wrote another short story! I know, it’s crazy. It’s like I’m just pumping
these things out. Anyway, it’s in stores now in Australia as part of
Summer Reading Edition, in a super-cool layout complete
with creepy doll’s head pic. I tell you, there’s something about a
creepy doll’s head pic that just works with my
writing, you know? Maybe I can get them to print some in my
If you’re not in Australia, this would be the time when you
start to get annoyed. I mean, Australia was already pretty ace,
but now it’s also got new Max Barry short stories with creepy doll’s
head pics? That’s just too much. But I say would, because
The Bulletin said I can post their spread here
for your online enjoyment. Which is damn cool of them. So here it is:
This story is quite different to my usual groove,
and I’m interested in
what you think—whether you prefer this or
Springtide, for example.
Forbes is running
a special on “The Future,”
and a bunch of writers, including me, contributed fiction.
The deal was everyone’s story had to be based on this:
It’s the year 2027, and the world is undergoing a global financial crisis.
The scene is an American workplace.
I was intrigued by the idea of going head-to-head
against other writers. It sounded like a kind
of writers’ cage match. I found myself thinking, “All right,
Doctorow’s gonna lead with a world controlled by draconian IP law,
he won’t be able to resist. But maybe I can counter with
the entire American economy being purely about advertising. He’ll
never see it coming.”
Possibly no other writers saw it this way. They may have just been
concentrating on writing a good story. Suckers.
Anyway, my short story,
is up now. To read
the others, including shorts by Cory Doctorow and Warren Ellis,
visit the Forbes
Future page and scroll down to “Fiction.”
Forbes has a 90-day exclusive on this piece but after
that I’ll post it alongside my
other short stories, with formatting that doesn’t suck so much.
In other news, you can now search this site. Little box on the left
there. Thanks to Wyatt, who complained about this until I got
off my butt and added it.
Maybe you heard about
the arrest of Jose Luis Calva, who is described
as an “aspiring horror novelist.” Police found a draft of his manuscript
Cannibalistic Instincts, along with pieces of his girlfriend stashed in
various places around his apartment, including in the frypan. I know, I know, I had the same
reaction: it’s pretty unfair to call him “aspiring.” It sounds like that draft
was finished. And not just finished, but comprehensively researched.
Sure, some people say you’re not a novelist until
you’re published, but in this day of print-on-demand and internet
vanity presses, is that really a meaningful distinction? I say, if the
guy went to all the trouble of crafting a story arc, putting words
on the page day after day, and boiling his girlfriend’s flesh, he’s a
novelist. Give him that.
I’m sometimes asked how much research you should do when
working on a novel, so let me say: this is probably too much. It
wasn’t just the girlfriend, you see; there’s also a missing
ex-girlfriend and a chopped-up prostitute. That seems
excessive to me. One, I could understand. I mean, I wouldn’t
support it. You let horror novelists start cutting up hookers, and
the next thing you know Tom Clancy is commandeering nuclear
submarines off the coast of Florida. Or, I guess, appointing
ghost writers to do that for him. But the point is I can imagine
a frustrated Jose at his keyboard, a half-finished sentence
dangling from the screen, thinking: “How do you
sever a femur with a railway spike?”
Three corpses, though, that’s getting carried away. I haven’t read
Cannibalistic Instincts, but I bet it contains
long, tedious passages where Jose was unable to resist info-dumping
his hard-won knowledge onto the reader. That’s the problem when
you get to body number three: your research overshadows the
writing. At that point, Jose really needed to be cutting fewer limbs and
more adverbs. Fleshing out his story, not his apartment. Also,
having a supportive spouse or girlfriend can be really important,
especially to a first-time writer, so I can’t help but think it was
counter-productive to eat her.
But there’s something in this tale to make writers everywhere feel a little
better about themselves, because no matter how bad your own
work is, at least you wrote it without butchering anybody. That’s
a plus in anybody’s language. The corner
Jose has backed himself into is that even if his book is
published, when people read it they’ll be thinking, “Yeah, it’s good…
but is it three murdered innocents good?” It’s extra pressure he doesn’t
need. I mention this because I’m sure there are unpublished horror
writers out there thinking, “No wonder I can’t get an agent; all the
other horror writers are out there sawing limbs.” Sure,
that probably provides a certain amount of realism that could elevate
your fiction to a more visceral plane. I mean, I’m just guessing.
And it’s hard to ignore the fact that Hollywood bible Variety
reported this story with the line,
“How soon before someone gobbles up the film rights to this?”
But still. Call me a purist, but I prefer to do things the old-fashioned
way: dismember people in my head.
And sorry to abuse your email inbox, but I’ve just signed on with
the good people at ChuckPalahniuk.net to run an online writing workshop
based around novel-writing. Places are limited, so if you want in,
Yes, they photoshopped me into a suit.
I heard back from Bill, my editor, about my new book. It wasn’t good news.
It wasn’t bad news, either. It was kind of inexplicable news. I’m still trying to
My fear, of course, has been that Bill would say, “Max, you know this book you’re
so excited about… well, it’s not so great.” Every time this has threatened to
overwhelm me the last couple of weeks, I shooed it away, because I knew in
my heart that surely that could not be true: this was a great book,
my best, even.
And it turns out that Bill does think it’s great. So too, apparently, do other people he’s shown it to.
I pushed him on this, in case he was doing that thing where you
say only nice things to the author because my God they’re
temperamental, but no: I really think he considers it quality.
That’s the good news. The bad news is he can’t publish it.
It’s hard for me to explain why. It’s hard for me to understand why.
I think it has a little to do with the nature of the story, and a lot to do with the nature of
the publishing business. I can’t relate the details here without being immensely
unprofessional, even for me, so that will have to do, sorry. But the situation
is incredibly bizarre, like something out of one of my books. (One of the
published ones, ha ha.)
Bill is a genius editor. When he says there’s a publishing problem, I
completely believe him. I know he’s looking out for me and my career.
He’s proven his skill and dedication over a couple of books.
There are options. I have to believe I can get this book out there somehow.
Surely we’ll figure out something.
This is a very weird feeling.
that I’m planning to talk a little about writing this year.
Today I carry that threat through.
To those of you who couldn’t care less about this topic: my God,
can you put aside your own selfish interests for five seconds? No, wait, I mean:
sorry. But there are people out there interested in this. I know because
whenever I post about it, I get emails of weeping gratitude. That’s hard
So to originality. I raise this because I think it’s reasonably common for
unpublished (and underpublished) writers to think: “Man, the only way to
make it as an author is to churn out predictable, formulaic crap. Nobody’s interested in
publishing really original books.” Well, when I say this is a common attitude,
I mean I used to hold it, and I assume everybody is like me. There I was in
1998, collecting rejection letters for Syrup, and the
underlying message seemed to be that it wasn’t mainstream enough.
