The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Saturday, November 17, 2007

JOAWN

by Antonios Maltezos

Entry 9

My brother lives in California with his family, so we have to play catch up over the phone every now and then. The last time we spoke, he asked me what was up with my writing. “Hey, what’s up with the writing?” was how he put it. Whenever he asks me this question, I find myself doing a quick mental scan of my recent accomplishments, if any, and breaking everything down to one basic paragraph he can swallow. He isn’t an idiot; he simply isn’t as interested as I’d like him to be. He has a great sense of humour and a wonderful eye for the absurd, so I value his opinion. But this is the guy who would agree to read a story of mine, and then proceed to skim as if he were holding a foinking shopping list in his hands. I’d had to keep watch out of the corner of my eye.

“Yah, man! I liked it! I liked it!”
“What did you like about it?”
“No. It was good. It was real good.”
“You didn’t read it. You skimmed.”
“No. I did. I read it, man.”

He skimmed, but I’d always get him good by snatching the story from his hands and reading my favourite parts out loud, pausing at the particularly brilliant parts. I’d hound, I’d have to hound for praise.

“Did you get that part? Fucking good, no?”

“Huh? Wait, I didn’t get that part.”

At these moments, I’d feel my spirits sink, damn, but I’d fight on, relentlessly. Where was he going to go? California. I’d start reading from the beginning again so he’d get the full effect since we’d already reviewed some of the more difficult parts. Mostly it was torture for him, but every now and then, I just knew he was surprised by my attempts to get at some meaningful stuff. Hey, this wasn’t comic books after all. He understood that. Good enough for me. I convinced myself my brain operated on a different level from his, and that getting him to see my brilliance was always going to be a chore.

So when he asked me what was up with my writing, I tried to give it to him as painlessly as possible.

“I started a journal on the Canadian Writers Collective blog. It’s called Journal of a Wannabe Novelist.”

The sound I heard coming out the receiver end of my portable phone was like a busting gear, and then I realized that he’d stifled a guffaw, the spit needed to guffaw properly going down his windpipe rather than flying out of his mouth as spittle.

Now, I’m not the type of guy whose feelings get hurt easily. I’d probably describe myself as a masochist rather than a sensitive guy. But his freaking stifled guffaw actually hurt slightly. You know why? Because I knew there wouldn’t be enough time for myself to explain what I was trying to do with the journal, what my novel was about, how much work I’d done already, and how much sacrifice. I just let it go. I may have said, “Fuck you, you little prick,” and then just moved on to another subject.

“So how’s the weather?”

Why do some people find shame in not having yet realized their dream? Is it so wrong to admit you’re a wannabe, and that you’re caught up in the throes of some great personal challenge? Is it that? Is it because it’s personal and we’re taught from a young age to be ashamed of all things personal, and therefore private? Gimme a freaking break! Is that why it’s taken so many years for me to even admit that I’m a writer… OKAY, a wannabe writer? Even today I’ll say it in a whisper out the side of my mouth.

“I’m actually a mumble, though I get my pay checks by doing pointless other work.”

“Huh?”

“I say, I’m a mumble, been a mumble wannabe since seventh grade and Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea.”

“Oh.”

“Been widely published over the internets.”

“Huh.”

“I say, magazines come in internets, now. It’s a huge thing.”


(Pretty obvious I didn’t get much novel writing done this week, huh? I’ll have to make something up if my brother calls.)

6 Comments:

Blogger T. Lee said...

Great post. I've always figured people mock others/themselves because they're nervous.

Journals of a Going-to-be Novelist. That may be more apt, because you -are- already a writer, Tony. Even though you mumble it, excuse it, mock it and so on.

Sat Nov 17, 05:37:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

Hey, Tamara. Thanks for the boost. I did actually work on the writing quite a bit this week, just not on the novel. I found myself editing everything I could get my hands on. Who knows? Had I put the same energy into the novel, it would have benefited for sure. But that's the point, right? I probably needed to step away. I'm feeling like next week might be all novel. Here's hoping.

Sat Nov 17, 08:40:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Asking family and friends to read your writing is fraught with peril, as you so beautifully demonstrate here. I don't ask anymore. Those who genuinely want to read my stuff let me know. Your brother can buy your book when it's published.

Sat Nov 17, 02:10:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

Hi, Tricia. I don't hold it against him though. I do understand. Besides, asking family to read your stuff is something we eventually have to get over I think.

Sat Nov 17, 09:17:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

This post hurts its so real for me. I have a sister I can rely on to always be supportive and who will read anything and be very polite, but your brother's disinterest reminds me of my husband (depending on the subject/content). Just yesterday I asked him: "Did you get it?" "Did you like it?" "Did it seem condescening?" to which he answered "Huh? No. Yeah...it was good."

I'm starting to mumble a little now at parites whereas before, the word writer never came up. We were at a wedding last week and an old friend kept on me about where I'd been published - I finally shut him up with Chicken Soup. The irony that he was satisifed and impressed with that kills me.

Tue Nov 20, 10:42:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

Ha! How you doing, Jen!

Tue Nov 20, 03:35:00 pm GMT-5  

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