Whether a writer is beginning a book, in the middle of a book, finishing a book, or editing a book, he or she is still a writer.
The problem is the time in between books.
THE FEAR ARTIST is done, canned, and has been loosed on the world. Junior Bender number three, THE FAME THIEF, is finished and has been edited. The first ebook in a series about writing, MAKING STORY: TWENTY-ONE WRITERS ON HOW THEY PLOT, is all wrapped up and in the capable hands of Kimberly Hitchens for conversion.
I have titles fot the next Poke (FOR THE DEAD) and the next Junior (KING MAYBE) but the train hasn't left the station on either of them yet, I'm noodling, feeling them out, seeing where they might go.
But not actually writing. Which means, at the moment, that I'm not a writer.
When I'm not happy with the sales of my books or when no newspaper reviews appear, I sometimes whine to my wife about quitting. Her response is, essentially, "And do what?" And I have to admit that the question gives me pause.
Not writing brings out the worst in me. I get querulous, quarrelsome, and easily confused. I look old. People helpfully take my arm when I step down off a curb (this actually happened.) I worry about politics, of all the idiotic things. I ransack every passing discomfort for a symptom of something terminal. I am a total, unmitigated pain in the ass.
And I'm home, to my wife's conspicuous lack of delight. Underfoot. Displeased with the way magazines are stacked. In the kitchen when she wants access to all four burners. Instead of being off at some coffee house, coddling a daydream, I'm in the middle of her view. When my father retired, my mother said, "I married him for better and for worse, but not for lunch."
I get reminded of that from time to time, these days.
This week, at least I get to play writer. I'm flying to New York for meetings with my publishers (see? I have publishers -- I must be a writer!) and bookstore events (see? I'm doing bookstore events-- I must be . . .) But I won't be writing.
Writing isn't always easy and it often isn't fun, but it's one of those things about which you can truthfully say, "The only thing worse than _____ing is not _____ing." Someone, I think it was Thoreau, claimed that all of humanity's problems stem from our inability to sit alone in a room for any length of time. Well, I can sit alone in a room for days and days. If I'm writing. If I'm not, you could plunk me down in a vast ballroom filled with all the Miss Universe and Miss Galactic Federation finalists for Miss Congeniality, and my heart would remain cold. My mouth would be pinched. I would loathe even the most remorselessly congenial among them.
But there is a way out. All I need is a beginning. "Call me Ishmael" has already been used, but maybe I can improve on it.
Tim -- Sundays