This week’s WILAWriTWe is brought to you by my bookshelf that broke during the move.
Some poor soul had leaned it up against the side of the truck, that it might be loaded thereonto — when lo! behold! a gust of wind blew the bookshelf over, smashing it into smithereens upon the pavement!
Okay, okay, so it wasn’t as dramatic as all that. There were no smithers involved, een or otherwise. The bookshelf fell over, and part of it broke. Ed and I proceeded to amuse our friends by shrugging with great nonchalance and saying (almost in unison), “Toss it in the Dumpster.”
So. We arrived at our new home minus one bookshelf. This necessitates my getting rid of some books. And as I’m sorting through them (20 boxes’ worth, if you must know), I come across Phantoms by Dean Koontz.
To Keep or Not To Keep?
I’ve read Phantoms two or three times (and, sadly, have seen the atrocious film version). I enjoyed the story, as well as Koontz’s writing — but I already knew I’m not likely to read it again. And if I do want to re-read it, there’s always the library or Kindle.
So. Into the give-away box went Phantoms.
To Write or Not to Write?
But before I turned my back on it, I flipped through it to the author’s afterword — and read the following:
“Writing Phantoms was one of the ten biggest mistakes of my life, ranking directly above that incident with the angry porcupines and the clown, about which I intend to say nothing more. Phantoms has been published in thirty-one languages and has been in print continuously for fifteen years, as I write this [in 2001]. Worldwide, it has sold almost six million copies in all editions. It has been well reviewed, and more than a few critics have called it a modern classic of its genre.
“…Yet it is this novel, more than any other, that earned for me the label of “horror writer,” which I never wanted, never embraced, and have ever since sought to shed.
“…I am a suspense writer. I am a novelist. I write love stories now and then, sometimes humorous fiction, sometimes tales of adventure… . But Phantoms fixed me with a spooky-guy label as surely as if it had been stitched to my forehead… .
“…[O]ne year after the hardcover bombed, Phantoms followed Whispers onto the paperback bestseller list…it sold and sold and sold… .
“…Do I like Phantoms? Yes. Do I wish I’d never written it? Yes. Am I happy to have written it? Yes. Am I a little schizo on this point? Yes. Although as a matter of career planning, Phantoms was a major strategic blunder, the writing of it brought me considerable pleasure, and readers’ outspoken delight in the book has provided a gratification that has sustained me through some bad days.
“The lesson, I suppose, is that beneficial developments can flow even from a mistake.”
People who never make mistakes also never live.
Writers who never make mistakes also never write.
So screw up, writer. Take the risk. Make a fool of yourself. Do something writerly that brings you considerable pleasure, even if people slap a label on you that you don’t want.
Don’t worry about the money. It’ll come, or it won’t. It’ll last, or it won’t.
Write the story that calls to you. Noli nothis permittere te terrere, and all that. Dance crazy in the moonlight, if it suits you. Follow the madness.
And above all, expect the beneficial developments. They’ll declare themselves in ways you can’t even imagine.
And that’s WILAWriTWe!