Meet Charles; Failed Novelist

How many times have you stood clutching a drink at a dreadful gathering when your annoying host introduces you to a “writer”? As in “This is Charles, he’s a writer (too).” Chances are you’ve never heard of Charles or read any of his work. Charles may or may not have actually written much of anything, or he may have several completed works stored safely under his bed or hidden on an ancient hard drive. He probably also has a real job that doesn’t involve writing, but it’s hard to tell and you may be afraid to ask. Charles is in fact, somewhere between forty and sixty, a bit scruffy, and may not have attended to his personal hygiene lately.

Charles might just as well be wearing a t-shirt that says Failed Novelist. If you go to the trouble of engaging Charles on any topic, in a mere moment or two he will get around to his favorite subject; the Vast and Ongoing Conspiracy Against Him as Organized and Executed by Publishers Everywhere. Charles’ second favorite subject is the growing inventory of hacks who while lacking even a speck of his talent, have somehow managed to be legitimately published. Charles will speak knowingly of how these “non-literary” defilers of prose have used their social connections and the popularity of the vulgar arts to achieve notoriety. After a few more drinks, Charles will probably admit that things are so bad, he really wouldn’t deign to be published anyway, because publishers don’t market you at all and after a few weeks they’ll give up on you and you know then you can never get published again because you’re now not even a mid-list writer and really it’s all completely pointless and self publishing is for losers and really who buys all the garbage that passes for literary fiction these days?

Poor, pathetic, miserable Charles has it all wrong. He’s a bit like a sad soul who purchases lottery tickets every day and can’t figure out why he isn’t rich. He perhaps believes that if he wears the hair-shirt of the literary monk, he will some day be rewarded with the respect and admiration of whoever it is that bestows status upon the earnest. And he has let the indignity of being a failed novelist (his company is legion) wear him down, when he could be living the romantic imaginary life of an author without ever putting his poison pen to virgin paper. Ultimately, Charles is laboring under the mistaken notion that suffering creates art. It’s the other way around. Ask anyone who’s lived with an artist. The fact is that it is not the least bit necessary to suffer and toil and work at one’s craft in order to live the faux bohemian literary lifestyle. Yet everyday and everywhere millions assume it is.

But how, you ask, having read this far, can one do that? Is this not a blog about writing? To which I can emphatically respond; oh hell no. Living the life of an author has nothing at all to do with learning how to write, in college or in a writers group or from some tome penned by a bored mid-list type. Please. Name a literary great with an MFA or writers group background. Admitting to such associations is tantamount to writing “hack” across one’s forehead. But I digress… In the following pages you will discover what you’ve been doing wrong all these years. And I don’t just mean writing all that drivel about your unhappy childhood, weak metaphors piling up like unsolicited short stories in the New Yorker’s recycle bin.

Perhaps you recognized a bit of yourself in Charles. Perhaps you are Charles, in which case my lawyers and I can assure you that any resemblance herein to persons living or dead is pure coincidence. Read on and learn what posing as a novelist is all about. Trust me on one point – it has nothing to do with writing and everything to do with becoming that literary bon vivant you’ve always known you are. No need to walk on hot coals. Crack open a fifth and come with me.

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