I've read twenty books so far this year, most of them novels. Some have been quite good, others mediocre, and a couple of them were fabulous. All were enjoyable. Reading fiction has always been great fun for me. Getting wrapped up inside someone else's imagination for a few days is a stimulating distraction from the relentless finality of the real world. This world, as it actually exists, requires an occasional escape, and for me a good book always does the trick.
But every single time I finish one, I close the thing and think...I could do this. I never get this same feeling about, say, the classical guitar. Whenever I listen to a recording of someone like Christopher Parkening playing something by Bach, I don't think...Maybe if I practiced a little more I could play that way. I instinctively know that all the practice in the world won't turn me into Christopher Parkening. But with writing, it's different, especially when I read something that is ordinary...Well heck, I could do better than this!
I am encouraged in my arrogance here by the fact that I have already written two novels. The first one during my 20's, written in longhand, which fills two spiral notebooks and resides in the bottom drawer of my night stand, untyped, unedited, and unread. The second one I finished last October. This one was proofread and semi-edited, then printed out in manuscript form and lives in obscurity in the middle drawer of my night stand, the piece of furniture where literary dreams go to die.
For several weeks now, the seeds of a third effort have been swimming around in the vast empty spaces of my mind. The idea for the story came to me while I was in Maine, and why not? There's a reason why so many American novelists live there. If you can't get inspired living in a place with so many brooding landscapes and rickety barns, then you should probably hang it up. I'm thinking that if Stephen King lived in Nebraska he never could have written The Green Mile. Anyway, the idea came to me while sitting on the dock at Loon Landing, and has been gestating ever since. Last night I finally opened up a fresh Word document and started writing. If my other two attempts are instructive, it will take me around eight months or so to complete. Afterwards there will be a great feeling of accomplishment. Then the printed manuscript will take up residence in the top drawer of that night stand.
Maybe one day, long after I have gone to my eternal reward, my kids will stumble upon these efforts at the bottom of some box in the attic. They will read through them and either say, Aw, I'm so glad Dad had such a fun hobby...bless his heart. Or, perhaps they will say, Whoa, these are amazing! Maybe if we can have them published we can enjoy a spendable inheritance!!
A posthumous Pulitzer might be nice...
Somewhere, Christopher Parkening is laughing his head off.