Thursday, March 11, 2010

Commitments: Puppies and Writing....

Today was my Friday, as far as work is concerned. It's nice to have a 'bonus' day off, even if I am using valuable PTO hours.

Still, I think, sometimes, it's ok to squander time off. If we don't, we forget the value of a stolen day, here and there.

For me, tomorrow, I get to pick up my puppy. Tonight is my 'last' night of being a responsibility-free Monkeypants. From here on out, I have a puppy to look after.

I admit, I'm now getting terrified. I'm used to being unattached, able to hop on a plane to L.A., Las Vegas, Washington D.C. when I feel like it. Now, I'm going to have to think about it, make sure I've arranged for puppy-care and consider another being within the equation of my life.

Oh, who am I's time. It might not be a husband, it may definitely not be a child but a puppy is a good first step. I've enjoyed my life thus far: I've been able to explore new places, take a running leap into the great unknown and just float in the oblivion of not having any commitments.

Yet there comes a time when maybe it's time to rethink the world I've known. Maybe floating in that oblivion isn't so good when you're my age. Maybe it is time to prove that I can, in fact, commit to something and decide that it's time to settle down, at least with something.

If I can settle with a puppy, it's a good start. It's all about the little things...right?

Puppy aside, I'm glad it's the weekend. I'm going to my very first writing conference this weekend. I'm not even being dragged. A friend and fellow writer asked if I was interested and, when I contemplated for a moment, I decided I was.

For me, this is another milestone. Until now, I've been a little afraid of writer's workshops, conferences and gatherings. I've had a fair amount of 'friendly criticism' that has masqueraded as unhelpful complaining. I've been in a few writer's groups and learned that sometimes, when your ideals are different, there's just no way to get a 'literary' writer to understand that sometimes people just write so people can enjoy what they read. For me, that's always been a slight problem. I'm not condemning literary writers at all. I just think they're a little full-of-it. They get so bogged down with making their work 'mean' something that they forget that a writer's job is to entertain, to lift someone out of their everyday life and make them forget it for a while.

It might be that I'm saying this because I've realized I'll never be a 'literary' writer. I've tried. I end up using flowery phrases, long words, dialogue that means nothing. When I'm done, I feel like I've cheated on myself because I haven't produced anything but an empty story that doesn't feel like it's finished.

Yet, these are often the books that win the awards and the critical acclaim of the press. They're rarely the books that make the bestseller lists but that doesn't seem to matter. Instead, they serve as a way to measure if you're 'literary'. If you haven't read it, well, then, you're not worth much, are you? It won the Pulitzer!

Yet, to be honest, I've read a few of those novels and... they bore me to tears. The one that comes to mind is "The Shipping News". It's by E. Annie Proulx. I read it a few years ago, before the movie with Kevin Spacey came out. I hated it. I felt so stupid when I turned the last page. Here was a novel that had won amazing critical acclaim, had won a Pulitzer, was supposed to be amazing...and I hated it. It was dull. It was boring. The characters were whiny and pathetic. I know they were supposed to be 'gritty' and 'realistic' but in my world, I just despised them. I kept waiting for something exciting to happen. It never did. It was just the story of a sad-sack of a man who managed to find a semblance of a life.

I felt like I was missing something. Truth-be-told, I often feel that way with novels that win acclaim. Take, for example, the novel I just finished reading: The Magicians by Lev Grossman. I'd read several reviews that called it a 'grown up Harry-Potter'.

Well, in truth, it was. It was about a drip of a boy named Quentin who is miserable with the everydayness of his life. He finds his way to a college for magic and he passes the entrance exam with flying colours. He's still miserable. He goes to the college and learns magic, albeit a much less fun and far more scientific version of magic than in, say, Harry Potter. He's still miserable. He finishes magic school and nearly drinks himself to death. He's still miserable. When he finds a way, through a friend, into the fictional world he's always dreamed of entering...he's still miserable.

You get the idea. Halfway through the book, I began to wonder why on earth Quentin was the main character. He was a complete drip. I hated him. I kept waiting for him to have the moment of greatness that revealed the reason why he was the main character. It never happened. His girlfriend ends up saving him and dying in the process. Sadly, she's no more interesting than he is.

So you get where I stand, right? Sometimes the books that become the darlings of the literary world aren't necessarily the books that the public like to read. This is why Stephanie Meyer, Dan Brown and Nicholas Sparks have fan clubs.

As much as I hate to want to join their ranks, I have to admit, I'd rather be a Stephen King or Stephanie Meyer than an E. Annie Proulx or a Lev Grossman. Yes their books might win accolades but they're not going to be popular with readers because they're boring.

So, as I approach the writer's conference this weekend, I admit I do so with apprehension. I'm not used to being around fellow writers. I'm used to being a lone wolf, arrogant in my ability to remain apart from the pack.

Really, though, I think my loneness comes from fear. What if the pack hates me, thinks I'm a hack and laughs me out of the room? I used to worry about that.

These days, I'm not so worried. The fact is, I write. I write a lot. It's not such a bad thing to find others that do so. Maybe it's good to have a 'pack.'

I'm willing to give it a go at least. It's a commitment of another sort. At least this one can't necessarily pee on my floor or bite me. It's probably not as cute either, though. It's a toss up, isn't it?

It's almost puppy-time. Wish me luck!

Thanks, as always, for reading.

Happy Friday!

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