I have this t-shirt I wear that says...
“There is nothing to writing, you just sit down and open a vein...”
WhenI used to sit around with my musings, scribbles and scraps, this was just an amusing anecdote that I thought thoroughly described the ‘drama’ that appeared to surround scribes of all professions. Then I wrote my first novel, and it wasn’t so funny anymore...because it’s true.
There are basic steps to creating a book, and everyone who writes one or teaches others how to write one, has their own variations of those basics which usually includes: an outline (of some sort), a list of characterization(s), a summary of the book, and the body or manuscript. These four seemingly simple pieces can create a formidable and sometimes intimidating wall of words for even the most experienced novelist. But that wall of words doesn’t just come from thin air. It comes from time spent creating: people, places, events, and a timeline of imaginary characters who only have a lifetime in someone’s mind. What takes the average fiction reader a few hours to read, took months, and sometimes years to accumulate and be molded into astory.
Once upon a time, I used to take this for granted.
I’d read a book and marvel at the story; transcending myself to another time or place,to live briefly and vicariously through a character I related to most, or better yet, dreamed of being. Then it was over and I closed to book to move onto the next adventure.
Then, with the birth of the Internet, I found I could review them and share my thoughts. Online. With the world. And I suddenly felt compelled to do this.
Then, there were the books I didn’t like. The ones I tried repeatedly to ‘get-into’ and enjoy like so many others I knew had...but I just couldn’t. I just didn’t like them. There were also those that after the first fifty pages went by, I simply couldn’t stand it...the characters were one-dimensional, the plot was silly, and the pace was that of a snail going up a wall. Once again, I felt compelled to review them.
Books, I found, were like people. And as we all know, you just can’t please everyone!
Now that I wear a different hat, and I see how hard it is to create these works, I felt a little ‘writer’s remorse’ and I’ve gone back to look at the books I’ve reviewed...and had to ask myself a difficult question:
“Who the hell do I think I am?”
I was seriously embarrassed by some of the comments I’d made and the feelings I dared to record about books I’d read. Was I that special that I could turn someone’s work into a morbid autopsy of what it once was? What gives me the right to be so condescending and trite in just a few quick words about something that took a lifetime for someone else that merely had to open a vein?
Yes, yes...freedom of speech! It’s my right and privilege as an American...I am free to say what I want...blah-blah-blah-blah...
Well,whoop-de-freakin’-do, Mabel! So, what!
Does that mean I can’t use my manners anymore? Does that mean all those years that my parents spent teaching me to be a kind and respectful person are out thewindow?
No. No, it doesn’t.
I’ve stepped back and taken a different look at reviews of the arts. I’ve also gone so far as to go back and delete all the negative reviews I’d given previously. Decidedly going forward with the plan that if I can’t give a book a 5-star review, I simply won’t review it, but I will at least check a box to state I’d read it. I owe the author at least that.
Like Mom says, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
From now on, I won’t.