Until last week, I was reading three books at once, all of which included a whole lot of human suffering.
Book #1: the Bible, specifically the Book of Job, a book that reminds me that at any moment, God could takest everyone and everything away and give me skin ulcers. I wouldn’t be reading it except I’m in a Bible study, and I am a teacher’s pet when it comes to homework.
Human Suffering book#2, Shelter in Place, by Alexander Maksim, is my before-bed book, meaning I read it for roughly four minutes before my body does that herky-jerky thing that babies do as they fall asleep. This one’s about murder and justice, domestic abuse and mental illness. Yippee.
My third book, Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life, I experienced via Audible, listening while the puppy and I were out on walks, or as he likes to call them, Las Persecuciónes de la Ardilla. Squirrel Hunts. A Little Life is the most painful, most deep dive into the most darkened lives of human beings I have ever read. It was traumatic. And I loved it.
With A Little Life completed, I went in search of a lighthearted Audible book and came across Steve Martin’s memoir, Born Standing Up, narrated by Martin himself. Yes, I thought, the perfect voice to hear whilst out on squirrel persecutions.
What I got from Martin was a beautiful story of passion, perseverance and the desire for precision in his work. His commitment to his arts, along with his success in comedy, acting and writing, reminded me of what we need to survive and grow as fiction writers.
First, You Never Arrive
There was a belief that one night on The Tonight Show made you a star. But here are the facts. The first time you do the show, nothing. The second time you do the show, nothing. The sixth time you do the show, someone might come up to you and say, ‘Hi, I think I met you at Harry’s Christmas party.’ The tenth time you do the show, you could conceivably be remembered as being seen somewhere on television. The twelfth time you do the show, you might hear, ‘Oh, I know you. You’re that guy.’
In other words, it can take forever to break in. In other, other words, no one thing guarantees an artist a lifetime of financial success and renown, much less a quick trajectory to fame and riches. [Read more…]