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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Dispel the Myth

I just a few moments ago finished my latest read, American Gods by Neil Gaiman, which I think I'll blog about later this week, after I've better composed my thoughts on it (long story short, you should read Gaiman if you like good, slightly-dark fiction; and also Michael Chabon, who provided the little review on the front cover of my copy of the novel and who wrote my favorite read of the year).

At the end of the book is a segment of bonus material from the 10th anniversary addition, and there are questions answered by Gaiman. I liked this one:

Are there any myths you would like to dispel?

And his answer(paraphrased):

I have my journal over at www.neilgaiman,com, and one of the reasons for having it, apart from the fact that it's incredibly useful to have an immediate plug-in to your readers, is that I used to turn up at signings and people would expect me to be characters that I'd created. Particularly the Sandman...[I] like the blog because it undercuts and dispels that. I don't think you can imagine somebody as a beautiful gothic figure if they've just written about clearing up cat vomit from the floor at three o'clock in the morning.

I don't think I've ever read a statement that so perfectly sums up (at least a part of) my blogging experience as a novelist. I'm not a lifestyle blogger, or a fashion blogger, or a food blogger, or even a book blogger. I'm not in the business of promoting, recommending, or experiencing anything for readers. I like to use my blog to add appendices onto my work, share my thoughts with readers, and hopefully share a little writing wisdom along the way. Basically, it's a catch-all for my brain overload, which makes it much less pretty and interesting than other kinds of blogs, but, well, it is what it is.

What it also is, at least in part, is a way to hopefully differentiate myself from my work a little. Shine a light on the not-so-glamorous writing life.

I'm often asked which of my characters is me. The answer: none of them. None of my books tell my own life story. I'm incredibly passionate about fiction, about its power and its proper application, but writing has never been about personal wish fulfillment. It's always been something I've felt called to do. What can I say: I like stories. I like reading them, and I like telling them, and I like to think I'm an empathetic writer who enjoys exploring alternating viewpoints and ideologies.  

One of the common misnomers, I think, is the idea that writing is somehow not work. Even though I love writing, and being a working writer is quite literally THE dream come true, it doesn't mean that it isn't also a whole heck of a lot of work. Think about that 20 page research paper due at the end of college course? Now make that a 400+ page essay, and do it over and over and over again. It's still the's just that, like all dreams, it's a lot of work. Somewhere between your early dreamer days and your day-to-day auther grind, you realize that it's so not the artistic awakening you anticipated, and is instead an office job, like so many others. Plus more sex and swearing. And I'm guilty of using my blog to say, "Hey, guys, I know you want the next book, and please bear with me, because I'm working really hard on it!" Ha - I do that a lot.

So, I'm feeling thankful for Gaiman's words on a day when my brain's felt sticky and progress has been slow. Sometimes reminding myself of the hard work part makes me feel less insufficient.

I mean, I love those Pinterest writing photos, but let's be real. Currently on my desk: Ibuprofen, three water bottles, sticky notepad, regular notepad, day planner, handful of Hershey's Kisses, pen/paper/junk holder, three bottles of nail polish, carbon monoxide detector (what??), and a tiny Captain America action figure. Not so glamourous, huh? And the thing is...that's OKAY. I never claim to be interesting; I only hope my books are.