Now that it’s November 30th, perhaps you are wondering if I’ve written any more of that story I started in this, the National Novel Writing Month. I’m sorry to tell you the answer is no. Nor have I added to the story I started last November, or the one before that. The truth is, I am a serial story abandoner. It’s wrong, I know. I give some characters life and then I leave them, helplessly stuck in place, their hands on doorknobs that never turn, in front of doors that apparently lead nowhere. It’s not that I’m unfeeling. The guilt is sometimes overwhelming. It’s just that I’m afraid if I let them open those doors they will find nothing but walls on the other side. Brick ones, built by craftsmen in the old days before walls were all made of plasterboard. How can I break through the sturdy, artisan-built brick walls in my mind? They may last a thousand years and become the ruins that archaeologists sift through. “Good heavens, Arthur, this ancient wall has a doorknob next to it. With the bones of a character’s hands still grasping it!”
Anyway, who has time for such childish things? Any fool can make up a story (note that this is an ironic use of “fool” that ignores the immense value and difficulty of producing a creative work). Non-fiction is where the money is, baby. Recently, for example, I got hired to write an essay for a publisher of high school history materials. I did a bang-up job (and yes, I finished it), and they’ve engaged my services again. Here’s the really cool part: I got this gig through a Xanga connection. Several times I’ve come close to gaining paying work through someone on Xanga, but this is the first time it has panned out. And it only took seven years. Social networking FTW! So thanks, Xanga buddy—you know who you are.
Another one of my part-time, inconsistent, low-paying jobs involves helping high school students with their college application essays. This is what I’ve learned about modern youth: most of them couldn’t write their way out of a bag of Cheetos and a can of Red Bull. No, that didn’t make any sense, but it’s far better than the crap high school students write. Here is another thing I’ve learned: in terms of achievement in general and essay writing in particular, the daughters of Indian immigrants kick everyone else’s ass up and down the halls of academia. Somewhere there must be an Indian Parents’ Guide to Raising Exceptional Young Women. Remind me to check on Amazon.
Speaking of high school girls, it has recently come to my attention that there’s a new TV show called “I Hate My Teenaged Daughter,” in which some mothers grapple with the challenge of cleaning up the destruction wrought by their spoiled kids, who apparently embody every stereotypical teen-girl characteristic the producers could think of. This is what popular culture has come to: bumbling and contemptible fictional mothers deal ineffectually with their nasty, despicable girls for the entertainment of the television audience. It’s misogyny training for the masses.
For the record, I love my teenaged daughter, who is smart, compassionate, loyal, and kind. There’s no sitcom about kids like her on Fox, but there should be. Real people make for better stories than the cardboard characters that tell us nothing about girls and everything about the men who put TV shows on the air.
In fact, I ought to write a story.