An Open Letter

Dear Person with Clipboard,

I don’t want to talk to you. I don’t want to sign your form and give you my email. I don’t want to give you my money. I’m already registered to vote. I give money to the charities I support every month like clockwork. I’m sure you represent some fine organization with beliefs that I support, but you personally I find reprehensible.

As I approach, I don’t make eye contact. I am wearing earbuds. I’m charging fast, like a rhino. I am sending off vibes not to bother me. I literally use the words, “I don’t want to talk to you” when you get close. But that doesn’t stop you from shouting at me, from waving at me with both hands, from physically obstructing me so I have to duck and weave to get around you to get on the Metro and go to my second job. Do I need to wear a sign? Would you respect it if I did?

The next time you block my way to the Metro station, I’m going to keep walking in a straight line at top speed. Yes, it’s rude to knock people down, but it must take rudeness to combat rudeness because I’m all out of ideas.

You, clipboard person, are a blight on the urban life that I otherwise prize, and I’m demanding you stay away from me.

Best regards,
Jeremiah Murphy

Crushin’ It

Confession time: I kind of have a crush. It’s no one you know, and it’s not someone I see often, but it’s a thing. I just know that whenever they wave me over to come talk to them, I want to impress them and follow them around all the time like Newcastle follows me around, telling them, “What you’re doing? Keep doing that.”  

This person is younger than me, so their language and priorities are different than mine, and that is endlessly fascinating to me. They’ve got an energy I can barely keep up with, but I want to try. I’m old enough and wise enough to know that this could not sustain itself much more than the encounters I have with them as it is. I don’t want a relationship with this person. Hell, I don’t have anything in common with them, but they still make my heart go all aflutter. When I’m around them, I feel more confident, more interesting, more fun, more special. They give me something to look forward to and daydream about, and a reason to sigh wistfully.  

It’s interesting having a crush when you have no sexual desire, but it’s actually way better. My feelings aren’t limited to wanting to see them naked or kiss them (they would probably snuggle like a pro, though, if I’m speculating). They don’t have to be “cute” for me to be into them. I’m interested in their personality, in what makes them what they are.  

If I’m being honest with myself, this is about the most impersonal relationship I can have with anyone, and that’s just the way I am now. I don’t want to make any time and energy commitments, and the last thing I need is a romance of any sort. A crush like this is a way to tick some boxes of my social needs without having to tick the boxes I don’t want.  

This doesn’t happen to me very often, so I prize it when it does, and I have no idea how long it’s going to last. I just know that I’m really enjoying it, and that’s absolutely perfect for this moment. 

Workplace Silence

I just realized something about my day job. 

When everybody gathers around the water cooler to gossip, and they’re theorizing who’s going to snap and go on an office rampage with an AR-15, it’s me they’re talking about. 

This is because I’ve got a pretty stark resting bitch face, I don’t laugh much, but most importantly, I keep almost entirely to myself. I don’t generally say hello to anyone unless they say it first, and I don’t talk to people unless it’s work-related. To be fair, no one’s made an effort to connect with me, but I haven’t made an effort to reach out either. 

I’d call it social anxiety, but I don’t feel anxious about it at all. If I’m in a room or elevator alone with someone, I’m not crushed by the yawning chasm of silence. I’m actually pretty relieved I don’t have to have a conversation. I don’t need to talk to people. I don’t really know how. That’s not to say I can’t. I chat with my friends for hours, and when Nicole brings guests over, I hang out and have a great time. Also, there are people at my night job I really thrive around. But for the most part, human interaction baffles me. Therefore, here at the office, I don’t talk to anyone, and they don’t talk to me, and I’m happy as a clam. 

In a world geared toward extroverts, however, this makes me strange and unsettling. 

Write Down to the Nitty Gritty

I was talking to a friend (I have those. Who knew, right?), and she had expressed some interest in my process for writing. I’ve declared before that I don’t do a lot of prep work to start a book, but going over my method, steps 1-5 of 8 are all prep work that I need to do before I get to the fun part (cracking open the notebook and letting the page dictate the story to me). My novels are mostly freeform, but I have a lot more control over them than I admit.  

tl;dr: I can write a novel in two months. This is how I do it. 

1) I want to make a novel about this particular hook. 

2) I need a main character. Default jumping-off point is a straight white guy. From here I some editing. First, the guy should be a woman. (I always do that. I like writing women. What can I say?) Next, does she have to be white? I consider the story possibilities—social, political, emotional—that can open up by writing about a black woman, or a Latina, or an Indian woman, and then I pick one. Next, does she have to be straight?* 

3) I do a little bit of research, if necessary, about the hook and how it relates to the main character’s race, gender, and sexuality. I don’t do this to make the research fit into the confines of the novel, but rather to let the research to take my idea and blossom it. There are ideas and directions I’d never considered that I find out about on Wikipedia.  

4) I look back on my life and I find moods, people, sensations, and events that fit into the world that is being created in my head. I pull details and emotions out of these memories and gift them to the new characters I’m creating.  

5) I stare off into space and think about all of this. If I have a cat, I pet the cat. 

6) I put pen to paper and write. The plot will magically reveal itself to me. 

7) I type what I wrote in my notebook and use the time to review my language or ideas. I catch a lot of mistakes this way. 

