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How Can I Be a Writer When I Have No One to Prove Wrong?


My formative years as a writer were woefully deficient, and I have no one to blame except everyone I’ve ever met.

John Gurdon, developmental biologist and recent Nobel Prize winner, received feedback on his high school report card indicating that for Gurdon to attempt to become a scientist “would be a sheer waste of time, both on his part and of those who have to teach him.”

In 1895, Albert Einstein’s teacher said of him to Einstein’s father that “It doesn’t matter what he does, he will never amount to anything.”

Me, wondering why no one has tried to crush my ambitions yet

And after one of Elvis Presley’s early performances–before he was famous–the manager of the venue told him, “You ain’t goin’ nowhere, son. You ought to go back to drivin’ a truck.”

These three rose to the top of their respective fields, clearly driven by the need to prove wrong those that forecast their failure.

But have I enjoyed similar messages of denouncement to propel me to greater heights?

No! I most certainly have not. Way to drop the ball, friends and family.

Friends have been encouraging, often taking an interest in my writing. My family has as well, recommending only that I have a backup plan (advice I’ve roundly rejected–HA!). The worst anyone’s ever said to me is that perhaps writing would make a good hobby while I pursue a more stable career, in case becoming a professional writer doesn’t happen as quickly as I’d like.

When, years ago, I uploaded my second novel (Royal Flush) to HarperCollins’, to compete for votes with thousands of other books, nobody called me an overeager upstart who’d be washed up before he even made anything of himself. Instead they voted for me, and they told their friends to vote for me, and before I knew it I had all these supportive God damn strangers trying their best to help me realize my dreams of being a successful novelist.

My book rose to the 18th frigging spot, and to top it all off, I’d promised to mention anyone who voted for me in the Acknowledgements, should the book ever be published. I self-published it last year, of course, and almost half the thing is names. (Hyperbole.)

And what about when it came time to have a book launch? Was I permitted the opportunity, so important for a writer’s development, to sit on the side of the stage in an empty bar, head in hands, crying big wet writer tears? Not a chance! They packed the place. Here’s the lousy Facebook event I created for it.

I even made it an ‘open source’ book launch, meaning anyone could contribute to or modify the event. So they basically had to put on the launch themselves, and I’ll be damned if they didn’t promote it, perform on stage, decorate, and fill a table full of delicious food. Jesus Christ! Don’t they know artists are supposed to suffer?

Oh, and listen to this one. Last April I competed in the Rio+20 Big Blog Off, held by UNEP and, to fly to Rio de Janeiro and blog at World Environment Day. The winner was decided via a month-long voting slog, and by now you can probably guess what happened next. The legion of do-gooders took to Twitter and Facebook, sharing the shit out of the blog posts I’d entered into the competition, and rounding up over 3,000 votes to win it and send me to Brazil for a week of blogging, networking, and witnessing historic events.

Get a load of this.

This time provincial and national media got involved, so of course I had to sober up, turn off Leonard Cohen, and emerge from my murky writer den, blinking in the sunlight, to give interviews and other such nonsense.

So thanks again, everyone. My autobiography is going to suck.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. Birdman permalink
    10/22/2012 3:12 PM

    I personally think you are an asshole with a holier than thou attitude.

    “Ooooooh, I’m going to save the world from pollutants.”

    Give it a rest. Become a supermarket grocery clerk or something.

  2. 10/22/2012 4:26 PM

    Funny post. I wasn’t following you last April so was unaware of the Brazil trip. Kudos on that. Unfortunately I can’t oblige your need to fight past the you’ll never be a best-selling writer in this town. I couldn’t say that to anyone – not even if they really deserved it. I guess you’ll have to outwit any self-doubt you might still have floating around. I enjoyed your post!

  3. 10/22/2012 8:36 PM

    Hey, think about it this way. You simply lack someone to prove wrong with your writing. I, myself, have nothing to write about, much less anyone to disappoint, since most of my readers expect the exact type of dreck they’re getting! Heck, compared to my crap, you’ve bloody Hemmingway!
    Oh .. wait .. I’m doing this wrong, aren’t I?
    Okay, since things RARELY go the way I want, how about this? “I hope you have a long and prosperous career, full of acclaim and rich rewards”.
    There ya go. Skid row, 0-60, in 3 weeks tops.
    Yer welcome! :D

    • 10/23/2012 12:27 PM

      You approach is as nuanced as always, John! Statistically, I don’t know what’s likely to result from your comment. I think maybe it could serve as the control in this elaborate social experiment. All I know is I’m no longer certain I’m the experimenter.

  4. Andrea permalink
    10/23/2012 10:28 AM

    If you want, I can start hating you because you’re successful. I do tend to resent people who are successful because they make me feel incompetent. :D

    • 10/23/2012 12:25 PM

      Haha, thank you, Andrea. I’ve been truly touched by the number of people who have reached out since I posted this, willing to insult me to help me feel better about my writing. And what’s more, I–HEY! WAIT A SECOND! YOU GUYS ARE BEING SUPPORTIVE AGAIN!

  5. raeme67 permalink
    11/02/2012 6:51 PM

    I have many reason I could put you down if that is your game!
    You have youth! Damn you!
    You are confident-what the hell is up with that?
    You actually published a book and have profited by it!-Little, sneaking,,,Okay, that would be too much! ;)
    In all seriousness great work and keep it up!

  6. 01/15/2013 1:56 AM

    clever, clever Mr. Bartlett!

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