Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Drop the knife, Ernest, and nobody has to get hurt

Okay, confession time. When I was a kid, I thought this was what writers were: 

All the cool kids - Paris, 1920s
Source
I wanted to hang out in Paris and be artistic and nihilistic and all the other tics. Except maybe syphilitic. The downside, of course, is that I didn't want to die of a combination of alcohol poisoning, consumption, and a knife fight with Ernest Hemingway. 

The other part of me -- the sensible part that tells me to get up, go to work, and to keep my shoes on in public -- knows that this was only ever a dumb cliche, and come on, would I really like living like that? I don't even like the taste of absinthe. And I do like my house, my job, and most of my grown up responsibilities. I like having a steady pay cheque and health insurance. (I'm looking around nervously as I write this. I'm expecting angry, teenage wanna-be-goth me to appear out of nowhere and punch me in the face. You know what? She's an idiot, and she's grounded. Again.) 

Absinthe is disgusting, but the spoons are fabulous.
I want to buy these.
I don't know why the cliche of the beret-wearing absinthe-quaffing VD-riddled writer is so pervasive (and attractive, come to think of it). I mean, I never worry that I didn't grow up to be an astronaut, or a vet, or a Roman emperor. No, I let those go as I realised I didn't have American citizenship, high enough marks in high school science, and a sex change and a time machine. 

So I think I'll keep tapping away at my keyboard thanks, and concentrate on the actual writing part of writing, and not the being-a-self-important-wanker part. Because, when the time comes, I reckon I can wing that. 

Teenage me is still in there somewhere. 

***
This writing thing? Is it everything you thought it would be? 
Or, what do you want to be when you grow up? 

23 comments:

  1. My teenage self thought it would be as simple as writing a book in one go and getting it published. BAM.

    Then, the reality of what "getting it published" actually entails means only now, after nearly a decade of work, am I ready to start querying.

    But I do enjoy writing in coffee shops :P Nooooot in Paris though... I should go back to Paris... hmm...

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    1. I've been to Paris. It was cold, grey, and I had the flu. So not exactly what I'd hoped... I did learn that over the counter medication in Paris is fantastic. No prescription? Don't speak the language? Fine, have the children's strength medication with steroids. Awesome!

      A part of me is glad the publication process is so arduous. That way it feels like those of us still in the race can all win. We lost the people with no drive at the first fence. (I think this race is a steeple chase.)

      Delete
  2. I love your turn of phrase, Jen - you're my kinda woman! Shame you're an evil super villainess, but wait... don't super heroes good and bad usually wear skin-tight lycra or rubber? Hmmm?

    Anyway,you said 'wanker', so in my books that makes you almost super cool. ;)

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    1. Rubber is so impractical in a tropical climate... ;)

      And "wanker" is one of my more socially acceptable swear words.

      Delete
  3. LOL. I told someone just the other day that I was supposed to be a tortured alcoholic...'cause then I'd be a real writer. But I didn't mean it. Although a margarita sounds really good right now. And I'm definitely buying a beanie hat.

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    Replies
    1. Ooh, margaritas! I'm pretty sure you can't wear a black turtleneck, a beret, and drink margaritas. It is absolutely impossible to be a self-important wanker with a margarita.

      Okay, you've talked me into it. Happy Hour at Cactus Jacks!

      Delete
  4. Actually, blogging is the new Paris cafe...

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    1. Let's go halves in a croissant!

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  5. If blogging is the new Paris cafe, let's all order some French bread and share a few bottles of wine.

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    1. With berets on...and, um, with knives in our belts in case Hemingway shows up.

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    2. You've got to watch out for Hemingway. He's a dirty fighter.

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    3. MC, if we don't order the bread we might be able to afford more wine. Just a thought! :)

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    4. If that's the way you two feel towards Hemingway, I'd imagine our evening in old Paris would be one to remember.

      In fact, it'd probably go much like this, with Norman Mailer as Hemingway, and the rest of us pulling our chairs together.

      Delete
    5. That's a hell of a video! I love the response about needing an extra two chairs for his giant intellect.

      I'm trying to track down an old Monty Python sketch. I'm sure it was them! It was an obituary for some great writer and it ended with saying something like he'd gone the way he always wanted, gored to death by Hemingway in a Pamplona cafe.

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    6. I can definitely see you going after Hemingway like Cavett.

      And the woman in the video is Janet Flanner. She actually was in those cafes with Hemingway, and you can see she learned to spar with the best.

      Delete
  6. When I was a teenager, I thought a writer was someone who sat typing at a computer and did one, maybe two drafts before the publishers jumped up and grabbed it. I guess the sitting at the computer part is true...

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    1. You got it half right, which is half more than me!

      Delete
  7. OMG. I could totally see you in toga. The goth look is harder to imagine, but long ago in another time I too was a teenager. Knives and Ernest still terrify me.

    Love this.

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    1. It's hard work trying to be a goth in a tropical environment.
      Imagine a goth.
      Imagine a frangipani blossom.
      Yeah...doesn't really work without the whole cold, bleak urban decay thing.

      Delete
  8. Have you seen "Midnight in Paris"? Live out those fantasies, if only for 2 hours.

    I wanted to be a full-time author when I grew up, and I have faith I'll get there one day. Like Miss Cole I was naive but I suppose it will make the realisation of the dream that much sweeter if and when it happens.

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    Replies
    1. I haven't seen that one, I will need to look out for it.

      And I think we were all naive, but I also think we'll all get there because now we know what it's really about, and we're still trying. That has to count for something.

      Delete
  9. I didn't want to be a writer when I grew up. I wanted to be an artist (same bunch of 1920's cool kids, same beret, same idiotic goth girl watching german art house films (without subtitles) in the Village and smoking clove cigarettes) I went to art school then to art grad school and THEN realized I didn't want to make art. So by the time I came to writing, I was grown up enough to know that writing in my pjs while playing catch with my daughter and drinking tea (I agree with you on those absinthe spoons!) was exactly as good as it gets. I hope to be published. I hope to sustain this writing life a long, long time. That's the extent of my expectations. to keep going. And to never smoke another nasty, dung filled clove cigarette again.

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    1. Oh god, clove cigarettes! That takes me back. They were absolutely disgusting, weren't they? Oh, the only reason I picked writer over artist was that I have absolutely no artistic talent at all, but I decided I could fake writer better.

      And I like your expectation to sustain a writing life a long, long time. That sums it up for me as well!

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