You bet I do! There are certain authors and poets (Ray Bradbury, Harper Lee, Rudyard Kipling, just to name a few), who, when I read their work, I have to take a break every now and then and just stare into space for a moment, trying to figure out why what I just read is so wonderful and how I can learn to make something like it. Sometimes I'm almost discouraged by other people's excellence, but most of the time, it excites me to think of all the things I have left to learn. And you're right, it is fun to look at your work and see how far you've come.

Oh, and the long string of questions is partially my fault. :-/ Sorry about that.