Friday, January 12, 2007

More Four-letter-word talk (these begin with F)

Talking about four-letter words that begin with “F” can get one in trouble. Ah well, what the fate, who gives a fear I’m going to anyway.

Fate popped up from left field (yes, I know, it’s a potential terrible mixed-baseball-metaphor…but perhaps on Planet Manny one can pop up from left field so I’m sticking with it) late last year. Now, I’ll admit freely to being susceptible to the slings and arrows of outrageous superstition, especially those related to UGA football (and I’m even continuously ranking them—for example prior to this past season’s UT game the Dawgs were undefeated when I attended the game with a date. However, my date and I sat in the student section near the band…the same exact spot I first witnessed UGA losing to UT back in 1998. And I realized; all those games with dates, well, we sat in the end zone. So the new modified, ranked superstition combo now reads: UGA is undefeated when I attend the game with a date and sit in the end zone seats.) But fate, and applying it to relationships was something new (and in a way, somewhat surprisingly so, what with the would-be romantic soul constantly threatening to create awkward moments because the potential reward for having a real-life Say Anything moment outweighs the risk lurking beneath my cynical façade.)

And somewhat ironically (and maybe this is my cynical side), fate is a really nice thing to put stock into when a relationship goes south or ends. “If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be,” that old cliché, when given a smidgen of belief, is like granting yourself carte blanche to let the past go, move on, and, while I don’t want to say “stop caring” it does limit pathetic displays of would-be emo-ness.

The downside is, unlike cynicism, it’s not something that can, or should be arbitrarily tossed and bandied about in every relationship. I’m not ready to ascribe to fate the some trappings and exclusivity as love, but I’ll caution its use and say that if you find yourself saying “this must be fate” more than once every few years without extraordinary circumstances (examples: chance encounter with “the one that got away”, anything similar to the glove or elevator meetings in Serendipity; but you have to pick the right floor in the elevator game, finding out your secret classmate crush from years back likes you/still likes you, or any examples where it’s revealed that the person your dating and you could’ve met many times before) well, if it’s not extraordinary, it’s not fate, and you’re cheapening the whole process, or worse, putting romantic notions into the head of whomever your confiding this to or dating (which, depending on their quixotic tendencies can be very bad times indeed.)

Also, intellectually, a belief in fate requires some of the same “I know there’s no logical explanation for this” that, especially for those of us who cringe in fear at things like Jesus Camp more than a wee bit uncomfortable. 100% commitment to fate can’t really be argued with, anymore than Bill O’Riely or a devout Fundamentalist (or really, Richard Dawkins.) The comfort comes from not thinking, but there’s discomfort in knowing that.

It’s almost Zen. And therefore should be used in very, very small does (and has the nasty fine print of leaving the door open for fate to change things even after they’re over…told you four-letter words can cause trouble).

The other one is fear.

A while back I had talked about the main reason behind my signing of for the National Novel Writing Month was to finally finish a book. But my fear isn’t finishing a book (or even a melodramatic “can I finish?”—which btw even typing right now calls to mind Dana Carvey’s spot-on Ross Perot impersonations on SNL) but the process that happens after it’s finished. Oh for years I’ve been plenty confident that I’m a good writer and that I will write many books before my death (of a heart attack, in the grotto at the Playboy Mansion). But I’ve also read enough blogs and perused enough Writer’s Guides to know that good writing is no guarantee of being published, being published is no guarantee of being read, and the movie adaptation, if there even is one, could wind up being grossly bowdlerized from the source material and made into a horrible Olsen Twins venture directed by their friend and first-time director Paris Hilton. (Yes, there has been the occasional nightmare, thanks for asking.)

Oh, and then there’s reviews and critics. I won’t even get into that one today.

So in a way it’s like high school (and well, to be honest, most of college) and the old “fear of rejection” chestnut again. But what worked for getting over my fear of rejection by women (realizing that A. I’m not the geeky, braces-sporting, skinny kid I was in HS and B. most guys do not have women open flirt and hit on them as often as me, and that a certain former flame’s advice that “if you wanted to you could go out and get laid any night of the week” was accurate) well, I don’t know if it’ll translate to agents and publishers. But I’m not going to discount the fact that I’m non-homely as being a plus for me.

There’s a good bit of criticism against attractive authors and the book tours they get booked on, and probably a good bit is justified. But if me being witty and charming at book signings and straight women and gay men having “impure thoughts” upon seeing a flattering picture of yours truly on the book jacket get people reading the book, I’m not going to complain. Sure, my artistic side would chafe a little at being considered “marketable” but even the most brilliant novelists—and this is heresay and conjecture and speculation on my part—want people to read their books, and pay money—a portion of which gets back to them—for the books.

So, yes, in a way the above paragraphs (and the list you may have already peeked at if you scrolled past this) are my way of psyching myself up (for the record, I do no such thing before going on a date, or to a party, or a concert) for the dreaded SAE-intensive process of agent finding and publisher hunting I plan on embarking on in a few months.

But after all, I am:

1. A pretty damn good writer. I have some flaws, but none that are terrible, or trending to “hack” territory. I figure that alone should set me above a good number of submissions.
2. Not too bad to look at, and not scared of public speaking. Hello book tour, the best thing since Dave Eggers is heading to your local Borders and Barnes & Noble.
3. A decade-and-a-half of guitar playing has left right hand strong enough to sign tons of books. (No, don’t make the joke: too obvious).

And now I’m going to count on you folks (especially those who will be asked to read drafts and tell me exactly what sucks and, hopefully, what doesn’t) to remind me of these things once the rejection letters start coming back.

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