There's an older man dropping facial gymnastics about whatever he's reading in a real live actual print newspaper in front of him. I imagine he's in the sports section and the journalist has described some horrific injury. Or maybe it's the local news section and he's reading about a murder. Or the international news section, and he's reading about so many murders we've lost count. Finance and investment shit and he's stricken about some moneys doing something he hates it when moneys do? Maybe he's reading the comics and is shocked by Marmaduke's gall. Do they still make Marmaduke?
I read recently how impossibly hard it is for writers to get their comics printed in newspapers; how they'll submit hundreds and hundreds and one will eke its way in, if they're lucky. Hmmm. I just Googled it and Marmaduke went out of print in 2015. So it's not that.
Whatever it is, he's sitting with his hands politely crossed, his dockers and loafers organized under the table, and a look of pain on his face as he reads. I can't get caught staring at this poor man trying to enjoy his shocking news and mediocre but very expensive coffee at the Starbucks at Barnes & Noble, so I'll look to my right, to the Manga section. There's a couple of women who look like they were cast for the Manga section. In my mind they're a couple, but they might just be here together, but not together, together, you know? They're both wearing giant enormous huge jeans that remind me of high school. One's wearing a bandana and the other has some sort of a huge bird across the back of her black jacket. Maybe they're in a gang? Oh, got a better look. It's Hedwig from Harry Potter. So they're nerds. Hip, lesbian nerds.
I used to come to the book store to smell the books and feel peaceful and inspired. Now, I still do all that, but I also feel kind of threatened. So that's fun. I read a book (Sad Janet by Lucy Britsch) last week that I really loved. I'm extremely skeptical when a blurb says it's "laugh out loud funny" because in my experience, that usually means nary an inward chortle even, but this book truly was surprising, weird, and hysterical. The reviews on Goodreads are kinda meh, so you know, do your diligence, but I enjoyed it tremendously. And it made me twitch with jealousy. I want to be allowed in the club of good writers with something worth reading SO BAD(ly). I want my books to be part of the smell when you walk into that book store for your $14 cup of joe.
I read about the comic thing in another book recently- Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverence by Angela Duckworth. I'm re-listening to it now with my husband and twelve year-old. I want everyone I know to read it. It's science-backed and encouraging as fuck. It's like all the best kind of coaches and teachers funneled into a few really easy to read chapters. The gist of it is that if you care about something enough, you will do the impossibly hard work of getting better and better at that thing. You'll never be done or satisfied, but you also won't be dissuaded by lack of success or rerouted by self-doubt. You'll keep taking the next step because it's the only way to get that thing you really, really want.
“Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare....There are no shortcuts to excellence. Developing real expertise, figuring out really hard problems, it all takes time―longer than most people imagine....you've got to apply those skills and produce goods or services that are valuable to people....Grit is about working on something you care about so much that you're willing to stay loyal to it...it's doing what you love, but not just falling in love―staying in love...As much as talent counts, effort counts twice.”
― Angela Duckworth, Grit
My friend with the newspaper left his spot and was gone for a really long time. I worried that maybe he was crying in the bathroom over whatever shook him so, but now I see he is just looking at magazines. But he didn't bring any back to his table. He's back and reading the SAME PAPER. AND I noticed he has an ear-piece. With that sensible navy jacket and his whole ensemble, he could be the "every man" extra in a movie. THAT's the gig. He's an agent of some sort. A spy, maybe. Who else reads real newspapers anymore, besides people who are trying to hide behind them? It was probably upside down this whole time. Now I'm looking around to see if there is anyone famous nearby for whom he might be security. It's hard to tell. Maybe the girl with the bird on her back. My awareness of pop culture stopped around the time Maramaduke went out of print and I started having babies, so it's hard to say.
I guess what I'm saying is that I haven't been writing much lately because I've attached all this scary IMPORTANCE to writing, because I want to SAY something, and I've intimidated myself. Yes, it's true. I'm a bummer, even to me. I haven't been blogging, playing, submitting anything beyond THE BOOK.
I wrote the big sad book and I thought that that's all I should ever have to do to get into the club of writers with books worth smelling, but I'm tired of holding my breath and glaring at the other books on the shelves. Being published is like being a comic, you just gotta keep working at it and getting better, submitting despite your ego telling you to stop, and maybe, possibly, someday you'll (I'll) catch a break. Or not. Either way, the best thing I can do is to not stop.
So, here I am, writing SOMETHING, in a coffee shop, in a book store, semi-stalking nice old men with hearing aids. Despite the fact that my kids have been home for 2.5 damned weeks, I'm about three steps into a ten step plan to kill my spouse, and I'm back to work in a career I don't love so we can pay the bills. I'm doing the things, so I can DO THE THING. So here I am, thinging the do.
He's still reading the same paper. Now he has an apple. WHERE THE FUCK DID THE APPLE COME FROM? There's got to be a bomb in the building.