This is a sign by the side of the road.

When I was 17, I applied to college far away from home. I didn’t discuss my choices with my parents. “I want,” I told my mother, “to decide for myself–that way I can take the credit if I succeed and I can’t blame you if I fail.”

I don’t remember anyone except for my mother understanding why I wanted to go a thousand miles away from home.

And then when I arrived on campus, no one understood why I would leave Florida for Indiana. I was forever answering the question, “What the hell are you doing here?”

Not sure I can explain any better today than I could back then.

What the hell am I doing here?

What the hell are you doing here with me?

The plan, such as it is, is for some dear reader to plunk down hard earned money and pay me for something that came out of my head. “Hey, I imagined something and you ought to pay me for it.”

Joan Didion writes how a writer is a bully:

theres no getting around the fact that setting words on paper is the tactic of a secret bully, an invasion, an imposition of the writers sensibility on the readers most private space.

Ah, but how to get there? If a writer is to impose herself on that most private space, she has to get invited close enough to do so. I can’t simply hurl my manuscript at your head and call it a day. Or i could, but that’s not the kind of day I mean.

The world offers you a thousand other things to do. A thousand other ways to spend your money. Why, of all those other things, should you spare a minute or a dime on me?

Because I said so?

Because I ask nicely?

Because you like me?


I don’t know. You might go to a restaurant because the owner is outside flagging you done with a sign about how great the pasta is. Or you might look at a friend and ask, “Well?” And the friend either shrugs and says, “I know this really great Italian place around the corner.” or the friend says, “Yeah, I’ve eaten here before. It’s good.”

I don’t know why anyone should believe my writing is good because I say so. Confidence and faith in one’s own work is important. Vital even. But it won’t often get people in the door.

Sometimes we need someone to vouch for us.

In any event, I’ve no one to vouch for me here. I’m flagging you down with my blog. I don’t know how great the stories are–Maybe you don’t care for stories like mine and you don’t care for pasta–but all the same, stories are here. You could stop and read them sometime.

4 thoughts on “This is a sign by the side of the road.

  1. The writer is a bully? Okay, I confess, that made me laugh out loud. 🙂

    Of all the writers I know, they’re the ones more likely to BE bullied than to bully others.

    I think – based on the writers I know! – that they suffer more from something I think of as LSD. In the music world, it’s known as Lead Singer’s Disease (nope, not the drug, lol) Think Mick Jagger, or Steven Tyler, or Lady Gaga. Attention cravers. But because writers tend to also suffer from shyness and a lack of self-confidence, they hide behind the pages. So it comes out as a huge “LOOK AT ME! No wait, don’t actually LOOK at ME, but READ me! Yeah, that’s better – see my words, but not my face.”

    The book creates a wonderful buffer between reader and writer. It is the writer’s stage, with fewer spotlights. 🙂

    And we’re all willing to pay for a good show.

    1. Well, she does say “secret bully.” This is the entire paragraph:

      In many ways writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind. Its an aggressive, even a hostile act. You can disguise its aggressiveness all you want with veils of subordinate clauses and qualifiers and tentative subjunctives, with ellipses and evasionswith the whole manner of intimating rather than claiming, of alluding rather than statingbut theres no getting around the fact that setting words on paper is the tactic of a secret bully, an invasion, an imposition of the writers sensibility on the readers most private space.

      In some respects I think she has a point.

  2. Pingback: Paying Attention to What You Want

  3. And what if they read me because all of a sudden my name is in the news? As JES said : Then DAMN girl, you go and get shot.

    1000 hits a week turned to 13,000+ in one day.

    And the post was written by my daughter. Sigh.

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