Yesterday I quit being a writer. It lasted about an hour, hour and a half. But I wholeheartedly truly quit for that time. Then I pulled myself back together and sat myself in my chair and made my fingers start. Putting. Words. On. The. Page. And after a while, I had a new scene written.
While I wasn’t a writer, I really thought hard about what else I could do. I mean, I really, really tried to come up with a viable idea. Nothing panned out. And even if it had, I would have been stuck with this inherent gnawing need to write. Even when you quit, that doesn’t just go away.
The reason I quit was that I read a review of one of my books by a person who I really wanted to like it. She did, parts, but other parts, not so much. And of course when I read her review, I only could see the parts she didn’t like. It was mostly about one character, who she hoped someone, anyone, somewhere in the book would just kill off so she could be done with her. She’s just a secondary character, so not the biggest player. But so many people usually love her. More so than the protagonist. I think a lot of the problem probably came from the fact that the reviewer read just the second book. She didn’t have the foundational story in which others have enjoyed the chance to fall in love with the character she wanted to off.
I guess I could be glad she had a reaction at all, albeit negative. I just finished “The Great Gatsby” for the first time two days ago. By the time Gatsby got shot (oops, should have said “Spoiler Alert!”) I was wondering what I’d make for supper. I did not care. I never connected with anyone in that book. I can’t figure out what all the fuss is about with that one. I have the feeling I’m standing in a very small crowd of people, looking over at the ebullient masses while whispering to someone next to me, “But isn’t the Emperor naked?” Maybe the Emperor in fact has on a beautiful new coat and I am just too blind to see it. I know, the experts and CliffsNotes and even several members of my family including one recent graduate with a degree in English literature all say Fitzgerald is nothing short of brilliant, but I’m not buying it. I recently finished “The Truth According to Us,” (which I highly recommend) and compared to Gatsby, I had way more reaction to the characters and story. I think I was actually sweating along with the characters as they sweltered through their oppressive summer heat. In Gatsby, I knew it was hot because he told me. I know that there are some incredibly smart critics who can pull a piece of art or a book apart and tell you unfathomable brilliant insight about it. These same critics suggest things like Fitzgerald’s three pages of listing people who attended Gatsby’s party was parallel to the genealogies in the Bible. But the brilliance of genealogies in the Bible include things like showing how Jesus came from David, or how very insignificant [non-Jewish] WOMEN were the link that built that lineage. Now THAT’s significant, especially considering how women have been viewed for all time. Fitzgerald’s “Who’s Who” listing of who showed up at Gatsby’s party for me was tedious at best. Skimmer pages. We never heard about them again anyway.
I’m sure I’m exposing all kinds of ignorance on my part, but Gatsby just did not resonate with me. And so I guess I can be glad that my reviewer at least reacted. And on some things, very positively. After dinner, I re-read the review and found things I’d missed the first time through. “…a tremendous read…” “There was an amazing character arc happening here…” “…had me zooming through the pages.” “Bravo.” So for now, I’m a writer again. I hope I can stay one long enough to finished this third book in my trilogy. That will feel good to accomplish. And this recent reviewer even ends her review with, “It’s worth it and makes me want to find out what happens in book three.” So maybe that means it will be okay, and maybe I’ll be okay. And keep writing.
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