Monday, August 15, 2011

What Do You Want To Do When You Grow Up?

Someone once asked Salman Rushdie about writers and just what makes them different from everyone else. His simple answer was that “writers finish their books.” So annoying. So freakin’ glib. And so true. Mostly what makes writers different is that they write.

I have always harbored the wish to be a writer. I have imagined myself publishing novels and doing book tours and being adored by a steadily-growing legion of fans who find my books smart and funny and touching and just so damn REAL.

Only one thing slowing me down: I haven’t written any books. I have had some good ideas and started some stories—even had one short story published--but when push comes to shove, I don’t write. I play Scrabble online, I check all the stories on the Huffington Post, I look up the weather, I check on our checking account, I scratch out a 1000-word blog post once in a while. But I don’t write. Not really.

I will turn 46 in a few months and it is time to write or get off the pot. I am realizing I need to change something about my approach to this whole writing thing. It is tempting to believe that this is simply a structural/organizational problem; maybe something like an office space cleared out and designed to be an excellent place for writing will make a difference. Or maybe setting my alarm and dedicating 60 minutes at the start of each day to simply writing will kick start my career. Realistically, I know that neither of these tinkerings will change a thing.

The only thing that will change anything is for me to write. Every day. Even when there is something interesting in the news. Even when there is a hurricane to track. Even when I want to watch the next episode of Friday Night Lights. Even when I am tired. Even when I don’t want to. I am going to take my lead from social psychologist Daryl Bem and his self-perception theory. Bem theorized that one way we develop our attitudes is by observing our own behavior and then concluding what attitudes must underlie them. Maybe the same is true of writing. Maybe if I sit and write every day I will observe my own behavior and conclude that, since I am writing every day, I am a writer. In the end, isn’t this the same thing Salman Rushdie said?

So, it seems there is no easy way around it. If I want to be a writer who is adored by a steadily-growing legion of fans who find my books smart and funny and touching and just so damn REAL, then I need to actually write the books. Shit.


  1. Is there something your legion of fans here at home, who find YOU smart and funny and touching and just so damn REAL, could do to help make this happen? Besides/in addition to refraining from interrupting your sleep by pooping on the bed in the middle of the night?

  2. Oh, Chris, my sentiments exactly--except that you took the time to write them here. Get it? You are writing! I've been cowering and languishing for way too long. Thanks for the blunt but encouraging post.