Few things tweak me more than the successful-in-one-field person who, later in life gets a wild hair to write a book, gets it published and then, in interviews, muses about how "I've always wanted to write, I just never had the time/interest/inspiration/free will/etc. to do it."
And then over here is journalist/radio guy ("Studio 360") and author Kurt Andersen, who recently noted, "Writing is writing, but to me, writing fiction requires
a different headspace — I mean, really, making stuff up. And coming to
making stuff — up after twenty years of trying to stick to the facts
— was a very different experience."
As someone who's been writing — for good or ill — since I could practically pick up a pencil, these people are aliens. I am not doubting that someone may not have written for his or her entire life, that the muse picked them to land on later in their days, and so on. But I believe writers write, even if they're not writing a project. Writers who have it in the blood are scribbling and note-taking and observing at all times. The idea that writing is just something you fall into, and gosh gee whiz here I am writing, oh, look a shiny thing over there — I don't identify. By no means does it have to be the thing that drives you to drink if you can no longer do it … I just find those who feel it to be an adjunct, rather than an requirement — a drive — to be operating on a different plane. Often, they seem to be making a big Life Checkmark next to the novel thing: "Next: Learning to fly a Gulfstream."
Andersen, meanwhile, who finds "making stuff up" a challenge, bugs me in other ways. I mean, writing is supposed to be an exercise of the imagination. Imagination means you make stuff up (even if you do rely on certain established precepts, like the sky being blue). If your basis for having problems with this whole writing thing is that you have a hard time making stuff up, please, by all means, stick to radio.
And then I came across my new favorite Craigslist listing. Ghostwriters, alert, you're needed in Atlanta:
Reply to: XXXX
Date: 2007-04-12, 4:28PM EDT
I'm in the process of developing a fiction novel. I'm too busy to
completely write it myself, so I'm in search of an experienced
ghostwriter. If you don't have any ghostwriting experience, then that's
alright. Writing experience is a must!!!
The novel will (as stated above) be fiction. It'll be about a girl
who's very, very poor (and unattractive) and embarking on her Senior
year of high school. She ends up making it big as a Hollywood star.
However, there will be ups and downs that she'll face along the way
(like college, rejections, love) I also want the ending to be sort of a
If this sounds like something you'd be interested in doing, please
send me a creative outline of how you would tell my story. There's no
need in writing a summary of the story. A simple outline will do just
Depending on the length will depend on the payment. I can pay $750 for
every 100 pages. I will also pay a $500 bonus, if it's completely
finished on a certain deadline. I'll go more into detail about this if
you end up writing for me.
I will need a writer by the end of this month (April). Looking forward to hearing from you. Thanks.
I love that this person is right up front with the problem they have. Not with making stuff up, not with coming to it later in life and finding their muse, just … ain't got enough time for this writing thing. But they do want to write a book. It's like deciding you want to build your house yourself, then calling the developers to start laying bricks. Ghostwriters, of course, write all the time. I just like the pedestrian nature of this particular enterprise: It's not a ghostwriting of a celebrity autobiography, or a how-to manual. It's a novel. Where the whole thing is pretty much made up.
I also love the insistence that the novel will be fiction. Please, no confusing it
with those novels of the non-fiction variety. Or novels that are
textbooks. We wouldn't want that.
Here is my submission:
Poor, unattractive Katy Aspirational wanted nothing more than to be a big Hollywood star. One day at college while studying the genesis of the nonfiction novel and double-majoring in theater, she met Brad Brilliant, an agent with connections at Sony Pictures. He used her and dumped her, but she took his Rolodex on her way out. He paid her $750 for every 100 names she gave him back, and soon she was a wealthy woman. She bought Sony Pictures, fired Brad Brilliant, and became a high-powered executive. Then she wrote her novel and got a facelift. The end.
I wonder if I'll get the job.