Monday, November 29, 2010

Ich Bin Ein Puppetmeister

I started teaching my writing course this morning. Never mind that the scheduled class started at 0800 and I wasn't awake enough to be coherent, I was there and I was on time, and the coffee dripped nicely from the IV I started on myself (there are benefits to my line of work) and things went swimmingly.

I talked about the things the students cared about the most, meaning, how to get a good grade in my class while doing the least amount of work. We talked about "VOICE", I read to them from Chuck Palahniuk (because he's brilliant), rob mclennon (because I needed the obscure poet voice), and Bike Snob NYC (because I am nerdy like that).  

I teach research and I teach academic writing and thankfully, I have enough self esteem to take it. I hear daily about how much students hate my subjects. They want guts and glory and kinaesthetic learning and they don't want any of this heady dry abstract crap that isn't going to save a life. They like me though. I'm kinda cool, so says my student evals. I stand up in front of my class and make jokes about being hated and they laugh. This is how I am in my real life. In my job life, I don't care what people think. If teaching dreaded courses keeps me from talking about IV's and dressing changes, nursing theory and pathophysiology, I'm a happy woman.

And I legitimately like this crap.

I'm known as the "APA Queen" and, under the right circumstances, "The Plagiarism Police." I can answer any question about APA and its most optimum use, I can mark a page-long reference list in about 20 seconds. I can rattle off an opinion about what constitutes plagiarism and what doesn't, similar to how the bike shop guys can rattle off a pitch about why Dura Ace is better than Campignolo (or vice versa, depending on who you talk to).

Which is why it makes it all the more ironic that I'm about to write a post that I've essentially stolen from another post. But since I linked it, I suppose it is no longer stolen but rather cited -- so I am safe.

I am a writer. I'm controlling you and you don't even know it. I'm hypochondriac, paranoid, and a "lying liar who lies." I told two lies in the above paragraphs and made reference to something which was inspired by something written by someone else and I'm not going to tell you who it was. I will steal your life and then I will fuck with it. You may not even know it's happened. That's how good I am. And if it makes you feel better, I fuck with my own life as well. I'm one dangling participle away from being committed.

Except, of course, I'm lying. So don't believe a word I say.

Beware of the Family Dinner

I wrote two novels for teens and for the plots of which (I use the word "plot" loosely -- I'm a character writer) I stole liberally from my own life. I stole tid bits from my friends' lives too. I stole words out of their mouths, their favorite sayings; I stole their body language too.

I bet you don't even realize that you do that thing with your hands do you? 

Yes, I'm talking to you.

I'll tell you a story about stealing. I was in a writer's course a few years back.

This is how the lying begins. I start to get vague. I can tell you names and I can tell you dates but unless you were there, you'll never be able to pin it on me.

One member of my class was related to a person who was soon, but perhaps it was unknown at the time, to become a published writer. I could tell you genders and I could tell you ages. But I won't, because the innocent need to be protected.

Another person in that same class wrote a brilliant first chapter to a potential novel. This second classmate received accolades for this chapter. The end of this chapter contained a reference to a rather shocking, yet hilarious, sexual anecdote. The chapter author essentially confessed to the class that this was an incident that happened in real life (writers are good at getting personal like that).

Fast forward a couple-ish years. The other classmate's relative has book published. I read book, and LOW and BEHOLD if this, now published, book doesn't contain the EXACT same highly unique sexual anecdote as our classmate's chapter. And it's not nearly as well written or as authentic sounding as the original author's version.

Coincidence? Could two people have had the same hilarious sexual experience? I think not. And my paranoid writer's mind can conjure up the conspiracy theory of how this happened.

Classmate #1 goes home to the fam. Pleasant family dinner, ensues. The white linen table cloth adorns the table. Candles are lit. Perhaps they have ham and brussels sprouts and cream corn and mashed potatoes.

And wine. Naturally, lots and lots of wine.

Classmate #1 starts talking about the writing course at the dinner table. There are other writers in the family. They'll care.

Ha ha ha. YOU'LL never guess the amazing story that Classmate #2 read to us today. 

Hilarious sexual anecdote is related at the family dinner table. This would be the kind of family where such an anecdote would be perfectly acceptable dinner-talk amidst the fine china and silver and crystal.

Fast forward a week. A month. A year. Classmate #1's relative is in the midst of editorial hell and rewrites. She remembers a story she was told of a hilarious sexual anecdote. It would fit her character, brilliantly.

