Tuesday, September 21, 2010

She's a Writer... Or Is She?

I've been telling people left and right about how I am now on the Penguin Group "list." Now when authors stop through Chicago on their book tours, Penguin will send me a free copy of their books a month or two beforehand so I can read and review them. "I feel like I've made it," I told someone the other day.

I didn't even understand what I was saying as I said it. Made it in what? Like I'm a real writer now because someone is mailing me books with handwritten notes paperclipped to the jacket begging me to write about them?

I wrote a lot of really crappy stories when I was 12. I studied writing in college and realized I was not half as good of a writer as my high school English grades had made me out to be. Now I write a couple blog posts a week. So I guess I'm a writer?

It's a hard thing, this writer business. Because I don't know what being a writer exactly means. I write all the freaking time — in my emails, twitter and blogging — but obviously those things aren't real writing. So I don't count them in my writing quota for the day. And also, to be a better writer, you're supposed to read. And I try, I really do. But sometimes it's just not possible to put in a couple hours of reading a day. I have to buy groceries and do laundry and go to work and stuff. In other words, I don't always put in the time to really be a writer, so using that term to define myself seems like a lie.

But when it comes down to it, writing is something that I love. I'm more of a writer than I am a mathematician. I could care less about a really difficult math problem. But sometimes I'll be reading something and I'll think to myeself "if only I could do that." If I could only write one great sentence a day.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Who Knew?

I just read Our Man in Chicago's essay for the Chicago 20x2 event. The essay was based on the prompt "Who Knew?"
But in trying to answer the question “Who Knew?” I kept coming back to what initially sounded like a very pompous answer: “I knew.” And by that I meant “I knew the answer to a question even though I pretended like I didn’t.”
Scott goes on to explain how he knew before he knew it wasn't going to work out with one woman, how he knew before he knew it would work out with another, and how he knew before he knew he might be on the verge of pooping his pants.
The point is: The more you try and distract yourself, the more likely it is that you’re avoiding the answer you already know.
This whole "I knew" reflection reminds me of where I was a little over a year ago. My French was getting pretty good and I had been adopted into a great group of (French!) friends. I had a place to live, a job in my field. A company had even approached me for another, better job, for which I had taken a writing test. They didn't call back. Neither did I. Because even though I had had serious conversations with close friends about Parisian salary requirements, I didn't know I knew.

Even though I left work early one month before my flight back to Chicago, then spent the other half of the day crying, I didn't know I knew.

Even though I thought about how hard it would be the find a job in Chicago because I had a seemingly worthless journalism degree during a time when there were fewer jobs for journalists by the hour, I didn't know I knew.

And even though I talked to anyone who would listen about my should-or-stay-or-should-I-go? conundrum, I didn't know I knew.

And even the first few months in Chicago, so excited to be back in the land of customer service and Target, speaking a language without acognizing over pronounciation and not having to worry about meeting new people because so many of my closest friends were right there, I didn't know I knew.

Because I couldn't find a job no matter how hard I looked, was freaked out by the unnatural hugeness the bananas - and humans - at the store and was constantly frustrated by turning the key to the left to unlock doors when I had been accustomed to turning it to the right.

Next week, I'll celebrate one back year in Chicago. I've come a long way in this time, and I haven't always been sure that I made the right decision. But it doesn't matter because I already knew.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Snapshot of My Inbox

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a blog post on Chicagoist about a new class at DePaul that focuses on the ins and outs of small press publishing. It was designed and is being taught by the founders of one of the indie presses here in Chicago.

Yesterday, I received an email from one of them thanking me for the coverage. He said several students had signed up for the class after reading my post. Furthermore, he told me, if those several students hadn't enrolled, the course probably wouldn't have happened. I am assuming they needed a minimum number of students to teach it.

It felt great to hear that something I wrote had a positive outcome. Okay, I know I didn't change the world or anything. But people read something I wrote. And then some of those people did something because of something I wrote. That feels pretty good, right? I don’t need validation for my writing, but it's still nice to be reminded why I'm a journalist. Or blogger. Or whatever I am these days.

Then, only a few hours later, I received this comment on a different post I wrote, a review of a new book: "This review misses the point of the book!" Then something about my lack of understanding "may point to the first signs of an absence of compassion."

Oh, such is life. You make some people happy, others you don't.