Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Write Stuff

by Glenn T (writer), Las Vegas, NV, October 27, 2009


A little disappointment turns out to be a poignant reminder of just why the hell I keep tapping on all these keys...

Today I found out that I didn’t win a short fiction contest that I entered this summer. In fairness, I didn’t really expect to win, nor did I have much of a chance. I’m not a fiction writer, and it was a national contest run by a magazine that features some of the best authors and writers of our time. But motivated by my girlfriend (an actual fiction author who entered and also didn’t win) and a fair number of cliches that are designed to keep me from allowing the statistical impossibility of things from paralyzing me into inactivity (e.g. “he who will not risk cannot win”, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” and something about the “road less travelled” that I should be able to recall but cant), I entered anyway. It was a difficult but enjoyable project, and in my secret heart, where I keep my dreams of winning the lottery, making out with Carmen Electra and playing electric guitar for AC/DC, I hoped to see my name and my story printed in my favorite magazine. And in the most inglorious way possible, by opening the latest issue delivered to my house and flipping through, happening upon the winning entry a full three months before I thought a winner would be announced, I found out that it wasn’t mine and it wasn’t me.

So, instead of waxing poetic about the latest invasive public behavioral trend that makes me simultaneously loathe traveling, big cities and the public in general, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on why it is that I write. For the record, had I not come upon this epiphanic moment, I’d be writing about the gentlemen in the row ahead of me, who is the latest in a string of middle-aged men who seem bent on attempting their strained and painful version of flirting with the poor women who made their travel plans too late to avoid getting stuck in a middle seat next to them. Invariably, whether a function of the pervasive and palpable awkwardness or simply a general lack of concern for collateral impact, these men lose control of the volume of their voice and I am bombarded by a stumbling and desperate monologue whose volume, consistent lack of humor, and intensity is impossible to ignore (despite my noise canceling headphones and the rumble of a jet aircraft). In addition to desperately hoping that they’ll find a reason to shut the hell up, or possibly be stricken mute by some sort of biological miracle, I’m left to wonder when the point is reached where communication with the opposite sex regresses to the same level it was at when I was 14 - because it seems to, thus far, be getting easier every year, and these guys can’t be much more than 10 years older than I am. Is like some sort of “flirting stroke” where I’ll suddenly start to slur my speech, not be able to feel half of my face and end up recycling tired social commentary to every strange girl unfortunate enough to get stuck in a seat next to me? But I digress. This is about writing, and I’m sure he’ll shut up soon.

So, I’m not winning contests, my book hasn’t generated any interest amongst literary agents, and I haven’t been published in a major periodical since law school. And yet, I still write. Why? For now, I’m lumped into the same category as the midwestern women who write short stories about the adventures their cats have in their dreams and demented home social scientists who are writing manifestos about the dangers of processed foods and the radiation from cell phones. If it were any other endeavor, I would have long ago cast my implements into the same storage area that holds my long-unused rollerblades, golf clubs and Rock Band drums. But I don’t write because I want it to make me rich or pretty and I don’t write because I want it to make me famous. In the simplest terms, I write because I’ve got something to say, and I want people to listen.

Writing is a special form of catharsis. Writing is the best version of my voice. In its measured phrases, sentences and paragraphs, I speak as efficiently and exactly as I’d like to speak in person. You know that feeling you get after you’ve had a discussion and you think of the perfect thing to have said? Or in a verbal confrontation when you come up with the perfect comeback but it’s too late to fire it? That’s what writing can give you. A chance to say it just right. And for a child who had a serious speech impediment growing up, the kind that required countless hours of humiliating speech therapy to correct, the ability to say something that right means ever so much more. Imagine knowing what you’d like to say and then being physically unable to say it. Imagine everyone around you looking at you with pity and disdain because you’ve been stricken dumb by your own mind. And then imagine what you might say when you finally found your voice. Imagine how you might never want to stop saying things at all.

Writing is a chance to inspire and entertain; each purpose with equal value. Writing is permanent and tangible. Writing endures. Writing is a snapshot of your mind, much like a portrait is of your body, and I’m sure you’ll agree that each can be equally embarrassing if you look far back enough. I try to hide my first stabs at writing as far away as I do pictures from high school and college. But the essays I write are the very first thing that I have ever done of which I am truly proud. I can look back, read some of the things I’ve written and be in complete and utter disbelief that I wrote them. I don’t want to change or improve them. I’m happy with them just the way they are. And contentment, for me, has always been in short supply.

I can finally understand the minds of those countless souls who trek out to Los Angeles, in the face of impossible odds, and an impossibly dirty and horrible business, to try and make it as an actor or actress or is some other creative art, because they truly believe their stuff is good enough. We’ve taken a special interest in watching the dreams of these intrepid souls get crushed, as the “open audition” episodes of our favorite TV talent shows draw astronomical ratings, inspire dozens of viral videos and become the stuff of entertainment commentary for weeks. But, it is the precious few of those starry eyed artists who actually do have the right stuff that go on to inspire us all. Without them, we’d simply have our 9-5 jobs, our overpriced lattes and our network news, and everything would be a fine shade of gray.

And so I keep writing; for the kid that wanted a steady sure voice more than anything, and for all the kids that still do. I keep writing for chance to write just one great thing, or a library full of them; to inspire the world, or just one person. I write to make sure that I was here, and for everyone else who did the same. I write funny things to keep from crying and heavy things to keep from, well, more crying. I write to keep you from reading Us magazine, watching the Tyra Banks Show and listening to Miley Cyrus. I write to make you laugh and I write to make you think. I write because I’m a writer, and because you’ll never know how much it means to me that you read.

Oh, and in case you'd like to read the ill-fated short story... you can find it here.

About the Writer

Glenn T is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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7 comments on The Write Stuff

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By Seema Upadhyay on October 27, 2009 at 04:57 pm

Hey Glenn. I emphathise with you. The taste of success is sweeter after failures and am sure when you win awards for your writting, you would remember these experiences. Do keep writting.



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By TonyBerkman on October 28, 2009 at 08:59 pm

Keep writing.   Perhaps it's the pursuit of perfection when it comes to your flirting and  writing that is blocking you from first break in your writing career and talking to strange women.  

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By Theresa H Hall on October 29, 2009 at 07:21 pm

Being passionate about a thing is just the beginning. It's the day-in and day-out personal struggle of mastering that which you love.

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By TonyBerkman on October 29, 2009 at 07:35 pm

@Theresa, that is very true.  One of my favorite sayings is "ordinary things consistently done create extraordinary results".     It's out of ordinary that we become  extraordinary.  Though the difference between the 2 is the result of doing just ordinary things consistently.  

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By JJFCPA on November 03, 2009 at 01:47 pm

Some times participating is the goal. I have a friend who always says - remember it is the journey, so enjoy it. Keep typing.

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By TonyBerkman on November 03, 2009 at 02:48 pm

@JJFCPA,   participating is often times the most rewarding part of any endeavour  It is the journey.   Haven't you reached your goal and said to yourself, "is this all there is," and felt a bit let down?

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By Deanna Meiresonne on November 03, 2009 at 10:05 pm

Glenn, I actually remember reading you and you reading me on Broowaha what seems like ages ago, and this article (as a fiction writer who tends to blur the lines of reality and fantasy) made me so happy you are still writing! I loved your sign off - i couldn't agree more. You write because you are a writer, it's what you do when you wake up in the middle of the night or when someone makes you mad or when you see a middle aged man hitting on a girl in such a way that can only be described as a plane with one engine out, barreling towards the earth. anyways, GREAT article and keep it up. 

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