Tuesday, September 24, 2019
A box full of darkness
"If you don't care about your writing," I tell aspiring writers, who, now that I think of it, I don't encounter much anymore, "then nobody does."
What I mean by that is, you can't dog it, can't phone it in, can't half-ass your way to any kind of success. At least not in most cases. For every 6-year-old who finds internet fame and a book contract by posting their finger paint poetry online for a month, there are 100,000 other writers who must grind forward with all their might and not give up.
That said, on rare occasions, a writer, if he or she is lucky, will encounter somebody else, a person not themselves, who also cares about their stuff. Best-selling authors are accustomed to this, no doubt, and come to expect lionization as a daily event, the general public tapping at their windows from dawn to dusk. Must be nice.
But we mid-list authors, who sweat mightily just to find somebody to print our writing, have to catch at whatever passing shred of significance we may, cling to it, admire it, then use it to feed the guttering fire of our self-regard. Like recently spying my 2012 memoir, "You Were Never in Chicago," and in abundance, at the Chicago Architectural Association bookstore on East Wacker Drive. Still in the game...
I considered revealing myself to the clerk, maybe offering to sign the copies. Increase their value! But the clerks seemed pretty busy, ringing up books that customers actually wanted to buy, and there are so many ways an offer like that can go wrong. ("Oh no, you can't sign them, because that might complicate things when we return the books to the publisher to be ground into mulch...") I figured better to savor the situation and not muddle things.
So timidity is a stumbling block, but professionalism can also get in the way of cheesy self-promotion. I really wanted to tuck a plug for tonight's talk, "A box full of darkness" at 7 p.m. at Northbrook Public Library, at the end of a column in the Sun-Times, where 50 times the amount of people might read it compared to here. But the moment never presented itself. Doing so would mean trimming the column by a few lines, and I could never bring myself to undercut whatever point I was trying to make merely to ballyhoo an appearance discussing my most recent book, "Out of the Wreck I Rise: A Literary Companion to Recovery," written with Sara Bader. Should be proud or disappointed at that? I suppose a little of both.