The Age of the Everyman Author
At least once a week (depending on the frequency of my Facebook writings) someone tells me I need to write a book. Thank you, truly. Writers are my heroes; good ones are Rock Stars to me.
I recently attended a “Meet the Author” night and heard Jeanette Walls muse on her writing of The Glass Castle – one of my all-time-favorite books. Seeing in her person (the middle-aged version of 1974 at a Donny concert: holding in the urge to make a fool of myself with inane babblings of how-much-I-loved-your-book-how-do-you-do-that-does-it-just-come-to-you-do-you-know-you’re-brilliant-OK-I’ll-shut-up-now) turned a rainy Thursday night into a lifetime memory. The brilliance of The Glass Castle made me cry. I reread certain lines three and four times before turning the page. Soak in. Soak in. (Can one become a better writer through visual osmosis?)
I just finished Roxane Gay’s book “Hunger” From one fat girl to another. I physically felt the pain she so boldly voiced; the silent shame carried by millions of my gender in a culture where fat women are viewed with the disdain of first century lepers. But even lepers got a colony.
I’m reading Rachel Held Evans “Searching for Sunday.” Dammit. This millennial wrote the book that was in my head ever so much better than I ever could. Her words paint the literary version of the Sistine Chapel for dis-enfranchised evangelicals. A 30-something, she jumped from the train at an age when I was selling the myth that there was only one track. (She calls her breasts “stumbling blocks,” a description needing no explanation to those of us raised in the basement youth group culture of the American Baptist church.) Congratulations Rachel – change the next generation with the wisdom mine missed.
I don’t write because I know how easy it is to be mediocre.
I once did a radio show called “The Sitting Room” which largely depended on authors as guests. Like a lifelong fan of the Yankees who gets to clean beneath the post-game bleachers at CitiField, I accepted the drudgery in trade for proximity. I gave up dozens of Sunday afternoons isolated in a studio. I didn’t care – I had an author on the other line. I had proximity to my heroes.
All I needed were the tools I had: curiosity and questions.
The prospect of an audience; the sale of a book; the potential for influence got me a call back. Max Lucado changed his schedule for me; Sheila Walsh called me on a cherished day off; Bill Bennett knew my name. Authors introduced me to paradigms of thought I had not considered, played with words I had to look up, changed my mind and widened my world. Authors taught me humility: diametrically opposed opinions can grow from the brightest minds and leave the room with respect.
I remember interviewing Gary Thomas, best-selling author of “Sacred Marriage” and author of the oft-misquoted line “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?” I told him I thought that was the stupidest line I had ever heard, used to trap miserable evangelicals in bad marriages. He laughed and corrected the misquote in a way that made sense. At the time.
I was ‘pitched’ books by publishers looking for an opening for fledgling authors. I was pitched books by fledgling authors looking for airtime when ignored by publishers. I read a lot of mediocrity. I saw self-published books with bad covers and worse grammar. I had authors tell me that God told them to publish the book. And I wondered if God had read it. I read insights that were profound only in the stunning degree to which they were unremarkable.
I saw how easy it was just "to be an author." I see how difficult it is to be a good one.
I realized that the daily musings in my head; the passions I felt so deep inside; the questions and (no) answers had already been written by others. Brighter, better, and with greater capacity for influence. Go You! Really. Write the book that changes the heart. Write the book that saves the world. Write the book that makes one cry. Write the book that changes a mind. I will read. And read. And cheer you on. Maybe one day when I have my radio show again you will return my call.
Know that you’re my hero.
To give you voice is my greatest gift; to read your words - yours to me.