The picture to the left is not as voyeuristic as it might appear — I was standing in the back of the standing room only launch party for Matt Dick’s new book The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs. Matt elected to forgo reading from his book in favor of telling us stories about becoming a writer.
In one story from his past, Matt lamented writing fiction that was worse than that of Dean Koontz. For those not familiar with the poor man’s Stephen King, let me tell you that that is a bad place to be. Matt was so discouraged that he stopped writing, until a group of AD&D playing friends begged him to author up some adventures for them. Having a small but hungry audience for his work got Matt back his confidence in writing. He started his first novel sometime soon after, if I remember right.
That story really struck me, because I had pretty much given up on storytelling this year. A combination of running out of new material and not doing as well as I had hoped for at The Moth storyslams was like a one-two punch to my self confidence. Matt’s story gave me hope in that 1) Matt also had a time when he stepped away from writing, and 2) even a writer like Matt starts out writing like a bad Dean Koontz. Maybe all I have to do is to write and perform stories again to get through this.
This reminds me of what I call The Ira Glass Rule. My friend Jen reminded me of this on our Yellowstone trip last week. Apparently whenever Ira talks to aspiring radio producers he describes how he absolutely sucked as a writer/reporter/producer during his first years at NPR, and how only after working at his craft for years was he able to be successful. In the beginning, he says, our ability in the craft falls far short of our taste and aspirations. Most people see this huge gap and quit. However, if you keep at it, you’ll eventually (over years) close that gap. You can see it here.
And so, as Ira Glass says, I’ll keep working. Tonight, I wrote up a proposal to host a one-off open mic event at Sarah’s Coffee House in Hartford. On Tuesday, I’ll get in touch with The Hartford Public Library to set up a number of open mic nights for the next few months. Later on tonight, I’m going to send a pitch to This American Life. Hopefully if I can get up early-enough tomorrow, I’ll start rehearsing a story for a Toastmasters speech contest in a week and a half. Let’s hope I keep this up!