Friday, April 13, 2007

The trouble with wannabe writers: The redux

Fair warning: This diatribe is about crazy people. More specifically, a crazy person who thinks he's a writer. And the things I'm going to say could be interpreted as slightly mean if you sympathize with crazy people, so read at your own risk.

I posted about wannabe writers several months ago, when I started getting emails from advice-seekers following the publication of my article in Writers Weekly. Today's story beats them all hands down.

I rather liked the guy at first (we'll call him C.G., since I want to rant about him and what he represents, not embarrass him). He keeps a momma cat and her three kittens in his vintage clothing store, and they run around greeting customers, climbing furniture, and playing amid racks of brightly sequined dresses. The way he talks reminds one of the stereotypical gay guy running a clothing boutique. And he has some really great vintage costumes in his shop.

I started noticing little stuff at first. Like the long, unwashed hair that poked out from under his cap and trailed down his back. Or the fact that the couch, coffee table, and TV setup in the back room -- amid racks of costumes and pieces of leopard-print second-hand furniture -- seemed like it might be where he lived. The store was really cold, too, and in retrospect it was probably because he couldn't afford to heat the place.

My mom and I were looking for a dress for her to wear to my 1920s-themed wedding, and although we did find it there, the fact that I was waiting while she tried on dresses meant that I was a captive audience for C.G. He started talking about his upcoming book, and I was going to mention that I'm a writer -- until he said his book would be the next biggest spiritual book since the Bible. At that point, my bullsh!t radar switched to hyper-sensitive. Several seconds later, it just about overloaded when he asked me to email Oprah and ask her to let him on her show.

Over the next twenty minutes, whenever I couldn't escape by checking on my mom or fetching a kitten, I was held hostage by this guy. The premise of his book sounds more like something the crazy homeless guy on the street corner would be muttering under his breath or shouting at nervous passersby. Seriously, if C.G. and I met on a street corner and he started ranting about the "flesh house of 2007," I'd cross over to the other side.

At one point, he told me, "This is a line from my book." He started quoting, and I smiled, nodded politely... Kept nodding... Kept smiling and nodding... And he went on and on and on. I think this "quote" lasted at least a minute. It started out okay, but as he went it turned into this long, run-on sentence. The meaning of what he was saying fizzled out completely after about six words -- after that, it was just a string of pompous- sounding phrases. Either he just made it up on the spot, or he shoved everything he wanted to say in his book into one sentence and memorized it.

Oh, but wait -- it gets better. My mom asked for his business card, because she liked the store, and instead he gave us each a "billion dollar bill." It's basically a mock-up of U.S. money with a head shot of him dressed as a pirate. Really weird stuff. All of his store info is on this bill, like on a business card, except that it's a really awkward size. When I went to fold mine, he said to me, "Don't fold it. It'll be a collector's item someday. Just wait a couple of years."

I'm at a loss to explain C.G. as anything other than crazy. With the wannabe writers that I ranted about before, there was an obvious lack of understanding about the writing business, combined with delusions of grandeur. With this guy, I think it's more like a psychosis of grandeur. (And I shouldn't doubt that it has something to do with the drugs he probably did in the 60s and 70s. And probably still does, for that matter.) Although this may be simplifying the issues here, I didn't get the feeling that this book was a real work-in-progress -- no matter how much he talked about how famous he was going to be.

Okay, so I know this guy probably isn't playing with a full deck, but he is still indicative of a rather large group of people: The "writers" who talk endlessly about their idea for the great American novel, but never actually write anything. They want the attention without having to put forth the hard work of actually writing a book and seeing it through to print. It's the fear of becoming like this that keeps me from ever talking much about a novel or short story idea before I write it. Another writer once wrote that talking about how great your novel is going to be is only wasting time that you could be spending writing it, and I take that advice very seriously.


Lori said...

My lord, he's a fun one! Katharine, I don't know if any one person could point out all the things wrong with that man. He's not just a crazy person - he's a multi-faceted lunatic. Rather odd, though, that he targeted you to tell about his novel - perhaps all those "recreational prescriptions" have tuned him in to a higher level of consciousness....


Katharine Swan said...


I'm over here chuckling about the "ohm" thing. Personally, I don't think that guy had enough wherewithall to meditate. LOL.

However, I did get the feeling that he accosted people to talk about his book on a regular basis. I'll bet he doesn't have many repeat customers, regardless of how neat some of his merchandise is...


Popular Posts