And I couldn’t describe my own book; I couldn’t find the pithy
couple of sentences that people seemed to want, that would make them
say, “That sounds interesting,” instead of their eyes glazing over with
confusion. I needed something like: “Terrorists hijack a submarine
and ex-Special Forces agent Jack Fyre is the only man who can stop it.”
It’s tempting to believe that formulaic crap sells because there seems
to be so much of it. But I now think
you can look at a shelf full of Grisham novels or whatever and assume
they’re all the same until you read them. Then you find some common
elements, for sure, but much less than you thought. There is formula out
there, but not much of it.
I reacted to my Syrup rejections by writing a standard,
genre thriller. It was terrible. And I learned that you
never improve anything by making it less original. It’s the opposite:
the worst thing writing can be is not new.
I’m convinced this isn’t just me. I think everybody wants newness.
Editors, agents, readers: we all want new plots, new ideas, new ways of
looking at the world. Nobody wants to get twenty pages into a book and
know where it’s going, or even feel too much like they’ve seen all this before.
Even within a genre’s iron-clad conventions, we want twists, surprises,
Young writers in particular can sometimes try to
crawl inside a pre-conceived box labeled “novel” or “screenplay,” and
end up with something far less interesting than if they’d forged
their own path. I’m not saying you want to hit the other extreme, and
pursue a lone, bizarre vision with no regard for how it reads. But you
must nurture the things that make your story and your writing unique—that
make you unique, since writing is letting people crawl around inside
your head. Billions of people can write a sentence. Why should I
bother reading yours, unless they’re different?
Now I don’t want to go on and on about this new book. Well, I do. I really do.
But I realize that’s of limited interest when you can’t actually read it, and
probably won’t be able to for at least a year. And maybe it’s of limited interest
even then. Although why are you bothering to read my blogs? That’s
just weird, man.
Anyway. The fact is, the most exciting thing I did this week was email it
to my agent. From there it will go to Bill, my editor. Bill hasn’t read it yet,
so I will wait with thoughts like these: “He’s
going to love it. It’s by far my best book. Maybe he’ll hate it. It’s
probably all wrong for my demographic and the market has changed
and he’ll ask if I’ve written anything else lately. Oh, shit. I’ve wasted a
Now I know from responses to
a recent blog
that some of you find the idea of my career heading anywhere but upward
laughable. Or at least you were kind of enough to pretend that. But
you have to keep in mind, I’ve been dumped by a publisher once. If you
had heard nothing but positive things right up until the moment they
showed you the door, you’d have paranoia issues, too.
So even though I love this book, love it, I know that until I hear
back from Bill I will fret. I will regret posting this blog, for making the
humiliation when it gets rejected so much more public.
But today: damn. I just sent my best book to my publisher. I’m ecstatic.
So I’m almost finished the last pre-publisher draft of my new book, and
I’m watching the TV show Heroes. Where I live we’re about
three months behind the US. Well, a few weeks ago on Heroes
they introduced a minor character with a super power that’s very similar
to one of mine. Uh, I mean, similar to a particular talent that one of my
characters has. It’s not particularly original—it’s a form of mind control—but in
the show it’s described in an atypical way, the exact same
atypical way I’ve used.
Last episode, this character shot herself in the head. On the sofa, I said,
“Yes!” It was a terrific moment.
Hopefully by the time my book comes out, nobody will remember her.
I wake to the aroma of banana loaf. I’ve made barely a dent
in Katrina’s goodies, and my hotel room smells as if
Momma’s been a-bakin’. It’s quite delightful. Hotels should
consider leaving out banana loaf instead of chocolates, I think.
Take two for Google. This time I seem to have the right
day, and Ricky leads me through the campus to do my talk. And oh my God.
The stories are true. It is the most wonderful place
in the world. It’s like the company is saying,
“Just come in, hang out, and I’ll give you everything you could
possibly want. And if, you know, you have a minute free
and want to do some work for us, that’d be cool, too.”
There are endless
cafeterias; free, of course. Snack and drink machines everywhere.
Massage chairs. A laundromat. A beach volleyball court. A
wave pool. Grass, trees, open space. A full-scale model of
being attacked by a flock of pink flamingos. And geeks, geeks, as far as
the eye can see: young, free, happy geeks. I want to weep
for the years I spent at HP: why did I waste a single minute of
my life there when this exists? If I didn’t already have
my dream job, I swear I would throw myself on the Google doorstep and beg for
Which makes things a little ridiculous, because I am here
to preach about the innate evil of workplaces, and Google’s campus
is so wonderful that I expect bunnies to frolic amongst the cubicles
while chocolate donuts rain from the sky. Still, I’m not persuaded
that my thesis is wrong. I strongly suspect
that Google will never be as good a place to work again as
it is right now. Today, Google’s corporate identity is dominated
by the personality of its founders. I expect that as it ages, and
outlives the people who started it,
the corporation’s natural inclinations will gradually take over.
After all, one
time, long ago, HP was something like this.
The good thing about speaking to a room full of people who have
probably never heard of me is that I can dredge out
old stories I no longer tell
on book tour out of fear that everyone who
cares has already heard them. I also try to make the most out of
the sensation that I am a Person Worth Listening To, because I know
that in 24 hours I will be back to Person Who Needs To Do Those
the full Google video of my talk.]
The very first question is whether I am wearing the same shirt
as in my author photo on the back of the book. I confess that I am,
and use as my excuse that it’s all I have clean on my last day of tour.
But hey, I’m at Google. There are guys here who probably consider
it unnecessary and inefficient to own more than one shirt.
Back to my hotel, and as I pack for the last time I begin to feel like I might
miss this. I dunno; there’s just something about people rushing
to open doors for you and delivering hamburgers to your room at
1am that’s fairly easy to get used to.
The desk clerk asks if he can fetch me a cab, and I say, “No
thanks, I’m catching Bart.” I am quite excited about my plans to
catch Bart, and being able
to use the sentence, “No thanks, I’m catching Bart.” I was
meant to take a cab, but when I mentioned this to Katrina last
night she was horrified at the idea, since Bart pretty much
runs direct from my hotel room to SFO check-in.
So I trundle my suitcase down Market St to the station.
Unfortunately it’s 5pm and a lot of people are doing the same
thing, only without suitcases and with annoyed looks at people
standing around with suitcases trying to figure out where they’re going.
I know that most public transport systems
don’t make much of an effort to tell newbies how to use
them, but Bart seems to take that to a whole new level of mystery.
It even leaves up to me how much the ticket should cost: at
first it suggests $20, I bargain it down to five cents with the
down arrow, then we compromise on $5, which sounds about fair to me.
