I quit my job to finish my book. What really got me started on this whole, take control of your life just do it attitude, was a book. I’m sure a series of events in my life, and aging, and all that life stuff had a factor but what finally solidified it was a book. I would be lying a little if I said there wasn’t something even more significant than a book, but I’m not ready to write about that just yet- I’ll wait till the outcome, so back to the book.
It was Ariel Gore’s How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead. I thought the title was funny so I picked it up. I didn’t expect any miracles or expect anything I didn’t already know, but while reading it I was struck with a now or never kind of thought. I mean Ariel started writing as a teenager and nothing stopped her or anyone else that wanted to be a writer for that matter. So as soon as I finished my book I made my decision. I’m quitting my job and I’m going to be a writer. Alright. I say a lot of shit though. So the next steps? I decided not to tell my parents. I’m an adult, I don’t have to tell them anything, but sometimes I have this deep wish that they are going to be supportive towards my ventures even though I know they wont. In their own special unique way they will fill me with fear and doubt. So I dashed the fantasy of a supportive family, and kept my mouth shut. I told my friends, my best friend, and all my acquaintances. All approved. Still, I didn’t really believe it. I could still back out.
While on a train ride back from visiting my friend in Seattle I shared a seat with a man. He asked me if I was a writer. I had my laptop out, and I was staring blankly at some words I wrote-AGES ago. I had decided that yes indeed I was going to start calling myself a writer even if it sounded like a lie. Yes, I told him. Unpublished I added, like an excuse. I was preparing all my disclaimers- but I told him I’ve decided to quit my job, and write full time for two months. He pulled out a book and tapped the cover- well that’s me, I’m a writer and if you have any questions we have three hours together to talk.
His name was David Guterson, and I did know who he was, and he was indeed a writer. Published. His book Snow Falling on Cedars had been made into a movie a few years ago. I had seen the movie, but never read the book. Here on the train at the moment I had decided to quit my job to be a full time writer I has a famous writer at my side for three hours, and I had nothing writerly to ask. What I did learned was that he was a nice man who had five kids, and they were all homeschooled. He himself was a teacher, and his wife did the homeschooling. One word of writing advice he gave me was to make observations.
“Tell me about that man.” He said nodding his head in the direction of a man that was talking on his cell phone.
“I can only see a part of him,” I had said, “but he is very black. His skin is dark like pure chocolate, and it is smooth and shiny. He works out or he does something physical that he uses his arms. The muscles are defined and big. He is wearing a tight sold black t-shirt and his has a gold watch. He is eating bright read licorice. There is something intriguing about him, about the cadence of his talk. He sounds charming. He is talking to someone he is dating or married to. I have the impression he is a straight man, but I don’t know for certain. The strongest part of him as an image are all the colors; his chocolate skin, the black t-shirt, his gold watch, and the bright red licorice that he isn’t eating but holding like a pointer in his hand.”
This is what David Guterson told me to do. To observe. To watch and to listen, and then find the way to put the images and the thoughts onto the page. This is what we did for three hours; We did talk about observations and listening but mainly we just talked like strangers on a train.
My next day at work I told them I was leaving in September.