I am a novelist.
What? Did you think that Jael McHenry's feature column of a few weeks ago was no different than any of a dozen other fleetingly inspirational calls to action that you've read here at Intrepid over the years? Did you dismiss that momentary frisson of literary potential as nothing more than a winter chill up your spine?
You must have, 'cause I don't see you stepping up.
So if this ain't your craft, if you'd rather be cranking on what's on TV, or who's being unfair to you today, or any of the other usual around here, feel free to check that out. Because I'm not talking about any of that; I'm talking about the subject I know best: me.
I work my ass off every single day.
I work for the oldest weekly sports magazine in the United States, and you'd be surprised how many sports fans have never heard of it. Every weekend I do an overnight shift, which more often than not leaves me feeling like the living dead for most of Monday. But then my freelance work kicks in. I do this stuff -- which consists largely of setting motor catalogs for one of the largest motor companies in the United States, mind-numbingly dull work -- to offset the loss of income of having my wife be a stay-at-home mom. Most weeknights I do freelance 'til about midnight. I think it's crucial to my sons' growth that they have at least one parent around them all the time, and so my "second job" is a sacrifice I'm happy to make. On top of all that, I'm a staff writer and monthly columnist for Sauce Magazine.
That's just the stuff I get paid to do.
I do a substantial amount of the grocery shopping. I do almost all of the cooking. I am an elder at our church, and I maintain our church's website. And when I'm home and I'm not writing for Sauce or setting a catalog, or cooking dinner or any of that, I'm usually busy with at least one of my two boys, giving their beleaguered mother some kind of break, because, you know, the momma is always on the clock.
Oh, and you may have noticed I chip in some nonsense here once a month.
So I think that's sufficient testimony to my workload. Maybe you can relate. Maybe you think you've got it worse. Could be.
But I'm gonna one-up you. Because as I said up front: I am a novelist.
What this means is, I'm gonna take out the shovel or the hammer or whatever implement I need, and I am gonna beat down the overspill of my frantic life until I have the room and the time and the drive to do whatever it takes to get that story out, on the screen, on the page, three-hole punched with gleaming brass brads.
It means I have this thing done. I have it on my desk, stuffed in a big padded envelope with my agent's name on it, and all I have to do is haul it to the post office and get that fat weasel with the clip-on tie to slap a metered sticker on it and toss it into a bin. I'm already there. It's gone. It's done. I AM a novelist.
The only thing I've still got to do is to work backwards from that point to reach the blank page that I will face in the morning.
To make this one thing happen, I'm going to put myself in a very uncomfortable position and do something that I have ridiculed others for doing: I'm starting a blog.
I'm doing this for two reasons, one for you and one for me.
I'm doing this for you because I'm sure there's at least one other Intrepid reader out there who is curious about the whole process. Maybe you've never gone to a writer's workshop. Maybe you think your portfolio is crap and that you can't write worth a damn. Whatever. I'm going to share every step of this thing with you, so you'll know that you're not alone and I'm not a professional. I will drink and swear and make typos and disappear for days or weeks and impress you with my propensity for procrastination. I will share every bit of advice I have been given.
I'm doing this for me because I need you like an addict needs an intervention. You are my sponsor, my conscience, my boot in the ass. Because I am a novelist but I am a lazy novelist who will scratch and scrape for every precious minute of downtime in my way-too-hectic life. I will crave sleep and entertainment and I will hate the process and the novel and the blog and myself for being stupid enough to put this pledge out on the table. But I will do it. With exuberance and loathing. Until it's done.
I will turn 36 next week. I am giving myself a year. One year from nothing to that sealed, stamped envelope. On my 37th birthday, I will drive to the post office and put it in the box, period. Between now and then, on Intrepid and on my own site, you'll get a year-long unscripted reality show, starring me.
I am a novelist.
Watch me prove it.
If the media is the eye on the world, Russ Carr is the finger in that eye. Tune in each month to see him dispersing the smoke and smashing the mirrors of modern mass communication. The world lost Russ on 2/7/12, but he lives on.
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IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
2.22.06 @ 12:59a
My gawd man - you're a novelist AND a dotcom. I am so impressed!
I really am. And I wish you buttloads of good fortune and inspiration on this project. Go you!!
2.22.06 @ 2:04a
Wow, Russ -- you go! Very inspiring column. I'm exhausted just reading what you do every day. Now go get some sleep!
2.22.06 @ 2:23a
In the past 48 hours I've also signed on for a graduate-level theology course (with the professor's expectation that all seven of us students will prepare papers for publication) and agreed to lead a one-day seminar on prepress techniques for industry professionals at the regional community college this summer.