8) I wait a month or so after I finish my novel to go back over it. I consider themes and characters I introduced later in the book and see if I can introduce those earlier. I consider pacing. But mostly, I’m satisfied with what I’ve written.  

And that’s where a book comes from. Now, if I could figure out to do with them. 

* (Note that the two main characters in my last novel were white, which they had to be for the irony in the story to work properly. I had considered alternatives, but that’s what I figured would be best. One of them was a white guy, but at least he wasn’t heterosexual, so I give him a pass. The other was straight, but she was a woman. Ultimately, this was probably my most vanilla novel.) 

Smelling the Roses

I made a post on Facebook the day I started my current novel: November 23. I wrote the final word in it yesterday. That’s three days shy of two months. The novel I finished before that was finished in a few days over two months. To which I say: For crying out loud, Jeremiah, slow down! It’s not a race. Writing is your hobby, not something you need to do in less time than it takes to form a habit. Slow down. Savor it. 

Here’s the hardest part. I want to be spending more time with my novels because (this is where most of my friends will think, “Yup, he’s lost it—all those years of solitude have really taken their toll”; my writer friends will think, “Yeah, that’s about right”) I get really attached to these characters. I like hanging out with them, I like learning how they think, I like hearing them talk. They never fail to surprise me. They’re alive, and now that I’m writing one-offs as opposed to a series, once I’m done with them, I’m done with them. They’re gone. It’s like a summer friendship, but shorter, and without the pen-palling.  

It will be a few days before I start my next one. I’ve got the slightest glimmer of an idea, but nothing I can build on just yet. My hope is that I can pace myself this time. There’s no rush. 

Resolution Number Nine Number Two

If you’ve been paying attention, you know that I’ve decided to tackle a New Year’s Resolution that is going to challenge me, but if it works out, will reward me immeasurably. This is a pretty big deal, and, I have to say, for a Resolution, it’s a good one.  

But yesterday, I had a thought. It flashed in my head and left an image there that I couldn’t shake, like when you look into a bright light and there’s that purple blob. And that purple blob is this: in addition to trying to find an agent for my novel, Gary, I’m going to come up with a pitch for a television show, and I’m going to pitch it to someone.  

I know even less about pitching a TV show than I know about finding an agent, which is to say I know nothing. But I know this: I have a really good idea, and I just need to communicate it in the language of entertainment execs (which is a strange, foreign language that even Google Translate won’t dare).  

The worst thing that will happen is that neither agents nor execs are interested, and I will be in the same position at the end of 2020 that I was in at the end of 2019, so there’s really no reason for me not to try. 

If you pray, pray for my success. If you do blessings, bless me. If you cast spells, I need one. If you do none of those things, at least cheer me along as I jog by, winded and aching. Between two jobs, I’m going to be super-busy in 2020, and your support will mean the world to me. 

Resolution Number Nine

The secret to my newfound contentment is that I don’t indulge in things that make me unhappy. This is why I don’t like to go to parties and why I avoid the news (while still staying informed). Some might consider this the coward’s way out. You’re supposed to face your fears, and allegedly only good will come of it. In my experience, this is not the case. Parties bore me and make me uncomfortable. The news fills me with rage. The only true happiness can be found on the path of denial. But the fact is, even this way, I have plenty of adventures and enriching experiences. I’ve never been down this street before? Let’s find out what’s there. A coffee shop I hadn’t noticed before? Let’s get a latte. I’ve never written a novel before (on purpose)? Let me give it a shot. A friend I’ve been estranged from for two years in a city I barely know where it’s impossible to find a job? I guess I’d better be her roommate.  

I don’t necessarily play it safe, but I’m not going to go endure something awful if there’s no reward behind it. 

That said, my New Year’s Resolution is to do a very specific thing that is going to make me miserable, and I’m reasonably certain I’m not going to get anything positive out of it. I’m doing it because I, in this case, deserve to be successful, even if it doesn’t work out that way. 

In 2020–I’m giving myself one year—I’m going to make every attempt to get an agent and traditionally publish my novel, Gary, which I finished writing at the end of November. If I do say so myself, my first drafts are like most people’s second drafts, so I need just a little polishing, some reinforcement of certain themes, until it’s done. I’ve already spoken to a friend who has a background in publishing about my query letter, so I worked on that over the Christmas holiday. I’m giving myself one year. If, by the end of the year, I’ve had nary a nibble, I give myself permission to quit (or continue, depending on how I’m feeling next December). 

I hate rejection. I shouldn’t take it personally. An agent isn’t rejecting me because they think I’m bad, they’re rejecting me because they can’t envision me being a bestseller. I don’t have the name recognition of J.K. Rowling or Stephen King or Stephen King’s son. This won’t be a good Netflix series. (Gary is written in such a way that it can only ever be a novel.) But I still do take it personally. I spent years trying to get someone to consider my first novel, The Long Trip, and no one would. After a while, I felt my soul start to shrivel up and my stomach twist in nasty ways. After sixty rejections, I had to quit. I have a thin skin, what can I say?  

I tell you all this so you know what a big deal this is for me. This is going to hurt, so, so bad. But if, by some slight glimmer of a snowball’s chance, it pays off …