I hope any transit police I encounter feel the same way.
The train is packed and disappointingly not covered with Simpsons
characters or, really, remarkable in any way. It’s just a train.
So sitting there with my 50-pound suitcase biting into my thighs,
I’m thinking I probably should have caught that cab after all. But I don’t
want to leave you with the vague idea that this is all
Katrina’s fault. I want that to be clear. It totally is.
On my ninth journey through airport security screening in eleven days,
I find myself appreciating how polite and serene the staff are.
They deal with the exact same situations about a million times
per day. I am already shouting in my head: Hey, you! Shoes
off, idiot! You there, a laptop in your bag? What are you, stupid?
Whoa! Where do you think you’re going with that jacket? Hey! Yes,
moron, you! Shoes! SHOES!
For the flight home I am reaquainted with my old friend seat 48G,
which no amount of begging, calling, and mouse-clicking over the
last two weeks has been able to budge me from. But it turns out
that the seat beside me is miraculously empty—one of only a
handful of spaces on the entire flight. This allows me to angle
my legs diagonally under the next seat along and, oh sweet
jesus yes, straighten them. It’s a wonderful feeling, knowing
you can fall asleep without risking Deep Vein
We touch down in Melbourne and before long I’m through Customs. At first
I can’t see Jen and Finlay, and do a big circuit of the arrivals hall.
Then I spot them from behind. I yell, “Hey!” They turn and grin. Jen sets
Fin down and she stumble-runs toward me across the floor. It’s like the day
I left, except instead of leaping into my arms, she pulls up
right in front of me, looking suddenly shy. I sweep her up and hug her
tight, and after a second I feel her little arms hug me back.
I can’t sleep. Part of the problem is that when I lie down,
all the blood in my body rushes to my sinuses. Actually, maybe
that’s rushing phlegm. Yeah. It’s phlegm. The other part of the
problem is that back home, it’s Round 1 of the football season,
and my team is playing.
It would be stupid to get up, turn on my laptop, and
check the scores online. The game won’t finish until 3am
my time, so I won’t get to find out the result tonight
I get up, turn on my laptop, and check the scores online.
It’s Richmond 44, Carlton 44.
I also discover that there’s a streaming radio broadcast
available. “Hmm…” I say.
At 3am, I’ve got the laptop in bed with me, piping
out commentary. We lose. I turn it off and fall asleep.
Sunday is a travel day: the first day without a bookstore event
since I started the tour. All I have to do is fly to San
Francisco, check into my hotel, and marvel at the can
of personal oxygen on offer in the bathroom. It’s a relief to know that’s there,
just in case, say, all the oxygen molecules in the air coincidentally
rush to the other end of the room. I will grab that can
and inhale until the entropy principle reasserts itself.
For dinner I meet up with Katrina, a NationStates moderator, and discover that
she’s the girl who gave me a home-baked banana loaf in
San Francisco when I was here
last time. I figure this
out because this time Katrina has brought me not one but
two banana loaves. And not just that: she
and players John and Thom have hand-made a “NationStates Monopoly”
set, complete with “Issue cards,” “UN Resolution” cards,
custom money, and a board where key regions and alliances
are the property. It’s amazing. And I would post a picture,
except when I set up the game back at my hotel room later,
my camera batteries die in the middle of extending the lens.
But trust me: it’s amazing.
I can’t believe how much time and care went into it.
On Monday morning I shave my head, because my hair was getting
so unruly, and meet Frank, who was also my media escort from
One of the many great things about Frank is that he has
an extraordinary, apparently endless store of pithy quotes. Any given situation,
Frank can produce a famous quote to express what I was trying
to say, only better.
Frank takes me out to Mountain View, where I’m scheduled
to read at Google. I’m very excited about this, because
I’m a geek, and because as far as I can tell Google is
the best big company in the world. I have heard
many tales of wonder about the Google offices and want to see
if these are true.
We’re there early, though. Really early. About 24 hours early,
in fact. There’s been a miscommunication and I’ll
have to come back tomorrow.
So instead of wandering through the magical fields of
Google, I drop into San Francisco bookstores and sign
stock. Everyone in San Francisco is very fit, I notice.
Not that I’m surprised. Just walking up and down those
hills, residents must build incredibly powerful thighs.
They probably need to exercise a lot to balance that out.
I call home and discover that Finlay has really gotten into
YouTube lately. When Jen turns on the computer, Fin comes
up and says, “Movies? Movies?” Then she sits on Jen’s lap
and watches clips from the “Pets & Animals” section.
has a licking problem is popular.
Then it’s time for my reading. I’m expecting a small crowd,
because it’s in Danville, which was met with howls of despair
from my Bay Area readers when announced. And indeed there are fewer people,
perhaps 15 or 20, but since most have made a big
effort to get here, they’re a lovely audience. One guy,
Fazil, has brought me a bottle of the legendary
Cola, which I discover tastes pretty much like regular cola.
I was expecting to at least hallucinate a little. Disappointing.
On the drive home, Frank suggests that I take a photo of
each audience and post it on my blog. That’s a
terrific idea, one that I could have used about ten
days ago. Damn. Next time.
The last thing I do is a little more bathtub washing. I thought I
was done with this, but since my Google reading was knocked
back a day,
I need one more non-ugly shirt. I decide to try a technique
recommended by Tim in
comments of a previous blog,
whereby you wrap the wet item in a towel and stomp on it.
I’m generally in favor of plans that include stomping on
things. And this technique seems to work pretty well, although
Tim did promise that I would be “astounded” by it. I’m not sure
I’m astounded. I think to astound me, my shirt would need to come
out bone dry and already ironed. Or have maybe transformed into
a much hipper, more expensive shirt. That would be astounding.
This is merely satisfyingly less wet.
On the plane from Austin to Phoenix, I finish my advance copy of
new Chuck Palahniuk novel. Somehow I have ended up reading incredibly
explicit books on every flight. I flew from Melbourne to LA with
Mortem, by Ben Elton, and unexpectedly found
myself in the middle of the filthiest sex scene I’ve ever encountered.
Seriously, it was very educational. Only a Brit could
could produce a book that’s essentially a comedy of manners, but
I was sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with a mother traveling with her
two young children, and had to tilt the book away from her during
The danger then was that the man across the aisle would
think I was trying to show it to him. It was a delicate
Next up was Craig Clevenger’s
Dermaphoria, and a sex
scene involving a dripping tap. By the time I got to Palahniuk,
I decided that if people didn’t want to know about olfactory
cunnilingus, they shouldn’t be reading over my shoulder.
All three were great books, by the way. I’m now going to get myself
of Clevenger’s first,
The Contortionist’s Handbook.