Who told me that story? Gosh I can't remember. I think it must have been my friend Jane. It sounds like a "Jane" story. 

She "steals" the story and it ends up in her book. The book gets published and there it is. Classmate #2 is essentially screwed. She could never publish her story. People will think she stole it.

The moral of the story is, don't tell your secrets to writers. You're life is fair game. They'll distort them and then they'll use them and they'll publish them and they may not even be able to remember whose life they ravaged.

But naturally I'm lying. I made a part of this up. Maybe it wasn't at a class, maybe it wasn't shared at a dinner, or maybe it wasn't a sexual anecdote at all but a fight in a bar with a unique outcome. It could be, but sex is more fun, isn't it? Maybe you can tell me your secrets and I'll protect them for life. But I don't know what's true anymore.

I don't remember.

Wake me Up

For one book I was the puppet master and for the other I was the puppet.

I wrote one novel in 9 months. Writing a book is a little like making a baby. It starts off as a parasite inside you and then it festers and grows to a size that is unmanageable and it is a tremendous relief when it comes out. It's often a painful extraction, but the drugs involved can be very very good.

Book number one was a poor sleeper. It woke me in the middle of the night with startled and profound certainty that I was the most horrid writer in existence and I should just QUIT before I hurt someone. In particular the one likely to get hurt was me. But it all came out OK and it was good to wake up and find that the world was kinder than I thought and what I wrote was actually good. I controlled this book. I overprotected it. It didn't see the light of day until it was perfect and well matured.

The second book wasn't a parasite. It was poison. It was tasteless and odourless. It was voodoo.  It was written at a time when my life controlled me. And after a while I wasn't sure if I was writing the book or if the book was writing me. Dictating my decisions. Feeding my paranoias. Turing into my self-fulfilling prophecy.

I've written nothing fiction since. I've written this blog though, which of course is mostly obnoxious narcissistic crap.

And this is what happens with blog writing:

It takes 10 hours of thinking to conceive a post such as this one. Sometimes more.  It takes me about 3 hours to write and edit. And then I hit "publish post." The pretty orange button at the bottom.  More often than not this is late at night. I sit up re-reading what I wrote. I can't let it go, similar to how I had a heck of a time letting go of novel number one, I overprotect. I nit pick. I "obsessively edit,"as my notation says below beside the date -- this is not a joke invented for your entertainment. It is my real nightmare.

But for the evening, I think what I've written is clever and entertaining and I send it out there to be lapped up and ridiculed or adored and admired... who knows. How I feel about it, depends on when you ask me.

Because I sleep on it. And then I wake up thinking I'm not much of a genius anymore. Except this isn't like my first book which I could smother and keep to myself. This is a blog. And it's out there and being read. And I check my stats and, overnight, about 24 people have looked so far. This sucks. I suck. And I wanna pull it down and hide it again the same way I changed my mind when I offered to let my (X) husband read my book. His sin?  Not asking why I took the offer back when he wasn't looking. I did it on the sly. When he was out of town. And then he never asked again.

So I delude myself. So 24 people looked so far but that's OK because it was likely so bad and so boring that no one bothered to read the whole thing anyway. They didn't get to the real obnoxious part.... you know where I insulted this person, or that person who I deliberately teased about something.

Lord knows in real life I have a knack for inadvertently hitting on people's sensitive spots, unknowingly. Like that day I made fun of a certain guy friend and ridiculed him for not wearing his glasses all the time. He should just admit he needs them. He can't even recognize someone he knows from 20 feet away, for cripes sake.

And then it was just one insult after another thrown back at me for the rest of that conversation because I reminded him of his age. I guess.

Why is he mad? Doesn't he know I have a thing for guys in glasses? He read my first book. I said it in there. I liberally stole that nugget from my life.

And I tease you because I like you. I'm like a 12 year old boy.

I've become an expert at assuming I've offended and apologizing. It's one thing to tease someone in person and be able to read their reaction. It's another thing to do so in writing. I get paranoid about that. My writer neurosis can't take blogging. My skin may not be thick enough. That's why I had to go back and remove the word asshole from that last sentence. Who's the asshole anyway? Only me.

Although most of the time I think I am really damn good.

I'm teasing. I'm just teasing.

And I'm lying. Naturally. Because I'm a stupid f'ing liar.

I'm a writer.


Lisa said...


You write so convincingly...

Kim said...

No I'm just crazy.
Acceptance is a good feeling ;-)

Terri said...

I think this is one of my faves. And I'm starting to think I should stop telling you so much of my life... ;)