Monthly Archives: June 2014

I Am Legend

Earlier this year, I attended the retirement dinner of a well-respected architect. In his mid-70s, he is nearly as spry and just as passionate as he ever was. At the dinner, he shared stories of how he founded not one but two internationally successful design firms, landed his first big project, once took a mad scramble plane trip to England to deliver drawings on time, and his collaboration with legendary architect Philip Johnson. My favorite story involved his alma mater and a crumbling football stadium: when his firm didn’t make the shortlist to design the renovation of the stadium, the architect picked up the phone and essentially demand a recount. He explained that no other architect would put as much love and care into the building as he would. He won the project.

The architect’s stories got me thinking: When I “retire” many years from now, what stories do I want to tell? What memories do I want to celebrate? What do I want my literary legacy to be?

Like most writers – or all, if we are honest with ourselves – I want to tell stories about having my first book published, reading my first great review, even my first bad review. I want to celebrate that my second book was translated into twelve languages, and my third into thirty. And so on. I want my curriculum vitae to read like a literary catalog.

You call yourself a writer? You've never even published a book!

Your inner critic says: “You call yourself a writer? You’ll never even publish your own obituary!”

But what if I am never published?

How many times has this happened to you: You declare/admit/reveal to your co-worker/neighbor/barista that you are a writer. His or her immediate response is, “That’s great. Have you been published?”, thus perpetuating the belief that one is not a writer until one can prove it via paperback.

A writer pal recently remarked that she’d better find a publisher for her sci-fi/fantasy novel series, since she doesn’t know how to do anything other than write. I asked her: “What if you knew for certain that you would never be published? Would you still write?” She thought for a moment, and then answered, “Yes. Absolutely.”

We write because we love to write. But since we are human, we also crave validation that we didn’t spend all of those hours alone with our laptops for naught. We want strangers to love our books as much as we do. Can we be satisfied in knowing that our readership will never expand beyond supportive friends and family members?

Many people view their children as their greatest legacy; while I’ve never wanted to have kids, I’ve always wanted to write and publish books. I want to hold my newborn novels in my arms, clutch them to my breast, and nurture them as they nurture me.

Currently, I’m plugging along on the third draft of a novel. I may see my book published one day, hold it in my hand as tangible proof of a legacy that may outlive even the architect’s buildings.

But if not, at least this legacy will remain: She always loved to write.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Where Four Art Thou, Writer?

Three drunk-looking girls in bed together? Cosmo says "You're a wild animal in the sack!"

Three drunk girls in bed together? Cosmo says: “You’re a wild animal in the sack!”

I’ve taken my share of Cosmo quizzes over the years (Are you a tiger or a house cat in the bedroom? Are you ready to settle down? What’s your relationship IQ?), yet I give them about as much credence as kids give to Mad Libs. Which is to say, none. These quizzes are great for killing time in my dentist’s waiting room or at the nail salon, but the results have never altered my behavior or my opinions.

When it comes to personality tests, I approach the results with the same circumspection as I do when reading my horoscope. The occasional similarities are fun but nothing I plan my day around. So imagine my surprise when I recently took the Enneagram Institute’s personality test and discovered that not only am I Type Four: The Individualist, I really AM Type Four. Reading the corresponding description was like reading a diary I didn’t know I’d written.

I sent the link to a dear friend and artist. As I’d suspected, she was also a Four. “How can they see into my mind like that?!” she demanded.

Type Fours are characterized as self-aware, sensitive, emotionally honest, and creative, yet can be moody and self-conscious. Their basic fear is that they have no identity or personal significance, and their corresponding basic desire is to find themselves, to create an identity. Healthy Fours are “inspired and highly creative…able to renew themselves and transform their experiences.

Sound like any artists you know?

I am in good company. My fellow Fours include Edgar Allen Poe, Virginia Wolfe, J.D. Salinger, Tennessee Williams, Billie Holiday, Frida Kahlo, Anais Nin, and Amy Winehouse. Talented and tortured artists, the lot of them, although some were better able to “transform their experiences” than others.

At their worst, Fours are “despairing, feel hopeless and become self-destructive, possibly abusing alcohol or drugs to escape. In the extreme: emotional breakdown or suicide is likely.” (um, remind you of rocks-in-her-pockets Virginia Wolfe? Or Billie Holiday, who died at age 44 of heart failure due to drug use? Or Amy Winehouse, only 27 when the booze finally killed her?)

You oughta know I'm gonna make millions off of you.

You oughta know I’m gonna make millions off of you.

At their best, Fours are “profoundly creative, expressing the personal and the universal, possibly in a work of art. Inspired, self-renewing and regenerating: able to transform all their experiences into something valuable: self-creative.” Another of my fellow Fours, Alanis Morissette, for instance, transformed a really really bad breakup into one of the top selling albums by a female artist. Anne Rice channeled her pain over the death of her young daughter to create the doomed child vampire Claudia in Interview with a Vampire.

So. We can overcome.

I have written stories almost as long as I’ve been able to write my name. This seems more nature than nurture. Based on our personality types, are some of us destined to be artists? Which comes first, the artistic temperament or the need to express (and perhaps define) oneself through a creative outlet?

Or am I simply reading too much into this?

——————————————————-

Curious about your type? Take the short form test for free at http://www.enneagraminstitute.com/. No, I am not a paid (or even unpaid) sponsor. Just a complex, sensitive writer-type.

 

——————————————————-

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,