This last week, I did something I hadn't done in a long time. I had a pint with some old friends. I hardly drank before having kids, and almost never went to any kind of bar when I did, so post-babies has been especially dry. But my littlest has officially been weaned, and some friends were in town that I haven't seen in many years, so a pint of cherry cider at the new local "tavern" was definitely called for.
That's about how I felt at the end of the night. I miss being around a group of intelligent, creative, fun people. It reminded me how much I used to laugh with other grown-ups, and it reminded me of a time when ridiculous ideas about what I could do were not only possible, but were downright inevitable.
As a former bookseller, I have witnessed a lot of book death. A new title would come into my section, and I would try to feature it on an endcap, or face it out. Maybe we'd sell one copy. Within a month or two, as new titles came in, I would have to turn the book spine-out and put the extra copies in the overstock shelves. By six months, those extra copies would be on my pull list, leaving that single copy to vie for attention amongst the multitude of other single spines on the shelf, shifting side to side to make room as other new titles came in. After 12 to 18 months or so, that single copy would show up on my pull list, relegated to the books in print database, to be ordered on request only. For the next few years, anyway, till the publisher decided it would not be worth it to keep it around.
This did not mean these were not good books. Far inferior fare would spend a few glorious weeks - even several weeks - on the best seller displays in the front of the store. It all came down to attention. If a book was mentioned on Oprah, on NPR, in passing reference to someone in the news, it automatically got a "bump," and would spend at least a week and a half on the best seller list. That was about how long it took to find out if the book was all hype or worth telling your friends about it. If it was worth passing along, it would spend about a month or more on the best seller lists, depending on the nature and readability of the title. I have seen so many good books die, it's enough to make an aspiring writer give up and never again put pen to paper... or tappity-tap to keyboard.
So what do you do? You do it anyway. As Ben Fold's Five would say... (and if you haven't seen that video, oh my god, go to youtube right now and watch it - I'll wait). And that's what my old friends demanded of me this last weekend - where's the book, damn it?
It makes no sense to try. It is completely futile and absurd. It is impossible to get a manuscript read, to get it believed in, to get it produced, to get it promoted, to get it seen - but you do it anyway. That's what I have been informed I am supposed to do. And I guess I am going to. I have talked about book ideas or script ideas off and on for years - I've written 30 whole pages of a screenplay - but I have never seen it through. There is always some excuse or other to give up on it. Mostly, interference from the practical day-to-day stuff, from sensibility or self-doubt. And these blogs may get preempted in the attempt to produce some kind of publishable work, but I'm going to try it again anyway.
I not so much optimistic as resigned. It's kind of like having faith even when you don't have hope. I have no reason to expect any sort of success, but I'm at the point that I just kind of have to do it now. You know what I mean?