I Am Roarser, Hear Me Meow

meowser-48.jpg posted by meowser

Kate Harding tagged me about a week ago with the Roar for Powerful Words meme, which I just found wildly flattering beyond belief, especially coming from her. Her request:

No one in the Fatosphere makes me think, “That’s exactly what I would have said — only SO MUCH FUNNIER!” as frequently as you do. Tell us how you do it, woman.

Oh, um, ah…ahem…(feeling a bit like Anne Elk here)…DO WHAT?

See, that’s one of the keys to being Meowser. Don’t have a frickin’ clue in the world you’ve ever done or said anything worth paying attention to ever. And when someone feeds you something clever you uttered once, completely forget you ever said it, until you look it up and see that bon mot under your handle and then go, “Oh, wow, I really did say that…yeah, that one wasn’t bad, huh?”

It “helped” (haha) to have had a family that versed me so well in the art and science of Sit Down, Shaddup, and Stay Out Of The Way that I could have earned a Ph.D. credit in it from the University Without Walls. Helped me develop a whole secret inner world that nobody could possibly know about or I’d-a been on the streets. Not that I want this to happen to you, because then shit happens to you like playing around with sharp objects and wondering hopefully if your second-story window is big enough to fall out of and die from by the time you’re 12. But make you madly creative, ohfuckyes. (Problem is, it also makes you dread any kind of rejection like it’s a firing squad, which makes it very hard to get anyplace in the world. So no one will ever know how wildly creative you are for a very, very long time, if ever.)

It also helps if you grow up not being able to talk, and sure that every facial expression you have lights up a neon sign in the mind of whoever you’re talking to that you must be a knife-packing serial killer. That way, you kind of have to write, because otherwise how will anyone ever know you’re really a very nice person who hates all weaponry?  Even now, I only half-joke that one of the reasons I write is “because I can’t talk.”  Writing and speaking are two entirely different skill sets, I insist.

OK, that’s not what this meme is about, necessarily. It’s about giving people Three Requirements for Powerful Writing As You Know It. Obtaining my, um, unique background probably isn’t an option for most of you, alas. But here’s what I can offer.

1) Write what you long to read (or watch, or listen to). Then, if you want your work to reach a broader audience, imagine one or two other specific people for whom you are reshaping your material as a gift to them. You can make it more than two if you really want to, but don’t over-intimidate yourself by imagining halftime at the Ti-Dy Bowl in front of 50,000 of your closest trolls. Not when you’re first starting out. But you always have the option of keeping it for yourself exactly the way you first wrote it, if that’s what matters to you. (If that approach is good enough for J.D. Salinger, it’s good enough for you.)

2) Spill it out first, then go back and edit. If you try and do both at the same time, it’s like trying to simultaneously cook and eat. You’ll wind up eating a lot of half-cooked pasta and never getting to enjoy the stuff fully cooked with sauce on it.

3) Be willing to SUCK whenever you first spill it. With computers and whatnot, it’s easier than ever to go back and fix things. Be willing to keep sucking, too, for however long it takes. This is of crucial importance, because writers tend to measure themselves against other writers with decades of experience and fully polished and edited manuscripts, not realizing that those writers, too, wrote reams and reams and reams of utter crap and probably still do, and that what makes those writers’ reputations is a tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny fraction of their total output, and probably heavily polished with outside help, too. I once heard a Nashville music publisher who had published some of the legendary songwriters in the business opine that every writer he ever had who was any good had written literally 500 bad songs before ever writing a good one. Yes. Five hundred. Which doesn’t ever happen if you keep rewriting the same damn song over and over and over again for years and never do anything else.

That’s three. But I’ll give you one as a bonus, and as with the above, I’m telling me this as much as I’m telling you. When imagining your ideal audience, don’t ever, ever have Dan Savage in it. You will get the worst writer’s block ever.

Tag yourselves. All of you rock and rule, whether you know it yet or not.

10 Responses to “I Am Roarser, Hear Me Meow”

  1. Debra Says:

    Hi Meoswer
    I can relate to the idea that having caretakers who make you cautious about expressing yourself can inadvertently help one to develop a vivid internal life. Since it’s New Years, it made me think about raising a glass tonight to all those parents who miss the mark of “good enough” who, nevertheless, cause genius to flourish.
    Happy New Year!

  2. Tari Says:

    I once heard a Nashville music publisher who had published some of the legendary songwriters in the business opine that every writer he ever had who was any good had written literally 500 bad songs before ever writing a good one.

    I dunno about writing novels or articles or whatnot, but this has certainly been my experience, musically speaking. I have written truckloads of pure crap, and a few things that I think are worth listening to.

    Of course, when I get *too* caught up in thinking I write crap, I remind myself that some of the most successful and brilliant musicians ever wrote “She Loves You, Yeah Yeah Yeah.”

  3. Kat Says:

    “Helped me develop a whole secret inner world that nobody could possibly know about or I’d-a been on the streets. