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What matters

You know something? One of my most secret truths is this: I am a bit egotistical with my writing. I’ll never be the prettiest, the smartest, the strongest, the thinnest, or the most clever, but damn it, I can write. In fact, I always secretly suspect that I’m one of the best writers out there. Like I’m on par with John Irving and Margaret Atwood. We’re a peer group, hanging out and having tea with Douglas Coupland. Ernest Hemingway? I’m way better than him. Shakespeare? If I wrote in iambic pentameter, I suspect that I’d be lauded by millions too.

Now, in truth, I know damn well that Atwood is a freaking goddess of the written word and there’s no way that I can touch John Irving. (Although even in my most lucid moments, I still think I can do better than Hemingway.) And most days? I’m totally fooling myself. One could argue that to write at all, one must contain a healthy dose of hubris, if not to just assume that anyone has a desire to read whatever it is that you’re writing about. Especially if it’s just a bunch of fart jokes.

And perhaps the very proof that I am no Irving, no Atwood, not even a passable Helen Fielding, is that fact that I can’t even explain the egoism or the need for such a thing without sounding like a pompous ass. I am a good writer. I NEED to be in order to write. Which is the chicken and which is the egg. It’s the delicious conundrum that drives most artists to abuse substances or succumb to insanity, chasing the truths that we are both brilliant and idiots at the very same time.

Those rejections from the graduate programs both confirmed my inner-suspicions and shocked the hell out of me. In fact, they haunt me still. Thank god writing isn’t brain surgery. Or maybe it’s too bad that it isn’t, because if it were, we would never have been inflicted with the tumor that is The Bridges of Madison County.

The truth of the matter is simply that there are a finite number of words that must be written before something brilliant comes from your pen. And for someone like Margaret Atwood, that number is something like 132, whereas for someone like Wally Lamb, the number is probably in the six-digit range (go ahead and kvetch in the comments section but I really really HATED She’s Come Undone and I read it when it came out, pre-Oprah, pre-Renee Zellweger film, pre-everything. It was schlock. It could have been good and instead, he beat the reader over the head with every bit of schmalz he had stored in his noggin. And he had the focal character commune with whales. With WHALES. I’m getting mad again just thinking about the bad plot devices in that thing. So, seriously, I’m glad that the book changed your life and made you cry or commune with your inner fat girl, but it just didn’t work for me.)

And me, I’ve just got to remember that in order to be good, one must simply work towards that internal word limit. You’ve got to earn it. No matter how much as it sucks. No matter how much easier it is to just play Warcraft for hours on end and rest my weary head upon a freelance article, a fiction competition or a Diarist Award. Like miles on a long road trip, you have to concentrate on the road left to burn. Even if you go about the entire trip pretending that you’re already there.

Thus ends the proselytizing. Sometimes what I write here is just for me. Sometimes I forget that.