And Rant is brilliant; nobody messes with my head as
delightfully as Chuck.
Definitely one of my favorites.
It’s my first visit to Phoenix, and the city has a great feel.
Although maybe part of that is my joy at seeing
the sun again, which I last sighted in Denver. My cab driver is
an effortlessly cool Jamaican man who jabbers into his cellphone
and gestures wildly with his free hand, controlling the steering
wheel with, as far as I can tell, sheer willpower.
Phoenix has palm trees, mountains popping unexpectedly out of
endless plains, and cacti. The latter strike me as jokes,
as if somebody put them there to be funny. I’m not really
sure why. But they are very amusing.
I settle into my hotel, pausing only to note that the doormen
wear shorts, and then it’s off to Changing Hands Bookstore in
Tempe. I’m supposed to do a 2-hour writing workshop ahead of
my reading, and not really sure what that means. I’m imagining
maybe five or six people and an interactive session where
I set them a writing task and then we discuss their work.
While they’re writing, maybe I’ll go out for pizza.
But 20 or 30 people have turned up, and the questions
fly. I end up doing the entire session as Q&A. I think most
people are relieved at not having to write something and talk
in public about it, although a few were clearly looking forward to that
part. I guess my next workshop should be longer.
Some people leave, others arrive, and then I do my
reading. Halfway through, I realize that a young girl in the audience,
maybe eight years old, is staring at me stonily. At first her
gaze is startling, and then I find it funny, and
have to deliberately avoid looking at her to keep it together.
Really, you try reading something in public while a little girl
with eyes the size of dinner plates stares at you unblinkingly.
It’s not easy.
Afterward, her mother brings her up to have a book signed, and I
learn that her name is Kaia. Kaia has a question:
“Have you met The Wiggles?” She thought that seeing as we’re
all Australian, maybe I occasionally bump into them.
But, sadly, no.
In line, Lisa gives me a home-made rabbit. It’s extremely
cute, with long, dangling arms and legs, and wearing a sweater.
She tells me not to give it to Fin, though, because the hands and feet
might pop off and choke her to death. But I can put it on her bedroom
shelf, where it can smile down at her temptingly.
As I’m leaving the store, a young, muscular man rushes out the
darkness at me. “Max! Max!” This turns out to be Kale, who
wants some books signed but
I guess didn’t want to wait in line. It’s just as well
for Kale that I’m not very famous. If I was Jimmy Carter,
my bodyguards would have put five slugs into him. Maybe one day
I will have armed bodyguards. One day.
I love my breakfasts. But when I’m at home, I don’t usually get to
them until late—11
or 12, if I’m writing. (Some writers drink. Some do drugs.
I find creativity via coffee on an empty stomach.) And I eat
cereal. Or oatmeal/porridge. Milk should always be somehow involved with
breakfast, I feel.
The hearty, American-style breakfast of egg and bacon and sausage and
hash browns is a little too much for me, especially early. If you
ask me, there’s something a little immoral about cooking anything before noon but toast.
This is why I’m having a little difficulty with the hordes of people
in line for pizza at 8am at the airport. And “breakfast tacos!” You
can’t just put the word “breakfast” in front of something as if that
makes it okay! No! There are no breakfast pot roasts, are there? Breakfast
buffalo burgers? Breakfast prime rib steak?
It’s raining in Austin. But that’s okay, because I have to stay in
and do my washing. Originally, my plan was to have the hotel
dryclean some clothes for me. But I’m never long enough in
one place for this. So I fill up the bathtub, toss in some soap,
and wash a load of shirts and underpants, old-school. Then I wring
them out, arrange them on hangers, and distribute them around my
hotel room. It really adds something to my luxurious hotel room;
a certain third world ambiance.
I call home, and we get the webcam thing happening. Jen puts Fin
on her lap, and Fin sees my picture and smiles. I sing nursery
rhymes to her through the phone and she grins and claps and says,
“More?” when I finish. It’s wonderful. Being able to see them,
even in jerky low-resolution, makes me feel much closer to home.
On a geeky note, I’m very pleased with my laptop computer.
It’s the first time I’ve left home with a Linux-powered machine
(it’s running Ubuntu),
and thought I might hit problems trying to hook up with the
internet services of various hotels. But nope: everything’s worked
Today’s amusing email:
im doing a book report on your book “Jennifer Government” and i need some books that contain information about you as an author. my stupid english teacher
insists that i find at least 3 books that contain information about you as an author, even though it seems to be impossible.
i also need to know if you are “respected” as an author in the writing community because it is part of my paper.
please please help me
That’s a good question, whether I am respected. Who knows what those
bitchy other authors say about me behind my back?
I wonder if authors ever go on tours together. That would be cool.
All this travelling would be more fun if there was somebody else.
I should go with Paul Neilan, because I’m recommending his book
at every stop. It feels good to recommend Paul’s book here,
because back home, every time I tell someone how great it is,
I have to add, “But you can’t buy it here.” This makes them
disappointed and angry. But it’s not my fault no-one’s
published it in Australia. I don’t control the world. But here,
at readings I can say, “And
it’s available in the US!” Then we all look at the bookstore
person, who says, “I don’t think we have that.”
At tonight’s reading,
a girl named Jessica asks whether Chuck Palahniuk and I hang
out together. She says that she read online that he’s a fan of my work,
and I hyperventilate for a few seconds before realizing that
she’s confusing Chuck with the webmaster of chuckpalahniuk.net,
Dennis. So I guess Chuck won’t be calling up any time soon and
asking if I want to come over and shoot some pool, or, you know,
murder some puppies or something. Whatever, Chuck. I’d be up for
Jessica has an adorable accent and says “y’all.”
It’s so strange to hear actual “y’all”s. I kind of assumed
they were just in movies and Jerry Springer. For some
more local flavor, a guy—I want to say Mike, but my notes aren’t
clear, sorry—gives me a “Fightin’
Texas Aggies” T-shirt, from Texas A&M University. He helpfully
advises me not to wear it in Austin, though, because it may prompt
locals to beat me up. I’m glad he mentioned that. I hope it doesn’t
cause any problem with airport security tomorrow.
What happens to the soap? Every day I check into a new hotel and
unwrap at least one small, packaged, and apparently pristine
bar of soap. I use a tiny amount
before I leave. What happens to the
rest? I can’t believe they’re throwing all that out. I haven’t seen
any big soap collection trucks backing up to hotels, and that’s
what they’d need to haul away all the leftovers.
They must collect the used bars, mold
them into new ones somehow, and repackage them. So when I’m in the shower, I’m actually
rubbing myself with soap that has passed over hundreds, maybe even
thousands, of bodies before mine. Maybe the way to look at hotel soap
is as a hundred million invisible skin particles from everyone who
stayed there before you, compressed into a sweet-smelling bar.
