Thursday, August 15, 2013

I Really Hate a Good Read … Except This One

When it comes to other people's writing, there’s a scene from Woody Allen’s film Midnight In Paris, where Owen Wilson’s character asks Ernest Hemingway to read his unpublished novel, that says it all:
 
Owen Wilson's Character: “I would like you to read my novel and get your opinion.”
Hemingway:  “I hate it.”
Wilson’s Character:  “You haven't even read it yet.”
Hemingway:  “If it's bad, I'll hate it. If it's good, then I'll be envious and hate it even more. You don't want the opinion of another writer.”

I imagine the fake Hemingway speaks for most writers out there.  He even speaks for those of us who just fancy ourselves as writers.  When I read published work that’s just okay, or even bad, I think, damn, I could’ve written that.  Why didn’t I write that? And, why can’t I get the stuff I’ve written published?  Not just blog published, but really published.  I mean, this jackass got their stuff published.

When I read something that strikes me as pretty darn good, I am consumed with envy and self-doubt.  It’s disheartening, even debilitating.  I remember once when I was stuck while writing one of my currently-unpublished books, and I decided to turn to Angela’s Ashes for inspiration – a work I’d read and admired years before.  This time, I read a single page, then I curled up in a ball and didn’t write another word for a solid month.  It was that good.  

"You don't want the opinion of another writer."
But, every once in a while, I stumble on something that is immune to my writer’s envy.  Not that it’s necessarily better than Pulitzer Prize-winning Angela’s Ashes.  More that’s it’s so creative, and so personal, and so rich in voice that I feel there's no way I would ever write that way, because it's that writer's voice, not mine.  When that happens, I feel like I’m reading a writer's mind, not their words.  That’s a kind of writing out of reach of even my envy.

I read something like that recently.  It was a blog post by another daddy blogger.  That’s right, I’ve decided I’m a daddy blogger, and now I read other dad blogs. Yikes.  In a few hundred words, this writer, who goes by the name Black Hockey Jesus (and I've since read eschews the title daddy blogger), captured all the emotion I’ve tried to write about, the bittersweet stuff that every parent knows watching their kids grow up.  And he did it in a way that I never would have thought to imitate, accidently or otherwise, even with a hundred typewriters, a hundred monkeys and a hundred years.   I’m probably overstating it at this point.

For me, it worked.  This blog post made me think about all the times in recent years that I’ve held my kids tight, on a down day, and just been thankful that I had them, and could hold them.  Living reminders of how lucky I really am, even when I don’t feel all that lucky.  This blog post made me think, that someday, I won’t be able to just grab them, and pick them up, and squeeze them tight.  It’s already started.  My 10 year old is getting too big to carry in from the car after she falls asleep on late-night trips home.  She stills fakes asleep.  But soon, even that won’t work.  I won’t be able to carry her.  Nor will she want me to.  

It made me think about the misspent times the past few years that I way too fondly reminisced about the freedom of my younger days, or even looked forward to the empty nest that’s a decade and a half away.   Recently, my brother,  who also has a few kids, began a sentence, "When we get our lives back ..."  I laughed and agreed, and our wives frowned.  What the hell were we talking about?  This full nest of ours is our lives, and it's what makes life worth living.  At least my life.  At least now.

This one blog post made me think about all this.  And it got me choked up.  I don’t like to admit it, but it did.  

Good writing can do powerful things. And this did.  Here’s a link.

Thank you, Black Hockey Jesus, for writing this.  I didn't hate it.  

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