Saturday, March 10, 2012

What I should have written

I screwed up.

Looking back, I think it's because I was scared. Scared of that that horrible, empty feeling brought on by rejection letter after rejection letter. That shitty feeling of looking in at the people who get it, happy, younger people with fellowships and bright, shiny futures.
It was that scared feeling that made me write the letter of intent that I did. It was that scared feeling that made me wax philosophical about an inspiring teacher, how I wanted to write because she inspired me towards greater things.
I mean, don't get me wrong, she did inspire me, but that has absolutely dick to do with why I'm applying for a Creative Writing MFA.
See, ever since I went eight for eight on rejections last year, I have been writing furiously. I released Pen and Platen, my short story collection, on Amazon in December. I have two finished novels, Collision Course and Good Friday in the hopper awaiting my red fountain pen. I am currently leapfrogging across three projects right now: Chet Masters is Alarming, a heist satire story; Silas Starkweather Rides Again, a follow-up to a western piece in P&P; and Third, about a young girl who finds a typewriter in the ashes of a by-gone world.
All to stave off that horrible scared feeling, like I'm paddling around in open water. Yeah, P&P has moved better than 350 copies in three months, but that's mostly due to good friends and dumb luck. But mostly I'm just flinging shit at the wall and seeing what sticks. It's — pardon the pun — a crap way to do things. Which is why I want this MFA thing so bad.
And hey, I understand that I don't look like anything special. I'm a working-class guy with a working-class guy education. I attended a state college. Growing up my parents did their best by me, and I have known lean times but never starved, and good times that lasted just as long as they should have. I have been outside the country exactly one time, and that was to Ensenada, Mexico. My employment history is a lesson in mediocrity. I have a wife I've been married to for ten years and a five year-old son who wants to be either a scientist or a super hero when he grows up. Oh, and I'm a writer.
But that's problematic, too. On my best day, my work can hardly be described as "literary," not do I adhere to genre conventions. Well…most the time. More accurately, I just write whatever comes into my head, whether it's humor or horror or sci fi or a story about a guy who sets off smoke detectors in department stores and then robs them. I'm just a writer.
But I want to be a better one.
That's it. No university job, no doctorate. I just want to get better at what I love to do, whether in ten years I'm still spamming Amazon with eBooks or purchasing a really nice typewriter with fat royalty checks.
So there's that. It may suck, but it's about a million times more honest.


Rob Bowker said...

"I don't care to belong to any club that will have me as a member"

I think when you write fact, like here and in contrast to fiction, there's a fluidity and ease that come though in bucketfuls. You make it easy to read things that are difficult to understand. Do you write non-fiction? Could the practice of one genre inform the other?

Mike Speegle said...

Thanks, Rob. As to your question, no, I don't generally write non-fiction. Sure, there are times when I'm all pent-up or have a chip on my shoulder(like right now), but I don't generally find there to be enough material in that vein to comprise longer work.

Or something.

In any case, I think that my greatest failing in writing has to do with my utterly gargantuan impatience. I get a story in mind, a bee in my bonnet, and it's all I can do to just get it out on the page as quickly as possible. No time to smell the roses; no time for florid prose. Just get the damn thing out there and move on.

Or it could have something to do with the fact that I am the most intense at 2am, when sleep isn't anywhere on the horizon.

teeritz said...

You write when you don't HAVE to. You are a writer. You've published an e-book. You are a writer. You worry (like a lot of people, myself included) about whether what you write is any good. You are a writer.
I read a quote only yesterday from a writer who said that one of the most frightening things he ever encountered was "a blank sheet of paper." that writer was Ernest Hemingway.
I am 46 years old and I work in retail. I don't wanna do retail hours anymore and am seriously considering doing a copywriting or writing & editing course. It's worth a shot. I got nothing to lose but time.
Keep writing, Mike. Earn enough to put food on the table and a roof over your head and enroll in the MFA course.
It may be a cliche, but 'fortune favors the brave'. And I have learned that sometimes, if you want something badly enough, all sorts of opportunities arise to help you along.
That's my take.
Best of luck.

Art said...

Write about that failing. Write about writing. Write about what you love and you've learned from it. And you're right about the honesty... or at least, it worked for me. Let them see you--you've got a strong voice in what you write. Don't ever forget that, no matter what the convention tells you, and let it come through. It'll help you stand out when all they see is your app in a stack of thousands of others.

I dream lo-tech said...

Keep writing, writer.

And let us know where you decide to pursue that MFA.

Richard P said...

Keep it up, Mike. You most certainly are a writer, and I have my doubts about MFA programs anyway.

I can't wait to read Third, in particular!

(Captcha: illsould kinkia. Your soul is ill and you're kinkier.)

LeeAnna Holt said...

Mike, I want you to do me a favor. Join Trust me one this. It has been one of those decisions that I do not doubt. I no longer want an MFA in Creative Writing. So many of the members are educated and enlightening. The best part, its for genre fiction. Two people have already gotten book deals from agents reading the stuff posted on the site, and both of them were only writing for themselves. The critiques are top quality, and the discussions worth it. I've been a member for only a year, and I have received so much help. Your work would be so loved there, and you would receive the assistance of fresh eyes. At least check it out.

I'm also looking forward to your new scribblings. I really enjoyed P&P.

notagain said...

And hey, you made the Bes Cellars List.

Mike Speegle said...

Teeritz: Thanks! It's true what Hemingway said. That blank sheet of paper is simultaneously exhilarating and horrifying. But I too just got so sick of jobs that weren't writing. In other news, copy writing jobs are great fun, if you can get 'em!

Art: You hit it right on the head. I think when I rely on my own voice it comes through clear, but I am callow and cowardly and hide behind wooden, reliable prose all too often.

Ton: I shall, if they'll have me.

Richard: Thanks! I'm excited about that project, even though the book consists entirely of notions and about one page of notes.

LeeAnna: Thank you! I will check it out tomorrow when I have a chance to read...anything. That site sounds right up my alley; I crave nothing more than feedback feedback feedback.

Mike Speegle said...

notagain: Sweet! I love lists, especially the ones that I'm on!

LeeAnna Holt said...

If you join, look me up. I'm under my maiden name. You should see me floating around in the discussion pools.