Feeling more connected to humanity, I head down for some breakfast.
There’s a TV running FOX News, and on screen people are agreeing that
the only way to deal with Iran’s seizure of British soldiers is to
“make them feel some pain.” Anything less, like diplomacy, would
cause the UK to become “a laughing stock.” It’s amazing
how similar all this is to the last time I was here, and the time
before that, and that. The names of the countries change (Iraq, Iran),
and the precise issue everyone’s agitated about, but
the solution is always the same: send in the military. And I understand
that mindset. But I don’t understand how they can still be talking
as if it’s February 2003.
A little later I receive the following email from David:
In today’s blog entry (March 28, 2007) you mention that Finlay crossed her arms for the first time earlier in the day, and express wishes that you could have a picture of this occurrence. I cannot provide you with an actual photograph of this important milestone in your daughter’s life, but I can offer
this artist’s rendering
of the occasion. I hope that it will convey the situation to you just as well as an actual photograph would have.
Now I don’t really want to encourage people to Photoshop pictures of
my daughter. But that completely cracks me up, so I have to share it.
At Madison airport, the woman at check-in is surprised that my final
destination is Chicago. I figure out why on the plane: I’ve just about
finished buckling up my belt when we commence our descent.
I spent more time going through security than actually travelling anywhere.
Chicago is a great city. I’ve been here twice before, once in January and
once in July, and I love how completely different it looked each time.
And I still think that having a beach right in the heart of the city
is one of the best ideas ever.
Of course, I’m going to see practically nothing of the place this time
the window of my taxi. I keep getting great tips for incredible places
that I absolutely must visit, but never get to use them. This is not
much of a way to sight-see, catching a plane every day.
My reading is at Barbara’s Bookstore, and it’s
an especially chatty, interactive crowd, which is
awesome. I like that I’ve done enough of these now to be able to
relax and have fun—in the early days, it was all a little too
nerve-wracking to do that.
In the long line of wonderful people who want me to deface their
books, I meet Joe, who rode 11.86 miles on his bike to be at the reading.
I know people who drove for many hours to make one of my readings
(I believe the record is 6.5 hours), but Joe posits that
nobody has ever cycled further than him. So there you have it,
people. The bar has been set.
“I smell worms,” says Mary.
Mary is my media escort for the day. We’ve just stepped out of her
car at FOX-6, ahead of my first TV interview in eight years, and
Mary can smell worms.
“Ewww,” she says. I look down and see that what I initially took
for sticks strewn across the sidewalk are indeed long
worms: dozens of them, hundreds. We have to pick our way carefully
toward the studio doors, and wipe our shoes of any collateral damage
when we get there. On the one hand, it seems a little disgusting
to be leaving a bunch of worms on the doorstep of FOX. On the other,
it feels a little appropriate.
I still can’t actually smell them, though. That’s got to be
some kind of super power: the ability to smell worms.
I’m nervous. I try a few calming techniques—thinking about
it being over already, telling myself nobody cares, remembering
that it’s only FOX, not a real TV network—but they have limited
effect. “Dress cute,” Mary advised me on the phone earlier. I don’t
think I packed cute.
I’m taken into the studio and miked up. Seen from behind, the set
looks like something cobbled together by
high school students for a play. Everything is scuffed, small,
and fake. Except the presenters: interviewing me is Kim Murphy,
and she’s lovely. She takes a couple of minutes to chat to me
off-air beforehand, helping me settle in and feel more comfortable.
And then, without warning, she’s reading from the auto-cue. It’s
here’s me on FOX.
I think I do okay, considering what a TV noob I am. I look pretty tired.
But I don’t stammer or freak out or stare too obviously at the cameras.
That’s a plus.
After the interview, Mary drives me to Madison. We stop along the way
to drop into bookstores and sign stock. This can go either way: sometimes
the person behind the desk is excited to meet me; sometimes
I am clearly about the fifth author to stop by that day, and the novelty has
well and truly worn off. Usually at chain stores it’s the latter, but at
a Barnes & Noble on the way out of Madison, I get my best reception ever.
By the time I leave, it seems as if half the store’s staff have been called
over to meet me. It’s like I’m famous.
Mary is kind enough to suggest I catch a nap on the way, and also kind
enough to not tell me if I snore in my sleep, or mutter, or jerk my
legs around. Apparently I can do that.
Last time I was in Madison, January 2004, a huge blizzard was blowing. I
fought my way to the store to find that endless rows of seats had been
set up, and nobody was in them. I think I ended up reading to about six
people, who were (of course) mostly sitting right up the back. That was
tough. If I get more than six people tonight, I’ll be happy.
But it’s a good night for a book reading, I’m told: not so cold that
you can’t bear going out, but not warm enough to want to do anything more
exciting. I can’t see how many people are here until I actually
step in front of them, but then it’s a pleasant surprise: there are lots.
The store guy tells me later that he counted 55, which makes it my
most well-attended reading so far. So all is forgiven, Madison. Thank
I can start to see differences in audiences. Tonight, I suspect that
many more people have read the book than usual. Four people down the
front are all reading along with me from their copy, which is kind of
funny; I’m used to one or two people doing it, but not a whole block of
them. It feels a little like taking English class.
There’s a long line of people to sign for afterward, and then I’m done.
That’s four down! I’m halfway through this tour already.
It’s here. The scratchiness in the throat. The sweating.
There are a million multiplying bio-agents in my head and they’re
all manufacturing phlegm.
I get up in the middle of the night to gargle antiseptic
mouthwash and discover that this stuff is much stronger
than back home. I think it actually dissolves my teeth a little.
But I’m prepared to take a little friendly fire. This throat
needs to be liberated.
The key to getting out of a hotel room on time is to corral all
your gear into one small area and not let it escape. It tries, of course.
When you’re not looking, your shoes sneak under the desk and your
wallet climbs onto the bedside table. Then when you’re chasing
them down, your underpants run giggling into the bathroom. You
have to be vigilant.
My dilemma this morning is that I have no dollar bills with
which to tip the guy who will inevitably try to lift my bag into
the back of the taxi. I’m not sure which is weedier: not saying
anything or launching into a big sad story about how I don’t
have anything smaller than a twenty because I lost my credit
card temporarily and blah blah blah. But luckily I manage to
get out to the curb on my own, and then the cab driver lunges
for my bag before the doorman can reach it. That’s good: I
can tip him with my credit card. Crisis averted.
I check-in but am not assigned a seat, instead being told to
see someone at the gate. In retrospect, I should have realized right away
that this meant a problem. But I’m still a little naive about flying
and assume that if you book a ticket, they’ll let you on the
plane. This silly notion is beaten out of me at the gate, where
a woman explains that the plane can only take 49 passengers
instead of the booked 50 because of weight issues. “And you’re
number 50,” she says. This strikes me as a little unfair.
