One of my favorite moments in any film is from the movie “Wonder Boys.” There’s a scene when the actor Rip Torn stands in front of a huge auditorium of aspiring authors and announces solemnly “I… am a writer.” The crowd soaks in this marvelous statement of his and erupts in applause.
I laughed for at least solid minute.
It is a hysterical moment in a hysterical film about writers. The movie is about has-been authors, depressed professors, desperate agents, and naive college students fumbling about with each other’s lives looking for inspiration among each other. The professor wants his students to inspire him. The students want the professor to inspire him. You get the picture, and as these entire people clamor in the wrong direction for fulfillment, they testify proudly to be “writers.”
Writer…what the hell does that even mean? I have a drawer filled with VCR manuals written by “writers.” The comments section of Fox News is filled with “writers.” Why in the world would anyone profess proudly that they are a “writer”? Just because we write, do we have vital wisdom to impart? I am WRITER, hear me scribble!
That was the chief lie I believed in when I was knee-deep in my first novel, The Line. “I have something to say! I have something to offer and all of you should hear it!” and now that the novel is complete, polished, and dynamite I suddenly discover that I was lying to myself. I still have no idea if I am a ‘writer,’ and I have no idea if I am providing any vital wisdom. I had swollen myself up into becoming important, and thinking me as important was the first lie. A great novel is not a thing that an important person makes.
With the digital landscape now dominating the book scene and independent publishing becoming larger and larger, there are far fewer barriers between an aspiring author and the book they want to see published. As we can see with Melanie’s Marvelous Measles, any moron can publish and distribute a book. Trashy fan-fiction like 50 Shades of Grey receive a far larger readership than I will ever see and from what I gather, that particular writer has zero wisdom to impart.
Believing I was important was a lie. I got over it quickly.
The second lie was that a good book sells. It doesn’t. I learned from various rejection letters from publishing houses that my novel was good, but ‘good’ and ‘marketable’ are mutually exclusive. The Line is an intelligent, logical, and violent time-travel story starring a strong female protagonist. I was told several times by people in the know that if I didn’t make my main character male, the novel would never see print.
Believing quality guaranteed readers was a lie. I’m stubborn on that one.
The third lie is waaay more embarrassing to own up to, but since it is just us and you’ve got a few drinks in me (you naughty cad!) I’ll spill my guts. I thought I’d feel smart. I thought by writing a novel that explored difficult questions and scenarios from my daydreams I could call myself an intellectual without giggling. Striving to provide answers and ethical statements that would enrich my thumbprint on the world, I would elevate my own understand of humanity. In doing so I hoped I would hate myself just a little bit less.
Believing an accomplishment would change my self-perception was a lie.
I know, odd guest blog post, right? My PR agent is going to either a.) Shoot me or b.) Slyly copy-paste an essay from George Orwell. But I’m going somewhere with this. I would bet that those lies are lies some of you believe, too. Some of us might have a novel crawling around in their head for decades, others just crank them out paint-by-numbers, but each of us will believe these lies. Maybe we have to when starting out? Perhaps I needed to feel the promise of importance, intelligence, and success in order to venture forward into novel-writing. Not knowing any better might have been exactly what I needed.
So if you believe these lies, maybe you need to. You will overcome them exactly when you need to so don’t fret. Before The Line was done, each of these lies had savaged me and I had dealt with them. It reflects in the novel, honestly. At no point does my novel think it is ‘important’ because it provides few answers; instead opting for asking questions and providing choices. The Line is also of high quality and I would never ask anyone to offer up six to eight hours of their time to read something sub par. And lastly, I can’t tell you how dumb I felt after writing it. As soon as The Line was done I felt my research was only beginning into things like historical revisionism and feminism. The novel had scratched the surface for me, and as I now wait for my third novel to return from the editor, I realize what it is to be a ‘writer.’
A ‘writer’ is someone who transcribes the world into terms that can be read by others for as long as the letters remain unfaded. Hell yes, I’m a ‘writer.’ I will write about the world I observe, the world I suspect is beyond my sight, and the world I deeply wish could exist. I will transcribe those thoughts to others, but not because I am important, intelligent, or pursuing success, but because I know all of you are feeling the same way to. We all have pens, and when our time is done with it someone else will take over.
I think that’s why that scene was so funny in ‘Wonder Boys.’ I laughed because Rip Torn’s character stood there and announced the moronically obvious thing as if he were important, brilliant, and successful. It was nice seeing someone else believing those lies.
William Galaini grew up in Pennsylvania and Florida. His mother gave him an early love of reading, especially when it came to the great classics of science fiction. He is also a history buff and fascinated by mythology and folklore. His various vocational pursuits include being a singer in a professional high school choir, manager of the call center at a luxury resort, U.S. Army medic, prison guard, and middle school English teacher. As such, he is perfectly suited to breech a solid metal door, humanely restrain the enemy within, and politely correct their grammar all while humming Handel’s Messiah and drinking a lovely cuppa tea. He currently hangs his hat, rucksack, and tweed smoking jacket in Northern Virginia.
About the book
Suspended in the nothing between timelines, the station Janus is an unseen marvel: the greatest technological achievement in human innovation. From Janus, Gustavo and his hand-selected team of historians and engineers venture into the past and observe history, unseen and unnoticed.
But they are not alone.
Another traveler is shattering history. Unhindered by desires to remain scientific and uninvolved, the intruder’s technology is far advanced with methods more brutal and a present more terrifying than anything Gustavo and his team are prepared for. As they apply their intellects and skills towards solving the mystery of the ferocious interloper, they discover than they have its full attention.