I Started Writing A Book Today
I day dreamed for a while about writing a book today. This isn’t new or uncommon. I do this often.
Usually it is something spiritual. Typically it is some sort of between-the-eyes commentary on how Christians should be acting, but this presents some problems. For starters, a lot of times I am not living the life I recommend in my books—that wouldn’t go over well. Secondly, I fear I don’t have much to say that hasn’t been said better by guys like Bonheoffer, then rehashed in unoriginal fashion since then. In truth, even if I wrote that book, I would tell people not to read it. “Get a second hand copy of Cost of Discipleship instead. Surely they are one cent on Amazon. Don’t pay twelve dollars for my modern-day knock off! At least that guy was living the things he was writing.”
Sometimes I go the other direction and try to write something in the fantasy realm. But then again, at this point, what isn’t a cheap knock off of Lord Of the Rings? Even Harry Potter seems eerily similar at times (So he doesn’t die because his soul is wrapped up in an inanimate object that he put himself in, and to destroy him you have to destroy the object?)
Sometimes I would rather just write a blog post of broken up thoughts that are loosely arranged around a common topic. This is, of course, just a style-point of Chuck Klosterman’s that I liked. Not of my own doing for sure.
I remember being a kid and writing a story on the first laptop my dad gave me. It was really old. Texas Instruments. It had a screen that was shades of blue—that’s it—just different blues. It didn’t matter I was going to be a writer.
I wrote a story that was about three pages long. It was about a brother and sister on Halloween. They answered the phone and heard a guy breathing heavily. The man announced that he was coming to kill them, but being as it was Halloween, they assumed it was a prank. That was until they saw a man in a Jason mask, holding a machete standing down the street as they began trick-or-treating.
I showed it to my mom. She acted amused. “Is it scary?” I asked. “Scarier than Stephen King?”
This story is a perfect example of what I am talking about. The breathing and threatening phone call was obviously something I probably picked up from Scream, which would have come out around then (1996). The Jason mask and machete were of course from Friday the 13th which I must have heard of when I was a kid. And I was blatantly comparing myself to Stephen King, who at that point I had only heard was creepy because I sure hadn’t read any of his books.
Later, when I was probably 15, I started writing another book. This one was about a kid who was in foster care. He had been shuffled around after his parents had died in a car crash. But the state workers had found that he had a relative in Alabama and arranged for him to move there with them. He felt strange that everyone knew who he was because his father had been a big deal in the small town. This led to the discovery that his father had been part of a group of kids who raced their cars down old dirt road, using the rail road tracks as a finish line. But, one night, a race was poorly timed and two kids died in a crash with the train. The wrecked car was racing his father. This precipitated his father leaving town and never coming back.
I don’t know why I didn’t work on that one any further than I did. Probably because I was fifteen. I am shocked I got 50 pages into that one.
I have a love/hate relationship with people who make huge careers out of doing the same thing over and over again. This is why I love/hate Hugh Grant and John Cusack. They are really great at one thing, and they do that thing over and over again. What is that thing? Being themselves. They make millions of dollars just reading their lines as themselves in about two films a year. Its mind boggling and very frustrating for those of us who don’t do that.
I wish I could just write a book as myself. It wouldn’t have a whole lot of plot. The biggest suspense moment will be whether I am going to have enough money to pay for car insurance next month. A real nail-biter. It’s like Pursuit of Happiness except I am not homeless (yet) nor do I have a little kid in tow. It will easily be shot down by reviewers who will write, “The suspense of this book can easily be diffused by a part-time job at McDonald’s. But the reader is perpetually frustrated by the self-centeredness of the protagonist as he bitches and complains about a very resolvable problem. This is why the one-percent hate the ninety-nine.”
I feel the same way about certain writers, namely Nicholas Sparks. About once a year Nicholas Sparks kicks out one of three story lines. They all sell a million copies. One becomes a movie. It has a new Miley Cyrus hit on the soundtrack. And then he wakes up and does it all again the next year. He can keep doing this until the Chinese figure out how to make pre-formed fiction out of plastic. Then and only then will he have any competition.
The problem with my writing is that it will sound a lot or look a lot like the writing of others. You can look at a piece of prose that I write and say, “This is a knock-off of Bonheoffer.” Or “His cadence reads like Rob Bell.” Or “His scattered thoughts on one topic are like Chuck Klosterman.”
This is essentially the same way I live though. My sense of humor is like that of my father. My dry sarcasm is from my mother. My mannerisms come from multiple friends I have had over the years. My confused face comes from Shauna. My drive to serve comes from my friends Ross and Dylan. Many of my beliefs came from my friend Mac.
I have done what I guess most people do. I have become a patchwork of qualities that I loved about others. When you see a behavior you like you modify yours to become like that. Everyone does it in big or small ways: mannerisms, the words we pick up, the way we describe or explain things, the value we put on certain things. We are all trying to be better people, and the easiest way to be better versions of ourselves is to model after people we admire.
Knowing now that nothing I do or that anyone else does is original, I think I might feel a bit more comfortable starting to write something. I just need a good starting place…
Once upon a time…