I mean, I know I’m not a teenager any more, but there have to be
plenty of passengers with more significant weight issues
than me. Surely in this situation it should be surivival
of the thinnest?
The solution, apparently, is to get a passenger to voluntarily
give up their seat.
So I stand by the desk while she makes
a series of attractive offers to anyone willing to do so.
Nobody bites. Finally, when everybody’s on board but me, she shrugs and just prints me off a
boarding pass. I’m reminded of the movie French Kiss, where
Kevin Kline says:
says there is a crack in the engine, but not to worry, he
take off anyway.”
“Head through to Door E,” she says. “E,” I say, nodding.
“No, E,” she says. This is the sort of discussion that could
go on a while, so rather than educate her about Australian
accents, I just nod. Door E is down a stairwell eerily
reminiscent of my old high school, complete with chewing gum
stuck to the rail. Then I am told to wander out on the
tarmac for my plane. “It’s the gray one,” an assistant
I walk outside and there are about 18 gray airplanes in a row
preparing to take off. I choose the closest one and climb
aboard. It feels like catching a bus. “Is this Milwaukee?
Are we going to Milwaukee?”
The answer is maybe, because while we’re in the air, a
thick fog rolls over Wisconsin.
The pilot tells us we might end up in
Chicago. I’ve never been diverted before, so this seems
quite interesting, albeit something of a problem in that
a bunch of people are expecting me to be at a Milwaukee
bookstore in a few hours’ time. But that wouldn’t be my
problem, exactly. One of the wonderful things about being
on book tour is that other people are responsible for
figuring out where you are supposed to go and how to get you
there. It’s kind of like they assume you are a complete
moron, unable to do anything for yourself, and once you
learn to go with that, it’s very pleasant.
Our pilot, who has a deep Southern accent and clearly
isn’t the sort of guy to let little things like excess
weight regulations stop him from flying his plane his way,
decides to take a stab at a Milwaukee touchdown even though
he can’t see anything.
ground materializes out of fog about eight seconds before we
make contact, but it’s a pretty smooth landing. He talks the
talk, our guy, and he backs it up.
Milwaukee is cold. Not as cold as the last time I was here,
in January 2004, when everything was under a two-foot blanket
of snow. That was awesome. But still cold; colder than it
looked when I did a quick search on US temperatures before
I left home and tried to convert fahrenheit to celsius in
my head. Since I’m kind of sick, I don’t think I’ll be
doing any sightseeing on foot today.
I have a media escort here, Mike, whose job it is
to assume I’m a complete moron for the day. Mike is a
great guy, very easy to talk to, and he plays tour guide
as we drive around and I drop into book stores to sign
stock. “The only bad thing about Milwaukee is the crime,”
Mike says. “Crime is worse than it should be. But where
you’re staying, downtown, that’s safe. Well… relatively
I find the bookstores a little depressing, especially the
big Barnes & Noble store. There are so
many new books; endless shelves of them. And every hardback
has a carefully crafted eye-catching cover and amazing
quotes from allegedly rave reviews and is written
by a good-looking celebrity. I wonder how it’s possible
for a small, good book to fight its way out of this
circus. I’m glad I don’t have to see this very often:
the pointy, business end of publishing. I love writing
books; I don’t want to have to think too much about
My reading is at Harry W. Schwartz in Bay View. It’s a
new store, and I think the unfamiliar location is probably why people keep
trickling in at a steady rate throughout the reading. Either
that or because I initially posted the wrong address on
this web site. I’ve been changing the parts of Company
I read from stop to stop, but think I’ve got a good selection
now. Then we have a particularly good Q&A session, with
lots of great questions. Afterward, I sign books,
including about a dozen hardbacks for a guy who has laminated the covers.
He’s a collector, so I ask him how that works:
how does he decide how long to hold on to an author’s books,
and when it’s time to cash in? I’m particularly interested
in his opinion about when I’m going to peak, or if I already have.
But he says he’s the kind of
collector who can’t bear to sell his books. “I have 16,000
hardbacks,” he says. “My wife doesn’t especially like that.”
Back at my hotel, I have a fax from Martin at Vintage saying
I have a TV interview in the morning on FOX 6. Wow. I’ve only
ever done one TV interview before, a show called “Jersey’s Talking”
with Lee Leonard on my first ever book tour in 1999, and I’m
sure I was completely terrible. I will try to do better tomorrow.
Finally I call home and hear that earlier today
Finlay crossed her arms for the first time. Crossed her arms!
That sounds hilarious. I need a picture of that.
I wake at 7am and don’t feel like heaving. This is a big improvement
over this stage of my last book tour. I’m pretty pleased with how I’ve
adapted to the 17-hour time difference so far. The only issue I have is
appetite: it’s coming up on 24 hours since my last meal
and I’m not hungry yet. That’s just not right.
I pack up my stuff and leave my hotel, pausing only to try to check
my reflection in the TV. Honestly, this thing is the size of a surfboard;
I keep thinking it’s a mirror. I also swipe a hotel pen, because back
home I’m running low, having by now lost most of the pens I stole from hotels
on my 2006 tour.
I board my flight to Denver and settle in to my seat. The woman to my
left dabs at her nose, and with dawning horror I realize:
she has a cold. Over the next 90 minutes,
she sneezes, hacks, coughs, and wipes, while I try to breathe through
a pillow. I wish the check-in screen had mentioned that
during seat selection. I would definitely have chosen the “non-virus
bearing” area of the airplane. In fact, when choosing my seat I’d
ideally like to see little pictures of who’s going to be seated where.
That would be interesting. I would choose to sit near small but
But for now, I am stuck leaning to the right,
away from Cold Woman and her contagens.
Then the passenger on that side, also a woman, unexpectedly tells me:
“You have lovely eyes.” I don’t know quite what to say to this.
But I suspect I may have been leaning too far.
This is my first visit to Denver, and I like what I see: it’s quite charming,
the kind of size that’s big enough to be interesting but
not so crowded that you can’t stroll down the sidewalk without elbowing
somebody, or being mugged. It’s definitely spacious. I don’t think
I’ve ever seen
so much ground-level car parking. I imagine that if you tell
a Denver resident that in other cities they have entire buildings
for parking cars, one level above the other, their eyes would widen
I check in to my new hotel and go searching for food, since it’s now
a day and a half since I’ve eaten and my body has decided it’s ready
for something now. In fact, in between ordering a burger and it arriving,
I become ravenous. Then, eight bites in, I’m not hungry at all.
