What a crappy title, am I right? And this will be an equally crap first post, utter failure. Horrible, an embarrassment. I shouldn’t even try to write. I should just quit–follow the advice of a fellow student named Amber from my “Advanced Fiction Writing” class in grad school. She thought she was being kind when she said, “Maybe you should just stop writing.” She was summing up the consensus of the class in general, all of whom had given me a very scathing review of the second story I had shared with the group. Her summation had the tacit approval of the professor, who was content to let us all tear each other a new one in the spirit of “constructive” criticism.
Well, I didn’t quit, but I haven’t been as productive a writer as I should have. I eventually dropped out of grad school and spent about seven years as a bank teller, running from what I had once considered my true calling. I managed to publish a book through a vanity press, that sold a few hundred copies to people who already knew me and wanted to show their support. I published another book through the same publisher. I did a few book signings but got tired of sitting there for four hours smiling at people who hurried by without making eye contact or maintaining my quiet end of an hours-long one-way conversation with the socially challenged who always stopped by to keep me company and drive away potentially interested buyers.
I eventually left the credit union to become an editor, which is satisfying in that it’s in my field, but my writing and editing “gifts” haven’t brought me any financial success. My current salary keeps my family firmly below the poverty line. I have spent more money as a writer than I’ve ever made. When I finish a book, I don’t feel much satisfaction from it because I know it only means more endless hours at book signings talking to the uninterested or the inappropriately way too interested. And if I had a dollar for every time people said either “don’t quit your day job” or “I had an idea for a book once,” I’d never have to work another day. If somebody is trying to sell his or her own book that he or she has actually finished, please don’t try to impress them with the fact you had an idea for one once. They are not one and the same.
So why am I doing this? Well, I need to do something. My wife doesn’t consider herself a writer by trade, but she maintains a blog, writes press releases, and just puts her money where her mouth is much more than I do. I can barely squeak out a sentence without wanting to go dig a grave and bury myself in it because of how awful it is, how much Amber and her cronies would rake me over the coals for it. I’m doing this to get myself out of the mire. Eventually, it won’t hurt so much. Eventually, I think I’ll even become good at it. After all, I’ve finished and published three books, even if I had to take a financial loss to do it. I reread them from time to time and think, “You did all right here, Nelson.” Everybody writes these days. I can’t be the worst to ever try it. Why can’t I just write, put something out there without fretting that I’ll be consigned to the seventh level of hell for being so awful?
So for better or worse, that’s what I’m doing. I’m probably going to stick mostly to movie or book reviews, as those media are my favorite hobbies. I might also just blog about whatever occurs to me, whatever’s chapping my cheeks lately. Part of the reason I’m too afraid to write is that I never do it, like how applying for a job is scary until you do it for three years running and it becomes old hat.
I once started a blog but didn’t keep at it because I wanted things to come out perfectly–cohesive, coherent, and deeply meaningful. I was doing it for all of you out there, all you Ambers. Well, maybe it wasn’t for Amber, but I wanted somebody to read it and think, “This guy’s a good writer. I like his stuff.” I’m not doing it for you anymore. I’m doing it for me, and I’m going to keep doing it until God shows me what He really wants me to do in life that will get my family off beans and rice. Either I’m a writer or I’m not, and I’m going to keep writing until I find out otherwise.