Thursday, June 25, 2009

Review: You Know You're a Writer When

You Know You're a Writer When . . ., Adair Lara

If you are a die-hard reader, chances are that you love books about books. Anne Fadiman's Ex Libris, for example, is a joyful celebration of long words, book collecting, and book ownership, while Carlos Ruiz Zafon's Shadow of the Wind is a thriller involving a peculiar rare book, its eccentric author, and The Cemetery of Forgotten Books.

Since no one reading this review is likely to be either Anne Fadiman or Carlos Ruiz Zafon, exactly none of us wrote those books. Are we all doomed, then, to be merely readers until the day we ascend to The Great Library in the Sky and someone hands us a pencil?

This is where Adair Lara's tiny book (4¼" by 6¼", 95 pages) comes into play. No, it's not another tired book on how to write or how to sell what you've written—hell, it doesn’t even mention the word “talent” because all us readers know that talent is not required to be published (c.f., Stephenie Meyer). Rather, it is a book of aphorisms to ascertain if one is a die-hard writer and not just a passive reader.

I know that I'm a writer from this one example:
You relish reading a junky novel because every paragraph reminds you of how much better a writer you are than the author. At the same time, you are sick to your stomach: this hack at least got published.
Every three weeks or so, Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb, the woman who never met an adverb or an adjective she didn't like, publishes a new piece of trash for twenty billion dollars. At the same time, I can't get anyone to take fifty years-worth of my perfectly composed grocery shopping lists, glue them together, and publish them in rolls for toilet paper.

Here is another one I like:
The doctor tells you that you have terminal cancer and you think, "I can use this."

I wonder how many readers qualify for this one:
Your work clothes are a ratty bathrobe and duck slippers, and your commute is ten seconds—thirty if you stop at the bathroom.

This book is a little pricey at $9.95 (hardcover) and you could read it in thirty minutes at the library or Barnes & Noble, but I'm keeping mine because it's a writing book about writing books. And it's great.

[Thanks to Sara, who works in a library, for recommending this book on LibraryThing.]


Kim Ayres said...

There's a definite cross over with blogging. Each time I find myself in an awkward, embarrassing or life threatening situation, I do tend to think, "aha! Something to blog about..."

Meg said...

That's awesome. My reading list is getting longer and longer.

Wandering Coyote said...

Thanks for the review - sounds like exactly the type of writing book I could use! I'll have to stick it on my Amazon wish list.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I fear I may be a writer. And I am so using this comment on which to base my magnum opus.

Mary Witzl said...

Man, I love the sound of this book! The comment about being able to use cancer: that would be me. My work clothes aren't a ratty bathrobe and duck slippers, though: I go for a long tee shirt and zoris.

Marie Jarrell said...

More ways to know you're a writer:

You wake up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat and blearily scribble down the nightmare to use in a scene.

Immediately after you've been in a car collision you think, "I can use this."

People change tables in a restaurant because they notice you were writing down their conversation word for word.

There is no such thing as a “quick trip” to a bookstore.

You get yourself into that state of mind that others pay huge sums of money to get rid of.

Charlie said...

KIM: The reason you "aha! Something to blog about..." is because you are a writer. I daresay that most or all bloggers do the same thing.

MEG & WC: I bet you can find this book at the library. Sara found it in the section with books about how to write.

BARBARA: Writing the Great Canadian Novel are you?

MARY: Whatever makes you feel comfortable.

What the hell are zoris?

MARIE: EXCELLENT examples all! You are a true writer.