I’m getting a bit exasperated with my appetite. It needs to
figure out what the hell it’s doing, and get with the timezone.
My reading is at Tattered Cover, which is a completely cool bookstore
in a converted theater. It’s 25 or so people, very
warm and friendly, and I think it goes great. While signing books,
I notice a guy still in the seats, feeding a baby, and start to get
misty-eyed for home. Then the baby starts barking like a dog. It’s
coughing, but seriously, in the most eerily dog-like way. Not that
there’s anything wrong with that. As a parent, I completely understand
that kids do odd things. But people in line could very well be
under the impression that this guy is feeding a bottle of milk to
a swaddled-up pooch.
Beth, the organizer at Tattered Cover, has a surprise for me: an Advance
Reader Copy of Syrup. This is the first incarnation of my
first novel ever printed, back in 1999, and I managed to lose every
one of my copies many years ago. Since then I’ve been trying
desperately to get my hands on one. And suddenly I’m being given
one! Well, when I say “given,” I mean that Beth asks me to sign it
for her, and then I tell her this sad story about not having any
of my own left, and she caves in and hands it over.
On the way back to my hotel I stop off at a drugstore to load up
on bio-weapons with which to fight off any viruses I acquired
on the plane.
There I discover
that I have somehow lost my credit card. This is my second worst
fear on tour, right after running out of dollar bills and having
to endure the silent contempt of doormen, and I panic, because
if I have no cash I can’t even pay for a cab to the airport
tomorrow morning. I finally locate my card in my other pants, back
at the hotel, but only after spending my last dollar bill at the
drugstore. Oh-oh. Tomorrow morning could be tough.
Wow, I probably shouldn’t write blogs at 3AM. When I began typing
up yesterday’s post, I intended
to describe the rest of my day, which involved meeting
NationStates admins for dinner and enjoying some ice cream that was like
sex in a bowl, only creamier.
But it was the middle of the night (I’d woken and couldn’t find sleep
and after typing for a while, I
started to feel like the only person on the planet. Then thinking
about Fin saying “Neena, neena” tipped me over the edge, and
it all abruptly ended in a very melancholic place.
On Sunday, however, I am reminded that I am actually
incredibly privileged to be here, because today
is my first reading. And before that, I get to do the LA thing: take
meetings with movie people. First it’s the Syrup producers,
to discuss the next draft, then Steve Pink, who’s writing
the Company screenplay. Steve throws questions at me like,
“Okay, my problem with Eve is this: in the third act does she redeem
herself with Jones or should I have her sink deeper?” And I have
absolutely no idea. I can’t even remember the book properly any more;
I get confused between what’s in the final draft and what
I threw out several years ago. I wish I could give
Steve the kind of great story insights that only the
original author can provide, but I’ve got nothing.
While being completely useless to Steve, I have breakfast, or lunch,
or something. My body is still suspicious about what time it really
is, and doesn’t want to commit to full-blooded meals: it wants to
eat lots of small things, spaced about an hour apart. I order a bowl of oatmeal and
an orange juice, which unexpectedly shatters
my previous record for most
overpriced book tour meal:
it’s $53, excluding tip. Even the waitress is
a little embarrassed, and this is Beverly Hills. It may be difficult
to explain this one to my publisher.
In the afternoon I have my event at Book Soup. It’s at an odd time,
4pm on a Sunday, which I’m expecting will mean a smaller crowd
than last time. On previous tours this would have worried me,
since I’m still emotionally scarred from the experience of reading
to empty rows of seats on earlier book tours. It’s pretty hard
work to stand at a microphone when the only six people in the audience
have all chosen to sit at the very back of the 90 seats the bookstore
laid out. (Ah, Madison.) But now I think a small
crowd would be fine. More personal and fun, even.
I had such amazing turnouts on the hardback tour a
year ago; I think it’s made me less paranoid that a small crowd means
a freefalling career and
crawling back to Hewlett-Packard to beg for my old job back.
Twenty or thirty people show up, which is about perfect for the space,
and that’s when I realize I have to stop wallowing in homesickness. Because
how amazing is it to have people actually bother to come see you
and talk about how much they like your books? Most writers would
kill for something like this. I get to do it for the next eight days,
plus eat bowls of $53 oatmeal.
The reading has a great, casual feel; I talk a little about the
origins of the book, read a few sections, then answer questions.
It finally occurs to me why the publisher was a little reluctant to
send me to the same city I visited on the hardback tour: I need to come
up with something original for anyone who was here a year ago. So
one of the things I do is read a couple of pages from the new book
I’m working on, which I’m calling The Exceptionals. This is actually a little
nerve-wracking, because it’s still pretty raw and almost nobody’s seen
it yet. But it seems to go down very well, and a few people tell
me afterward how much they liked it. So I might do that at
my other readings, too. I just have to hope my editor doesn’t find
out and want to know why the hell other people get to hear about it
After the reading, I meet Dennis Widmyer, who runs the Chuck Palahniuk
web site The Cult
(and who read an early draft of Company for me, several years back).
I’ve lost track of the number of people who have told me at book signings
that they first heard about me at that site, so I probably owe Dennis half
my royalties or something. Instead I buy him a hot chocolate. Really,
it is a very nice hot chocolate.
And then back to my hotel. I’ve noticed that this tour seems to have
a much easier pace than the hardback one. There’s almost no media by comparison,
so I have time to do things like eat and check my
email. Man, that’s pretty sweet. The last thing I do on Sunday is settle down to
call Jen and Fin. It turns out that Fin has just woken from
her afternoon snooze in a foul mood and is screaming the house down.
Yikes. When I put the phone down on her howls, I get into bed and
watch a video clip I took before I left where she’s all smiley and
gorgeous. Ahhh. Bliss.
Yep. Not too bad, this trip.
“Daddy!” Fin shrieks, and begins to run toward me across the airport
hall floor. There are a million people around but no-one between
her and me, and she runs/staggers/falls toward me with a huge grin
on her face. I crouch down and she leaps into my arms. Her little
fists bunch the material of my sweater, trapping it in her miniature iron
grip. It’s so good to hold her again. It’s so good to smell her.
I haven’t seen my daughter since she got bored in the check-in
line, about an hour ago, and Jen took her off to play near the
fire engine that moves if you put in a dollar.
My quest was to avoid seat 48G. I was booked on seat 48G, but
I didn’t want it: thanks to SeatGuru.com I knew it was the row behind
the babies in bassinets, two rows behind the toilets, had
reduced leg room, and was in the middle section. Melbourne to LA is
a fifteen hour flight; you want a good seat. The only way to change
it, the travel agent told me, was to turn up early at check-in.
