Sunday, October 09, 2005
The Half-Blood Prince
Being a Failed Writer is a lot more difficult than it sounds. I think most of the problem lies in the title, "Failed Writer". The first word, "failed", is past-tense, which makes it sound so final, so permanent.

What most people don't understand is that Failed Writerdom isn't a concrete personal adjective that is absolutely definitively descriptive of a person, like "tall" or "boring" or "psychotic with violent antisocial tendencies".

No, it's more fluid than that. A Failed Writer is a state of being. To be a Failed Writer is a constant work-in-progress, or more exactly, a work-in-no-discernible-progress-whatsoever.

There is no finish line one might cross that once and for all closes the door on Successful Writer status. In other professions, a lack of training or a catastrophic failure might bury a career, making it impossible to continue. For instance if one is in college studying computer engineering and then drops out, they cannot later simply declare themselves a Computer Engineer one day and expect a corporation to air-lift giant crates of cash to their doorstep. Unless of course one happens to be from India and has strong telephone communications skills. The value of a giant crate of money varies from country to country.

There are plenty of now-Successful Writers who at one point in their lives were solidly in the Failed Writer camp, with all the notable, tell-tale accessories of Failed Writerdom: the sweat pants, the afternoon naps, the 30-40 extra "I'm not sitting on my ass, I'm working" pounds, the astonishing skill at Freecell/Solitaire/Minesweeper...

The problem isn't the rejection and the failure, the problem is J. K. Rowling. Single mother, on government assistance, stuck in dreary-ass Scotland, not a fucking thing to show for her life and blammo! She rips off someone else's idea for a story and whips it into a book and then into a movie--a series of movies--with Maggie Smith and Alan Rickman in them. A billion dollars later, she's still in sweatpants, but they're Gucci sweatpants woven from the shorn hair of Nepalese virgins.

And that's what we're all waiting for: contact with that one great idea we can steal and then glue together into a Frankenstein pastiche that some sucker will buy and market to death. Orphan kid, mean relatives, magic school of wonders and hidden, growing danger... it's Dickens with magic wands is what it is. I could fake that.

This is what it means to be a Failed Writer. It's like being a Republican in Arkansas where you vote against the evil Estate Tax--sorry, the Death Tax--because, dammit, one day you're going to trade the half of a 1973 Chevy Vega you live in for an 11-bedroom triple-wide with a view of a less-polluted creek teeming with good eatin' crawdads just as soon as your numbers come up in the lotto. And then you'll be happy not to have to shell out a bunch of money from your children's giant inheritance when you die, drowned by an avalanche of silicone-enhanced young breasts in your champagne-filled hot tub made out of cut diamonds. Because that's how the rich die: classy.

Like all other Failed Writers, you're still a Failed Writer so long as you continue to write on a regular basis, offering a nudging little fan to the faintest ember of hope, holdingout for that one day--one day--when someone you've never heard of and has never heard of you will randomly select you to be famous and wealthy and recognized for your obviously superior talent without you having to exert any sort of effort past a) breathing and b) answering the phone when Destiny calls.*

That's what blogging does for me, folks. It keeps me writing, it keeps me wretched, which is the only way I know how to Be. Why merely exist when you can wallow? Existing is fine, but it's no rationalization for bingeing on cheesecake. And isn't bingeing on cheesecake what life's all about?

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 10.0


*= Not Destiny the stripper, I mean glorious, mandated fate. If Destiny the stripper calls, I pretend to be Swedish and hang up real fast. That's why I don't go to strip clubs any more. They get one eye-ful of Pops and they just can't let go.


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