Friday, July 8, 2011

on writing

Warning: Steam-of-consciousness type rambling to follow. There may or may not be any point to this whole thing. It's just stuff that was going through my head as I cleaned the house.

So for basically my whole life, or at least since I was 10 or so, my dad has been convinced I am "a writer." Erika is a writer, he would tell people. She's going to write books someday. My best friend and I wrote an original story (and typed it up on my typewriter, something all writers must own) in about 5th grade or so. It was called My Date with the Boogeyman and if I must say-- it was pretty awesome. My dad loves it, refers to it often, and still has the original copy in his office at home. Erika is a writer. This was her first book, and one day this thing's gonna be worth money. In high school, when I was debating colleges, he had two requirements. A) I could go anywhere I wanted, but he would pay for Texas A&M (he and my mom are both alumni of that fine institution). B) He didn't care what I majored in, as long as I would write my book. He relented on the first requirement, since I went to UGA and he paid for it. He's never given up on that second one.

I started 'blogging,' although it wasn't called that, my senior year of high school. My parents knew about my "online diary," as they referred to it (which wasn't far off, since the site that hosted it was, in fact, called Open Diary), but they never (as far as I know) looked at it. So since they weren't reading it to keep up with my day-to-day activities, I would email them to keep them posted on my life. My dad loved my emails. He reportedly would print them out and read them to his co-workers and people at our church. I would come home for a weekend and people would be laughing at me over something I told my dad in a (private!!! I thought) email! I would chastise Dad for sharing my personal emails (about such exciting things as laundry and complaining about walking a thousand miles a day around campus since I didn't have a car) and he would tell me that you're a writer...people love to hear what you write. Keep writing, Erika!!! 

Although my dad's high regard for my 'writing' was always sweet and flattering, I mostly thought it was all due to his slightly narrow and biased worldview. First of all: I'm his daughter. So he is bound to be a little biased about how 'good' my writing is. But more importantly, Dad has never really been a reader. He would occasionally read a book, but Mom was definitely the reader out of my parents. And I was a reader. I devoured books. I knew good writing. But Dad didn't read much, and so I figured that maybe compared to the boring crap he read when he did read (books about computer programming...or wars) I was probably pretty interesting. But when I compared myself to the books I was reading, or to even what my friends were writing on their blogs...I was just average.

And that led me today to thinking about how blogging has (or has it?) influenced the world of writing. We are inundated with people writing now. You don't have to be good, or funny, or know how to spell. Anyone, myself included, can write whatever they want and publish it for all the world to see. For free, with the click of a few buttons. Writing is for the masses,'s not limited to the Hemingways or the Steinbecks or the Shakespeares. And although there is certainly still a market for literature...or really, books about a TOPIC, or a STORY...I feel like the only genre of books that I would have ever qualified to write is not really a viable genre anymore. The "random thoughts from random people who don't really know much about anything" genre.

I think about David Sedaris, whose books I love. David doesn't write about anything in particular. He is a funny man who makes funny observations about life and can put it together in a way that is (what else?) funny and readable and enjoyable. And he sold books doing it. However...isn't that what a blog is? I tell stories, most of them about my own life, and insert my own commentary and flavor, and we're done. It's published. Only it's for free, on the internet, and so it's like...who would buy the book when you can see it online for free? 

I read so many blogs. So many of them are written by talented writers, in my opinion, and they educate me and entertain me and I love it. But I think that by virtue of having 24/7 FREE access to all the funny writers and stories I could ever want to read...why would I want to buy a book that offers the same thing? I don't think that being a 'good writer' is enough to cut it in the world of book-writing today.

But Dad still doesn't get it. The last time I saw him, he was all So have you written your book yet? Are you working on it? And I was like Dad!! Seriously, I'm not writing a book. I don't have anything to write about!  and he was like just write about your life. You make it sound so funny! And for the eleven millionth time, I said Hey Dad? I have a BLOG. I write on it SEVERAL TIMES A WEEK about my life. You can read it ANYTIME YOU WANT! And he says Oh yeah, I ran in to so-and-so in the Walmart last week and she said she looooooves your blog and you're so funny and so see, people think you're a good writer, so why don't you write a book? And I'm all you just don't get it. And he says Well can't you make money from blogging? (Which Matt asks me about 12 times a week as well) And I have to explain that yes, you can, but how some people manage to hit the money-making-blog jackpot is still a mystery to me and that surprisingly, major advertisers aren't really beating down my door to pay for ad space on my blog with 50 followers. Dad shakes his head in wonderment: how could the world be so cruel to his beloved eldest daughter who is so obviously supposed to be a writer?

But my dad is nothing if not an optimist-- I guess I'm a chip off the old block-- and so even in spite of the overwhelming evidence I've given him that I will probably never be a "real writer" and publish a book, he just shakes his head slowly, with a smile on his face, like You just don't get it yet, Erika. This is your DESTINY!!!! And I have to shake mine back, with a depressing little last jab: It's not gonna happen. The market for semi-decent writers who talk about nothing is saturated.

Like I said, this story has no point. It's just stuff I was thinking about as I was cleaning, and writing it down has let me put off said cleaning for another hour. My dad is coming up to visit today, so I'm sure I'll get a question or two about the status of my book-writing. And even in the face of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, no matter what I say, Dad will just keep on believing that one day, I will write a book. He's my constant cheerleader. I guess that's part of what makes him such a good dad.


  1. At least you can honestly say you have been thinking about it.

    I think you'd make an amazing book writer.

    *If you like David Sedaris, try Laurie Notaro.

  2. Ok, totally didn't know your parents were Aggies! Whoop! (I am actually not a good Aggie and never yell, "whoop!" for real, but I felt like it was necessary there.) And your dad sounds like a good dad and a sweet man :)

  3. You really are a good writer- and I'm not your dad nor am I biased. I only speak the truth.. I only speak the truth. (Name that movie!)

  4. You could print out all your blog posts and staple them together to give to your dad, so he has a material "book" in hand. :) I thoroughly enjoy your posts, by the way.

  5. OK so yes, I relate to a lot of this post but MOST IMPORTANTLY, WHY did you not go to A&M so we could have been real life BFF's sooner??

  6. Your Dad is right. That is all.


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