Which I did, to find that the line is already so long that it
snakes through several
other dimensions. Whenever I make some progress, an airline
employee wanders through the line and calls passengers on flights
ahead of mine to come to the front. This continues until finally
I am one of those passengers who needs to be called to the front,
which occurs exactly six places before I would have gotten there
anyway. By that stage, I don’t want their help. It’s like ascending
Mt. Everest and then with a hundred yards to go and the summit in
sight, my Sherpa offers to carry me.
The woman at check-in can’t change my seat. She says,
“If you want to do that, you have to get here early.”
So it’s time for goodbyes. I kiss my beautiful wife and daughter.
Fin says, “Bye-bye.” Last time, 14 months ago, she couldn’t talk.
She didn’t even have teeth. Nowadays she’s smart enough to come
to the bottom of the stairs, rattle the stair-gate, and yell,
“Daddy! Daddy!” until I appear.
I don’t even want to think about how much I’m going to miss her.
Once through security, I proceed directly to the gate, pausing only
to drop into the bookstore and see if they’ve got mine. They do,
but it’s on the very bottom shelf, filed under “W.” I can only
presume that some unethical author has swapped their books for
my prized “B” placement. Appalling. I take my books and swap them
for some novel that looks exactly like The Da Vinci
Code if you aren’t paying attention.
The flight itself is notable only for the fact that my seat’s entertainment
system plays all dialogue at near-inaudible levels. So I
can enjoy a movie for its visuals, background noise, and soundtrack,
but can’t hear a word anyone is saying, unless they’re doing it off-screen.
This strikes me as the kind of fault that is so bizarre someone
must have carefully engineered it.
Then it’s US Customs. Ah, Customs. How we have danced, over the
years. This time I notice that as a visiting alien, I am
granted certain rights; in particular the right to appeal any decision
by a Customs official. I know this because on the back of the Customs
form, I am required to officially waive these rights. This seems a little
like offering somebody ice-cream but only if they first agree to
not have any ice-cream. It seems to be getting more common lately
that the way I discover that I have various rights is when I’m asked to
One small thing really bugs me about LAX Customs. There are about two
dozen booths, maybe half of which are occupied by officials. Above
these booths are scrolling LED screens, which usually tell you
something helpful, like please present these papers, or don’t drink
and drive because you’ll die. (Seriously.) But on the unoccupied booths,
the screens advertise themselves. They scroll messages about how many
characters they can display at once (27), how vibrant their colors are,
and how simple they are to operate. Not so simple to change the default
messages, apparently, because it’s been this way for frickin’ years.
Customs asks me a series of questions about the purpose of my visit,
including a request for me to describe the plot of all three of my novels.
I’m not sure whether they guy is just curious or my entry
to the United States of American really does depend on having
sufficiently engaging storylines. But either way, he lets me go through.
The next guy asks me about my book as well, and takes a fancy to the
way I say “satire.” He says it himself, trying on my accent. On
one hand, I appreciate that anyone in this Gulag has a sense of humor.
On the other, it’s hard to ignore the fact that this guy can order
me stripped, probed and deported if I don’t laugh at his jokes.
I bet he finds his audiences mystifyingly less appreciative away
At my hotel, I am pleased to discover that Los Angeles is just how
I left it: all eating disorders, tiny dogs, and 70-year-old guys in
baseball caps. My first job is to find one of those hole-in-the-wall
stores that sells international phone cards, so I can call home without
bankrupting myself. But my hotel is in Beverly Hills, and this is hard
to do. If I wanted to whiten my teeth or buy diamonds, it’d be no problem.
But phone cards are very thin on the ground.
I finally find a Rite-Aid (medicine and booze in the one store!
What could possibly go wrong?), secure a card, and head back to my
hotel for a phone interview. On the way I’m passed by a fire engine.
If Fin was here, she’d say, “Neena, neena.” She likes fire engines.
I wish I could teleport my girls here. I wish there was no
time difference. I miss them so much already.
So I’m going to do another travel diary. That was fun
last time, and what else
am I going to do in my downtime, dance around my hotel room
naked and get drunk from the mini-bar? I mean, apart from that?
This will mean an increase in the number of emails you’ll get
from here (daily-ish instead of weekly-ish), if you’re
subscribed that way. If that will bother you, you might want to
change your preferences now.
(Unfortunately, no, there is no “Un-hear that sentence about
Max dancing naked” option.)
[ US Tour Details Here ] <— (note change of venue in Milwaukee)
For 2007 I have resolved to make every single blog about writing.
Okay, no, not really. That would be boring as all get-out. But I
am still a little giddy from my
staggeringly disaster-free latest
effort, so I might do a few more than usual. I mean, it’s not
like anyone’s forced to read them, right? If you’re here for the
cutesy Finlay pics, you can
skip on by, can’t you? Right. And where possible
I will try to relate them to non-writing areas, in order to avoid
disappearing up my own butt.
So. To discipline. I have come to suspect that discipline is a myth.
These elite athletes who train at four in the morning until their
toes bleed; the child violinists who stay locked in their rooms
practicing while all their friends are out doing fun stuff like
drugs and unprotected sex;
we’re supposed to think they’re disciplined.
We’re meant to shake our heads in admiration and say, “Wow, she
really earned it.” But I reckon what they’ve actually been doing
is having a good time and calling it work.
I’ve reached this conclusion because I have no discipline, and I
assume my character flaws are shared by the rest of the world. (The
good parts are just me.) I work from home. There’s nobody stopping
me spending my days browsing girls-with-glasses-having-mudfights.com
instead of writing novels.
The fact that I do manage to squeeze out a new book now and again
is often interpreted as evidence that I must have great discipline.
But I write books because I love it. That’s not discipline, is it?
Isn’t that just being fortunate enough to get paid for recreation?
When I first decided to give full-time writing a shot—before
I was published, by the way, which should tell you how very stupid I
was—I was extremely disciplined. I had daily word targets. I graphed
my progress. If I fell behind, I would berate myself about wasting
precious time. And I did write many words. But I didn’t enjoy it
much, and my output fell off, and the book I was writing turned out to
be a steaming pile of crap, which I never finished.
I bet the same thing happens if you’re trying to become a professional
violinist, or swimmer, or even something more mundane like trying to
get into shape.
Unless you enjoy the process and take pleasure from practicing, you
Hmm. When I started this blog, I thought it was going to be
kind of inspirational.
You know, about how there’s not that much separating us normal
people from world-class achievers. But now I think about it,
you can also read it as a depressing indictment on how people are
pathetic they can’t achieve anything unless they get lots of
little rewards along the way.
Well, either way.
Note: I didn’t really mean to
skip a whole month of blogs there. Sorry about that. I did get a ton
of writing done, though, and played with my daughter. So, really, can
you complain? I mean, and still sleep at night?