Because I like to feel as though I’m part of at least some kind of literary crowd, I follow both John Green and Neil Gaiman on Tumblr.(1) At different points today they both posted(2) the following image, though the image links through to its original source.
According to my buddies John and Neil, this is fairly accurate. Neil says that really you only need that last panel, but, you know, leave it to Neil to say something like that. I’ll have to take the piss out on him later at the pub.
This comic is great because it explains succinctly why I’m not a novelist. And since everything else more-or-less fits, we only have to examine panels 6, 7 and 9.
Panel 6: Loyal Pet
Oh I have pets. I sure do. As I write this sentence there are eight pets within six feet of me. The problem? They’re all cats. And while cats make wonderful companions, they aren’t exactly the first in line when it comes to swearing oaths of fealty. So obviously before I can be a novelist I need to get a dog. Or I don’t know; I hear horses are loyal. Basically any animal I don’t have to worry would stab me in the back for a huge bag of catnip would suffice.
Panel 7: Neglected spouse
I don’t have a spouse at the moment, though of course Ashley’s agreed to take the job. The problem is that she’s not neglected.(3) In fact, she probably gets way more attention than she wants from me. And, frankly, if that’s the price of being a great novelist, I’ll settle for being a horrible novelist. Or even mediocre. I’ve been a neglected spouse in the past and let me tell you: the loneliest feeling in the world is when the person who promised to love you forever will still love you forever but doesn’t like you at all. No way is Ashley going through that. Not on my watch, not for any reason. So writing and I will have to come to a compromise on that one.
Panel 9: Years of boring hard work
Neil’s right, of course. This is the only panel that really matters. Being a great fiction writer requires an enormous amount of hard work and, ironically, it’s also the easiest thing in the world to not do. Oh work was rough today. Oh I’m so worn out. I really need to spend more time with my meth lab. Excuses are cheap and easy to come by, to precisely the same degree as bad writing.
It used to be that I’d spend more time writing than doing anything else during any given day. I got out of that habit in fairly short order and, truth be told, I miss it. I’m not unskilled – I’ll admit it – as a writer; I lack the discipline though. I can control many things in my life, but when it comes to sitting down to write I’m about as disciplined as Hunter S. Thompson’s rapid pet monkey on a bender in Vegas.
This is why I’m not a great novelist. This is why I’m not a novelist at all. I work on this blog to make myself feel a bit more like a writer and, while I love blogging, it’s an ersatz replacement.(4) I miss the days when I felt like a writer, when I was part of a real literary community. When I sat down and did the work. Just as much as I miss the days when I didn’t whine about not being a writer.
And it is whining, make no mistake.
- They know me as that guy who’s pathologically needy and faux-erudite comments at every turn.
- Does one post to Tumblr? Or does one tumbl on Tumblr? I’m terribly confused about this.
- At least, I’m pretty sure she’s not. Let me go let her out of her cage and ask.
- Like when they went back to the original Becky on Rosanne. Because everyone knows Sarah Chalke is way better than what’s-her-name.