I seem to be transmogrifying into a Type A personality, but I don't know why. The more I do, the more I want to do.
2.22.06 @ 2:59a
My own schedule of exhaustion is more than enough, but I do envy some of roles.
2.22.06 @ 7:00a
Awesome, baby, awesome. I have no doubts in your abilities or capabilities whatsoever.
2.22.06 @ 8:59a
This is so freakin' exciting! I'll be watching, and reading, and providing periodic whipcracks if you'd like.
Are you doing the Don novel? Or is figuring out what novel you're going to write going to be one of the first steps you'll blog about?
2.22.06 @ 9:01a
The best thing ever is that I really had little idea of what Russ looks like until I went to his blog.
2.22.06 @ 9:06a
The latter, I think. Both of my Iowa projects (and an adaptation of my screenplay, which would be the easiest of all) have swirled around in my mind, but I really think I'll stand a better chance if I start from scratch. My first task — hopefully to be tackled while on vacation next week — will be exercising to determine exactly where this is headed, if I already have characters lurking or if I need to discover them.
I'll be drawing parallels with Annie Lamott's development structure in "Bird by Bird," for those who care to know and/or follow. It's a nice kick-you-in-the-ass, don't think/just do it books designed to make you WANT to write without telling you HOW to write.
2.22.06 @ 9:17a
It's very gratifying to see somebody who obviously does not have enough to do adding items to the "To Do" list. Whenever I have an overwhelming need to feel tired, I'll re-read this column.
I do not envy you the work but I do envy you the satisfaction you're going to feel when you get it all done. You are awesome! I've bookmarked your blog, and baited (sic) my breath for the first entry.
2.22.06 @ 9:24a
Bird by Bird is awesome. Have you read Writing Down the Bones? I just bought it, but haven't had time to look at it yet. I think most "How to Write" books are useless, since what works for one person is often pointless and frustrating for another, but those few books that inspire you are worth the search through all the other ones.
michelle von euw
2.22.06 @ 9:33a
dude, you have an agent?!
2.22.06 @ 10:18a
No, no agent. That was me psyching myself up with a display of surety.
2.22.06 @ 11:38a
I'm with you, bro! I may even try to keep pace.
I'll definitely be hitting up that blog.
2.22.06 @ 1:08p
I read Bird by Bird and loved it. You're right, Russ. She's all about "Just get something on the page, dammit!" And the chapter on shitty first drafts is priceless. I also have "Writing Down the Bones" next on my list. Those were the two books that my writing teacher said were the best on the subject.
2.23.06 @ 1:35p
I'm about halfway through Writing Down the Bones, and it's good, but crunchy. Very concerned with getting in touch with the page, writing longhand to break down barriers and make the ideas flow without self-censoring. That's a kind of writing, but not best for everyone, certainly. Some of the exercises could be useful for people who really have trouble facing a blank page.
michelle von euw
3.7.06 @ 3:40p
So, first week down! How's it going, Russ?
3.7.06 @ 4:20p
Heh. Thanks for checking in. Free time during vacation was limited (and vacation is vacation) but I've started at least working through some exercises designed to get the mind loosened up.
At this moment I am struggling to get the blogware working so I can put down my first observations.
3.8.06 @ 11:52a
And...the blog is running. Expect polishing as time allows, but it's fully functional now.
3.8.06 @ 5:58p
Russ: tried to get to the blog but am getting some "doteasy" error page. Please to fix!
3.8.06 @ 8:55p
That should not be; I clicked the link at the end of my column and it took me straight to the front page of the site. Try clearing your cache and see if that makes a difference.
Then try again. I've tested this link, too, and it's working properly.
3.9.06 @ 9:17a
All set now. Woo! Onward and novelward!
You are a novelist.
3.9.06 @ 9:57a
Ah, excellent. Thanks for checking it (and checking it out). Now I guess I gotta actually, y'know, DO something.
4.28.06 @ 3:25p
So, this blog? Dormant. What gives?
4.28.06 @ 3:34p
In truth, I've been in the busiest work period in my life for the past month, with no fewer than four catalogs taking up pretty much all of my free time. It eats at my conscience every stinking day that I haven't been able to give this the time I'd intended. The biggest two catalogs are nearly done, or so I keep thinking. May is my reset button; that's my mantra.
I'm still thinking about the novel, though, even if I'm not taking the time to put my thoughts out there. I'm not giving up.
4.29.06 @ 11:46p
Nyah. Updated. So there.