As an editor, jacket copywriter, and a story analyst, I read EVERYONE’s work. I also help with resumes, cover letters, sometimes even concise and damning text messages people want to send to their exes. If you have a question about words, chances are that you’ve written to me to ask me for help, or you’ve sent something to me on a friend’s behalf. To be honest, I really don’t mind this. I encourage it. I think we should all share our talents and knowledge where we can. And sometimes I even foist my expertise onto other people, especially if I think they should have a better job than the one they currently slog through. Yet, through this, I have remained completely disabled when it comes to asking others to read my own work.
Part of me thinks I don’t trust other people with my precious words, which is largely ridiculous, because some of the best experiences I’ve had in writing have been collaborative. The other part is very sure that I honestly don’t know how to ask someone to spare several hours to read some weird and unfinished story about a lot of things that they may not even find interesting. For the painters, photographers, and designers out there, for those lucky souls who can craft a perfect image in a resting position and frame it in a singular, isolated viewing experience that takes only a few seconds for the brain to register whether or not something is worth looking at further, fuck you. (Also, I love you. You laboriously make these beautiful things I enjoy on a daily basis, things I probably don’t give enough attention to, because you’ve made them so easy to admire.) Of course, there are definitely complex paintings, photographs, and design work out there, but your brain still decides pretty quickly whether or not it wants to stick around for those complexities. Now, for something like film…you get a kind of bridge between the split-second admire/discard judgment and the task of sticking it out.
I recently wrote, produced, and directed a short film called WIDOWER. For the process of finishing the film and deciphering its genre to enter it into film fests, I asked a random group from my friends to watch an almost-final version online and give me feedback if they felt like it. The thing with Vimeo is you can see exactly how many times your video has been viewed, but you can’t see if the viewers actually watched the whole thing or just the first few minutes. WIDOWER has a finite viewing time of a little over 21 minutes, which is still on the longer side for short films, but most everyone I asked for feedback viewed at least a portion of the film, which was actually surprising to me, because I’d never truly created something that had a specific time cap on it, something like a contract that I would take up only x amount of your time, which is EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE of writing.
I am over halfway finished with a novel that I have written, rewritten, rewritten, rewritten, and researched for about 6 years now. This is the final, final version, the one where I just wrote what was fun to me, even if it’s not fun for anyone else. It’s a literary thriller, and because I know many people balk at the term “literary thriller,” I will say it is designated as such because it can be dense as fuck sometimes. Every 3 to 6-page “chapter” is packed with historical references that relate directly to the time and place, both of which (time and place) traverse back and forth a lot, with a third-person omniscient narrator who holds back particular information that you hopefully didn’t even suspect until the narrator brings it up. There are also two other first-person narrators (male and female). But if I were to write this in a log line? A group of wolf hunters takes a Mormon family hostage in the dead of an Idaho winter, but the money they’re after belongs to many other people, and all are desperate enough to kill for it. Something like that. Thriller. Only there’s everything else, so, “literary.”
So reading all that descriptive stuff above, how in the hell would you rope one of your friends into reading this thing in good conscience? I know for a fact that some of this book will be labeled “difficult,” and, well, fuck it. OK. But right now, it’s an adolescent and still going through my stringent editing process, and if it wants to get on a shelf someday, it needs some readers to give it better blueprints. Yet, I have a difficult time even admitting to people I have a Novel, because man, I don’t want to be one of those writers who thinks the novel is the highest achievement a person could ever aspire to, and won’t you please bask in the seriousness of my literary pursuits. I mean, I’m serious as fuck when I’m writing, but reality dictates that I also be serious as fuck about doing laundry and making my loved ones feel special, both of which also take up a lot of time, and both of which are realities for every other person who I would likely ask to read my novel. So, yeah, friends, I know you got a kid, run a non-profit, teach deaf people, have to fix your car, fell into a hole in the park and broke your arm, started your post-doc, have to live with your parents for a year, got a divorce, got remarried, wrote your own novel that you’re harassing people to read, but maybe you might want to read my difficult book?
No, seriously. If you want to, I’ll send it to you. It’s called PACK. It’s weird. It’s going through puberty and growing hair in dark places. Let me know. Also, maybe you want to watch my finite film before I send it to festivals. Maybe when it gets to festivals, you’ll tell all your friends about this weird thing you watched that made you look again at the description that said “psychedelic melodramedy” and say, “Huh, well that was definitely something.” I don’t know. I made some shit, and if you want to read/see it, tell me.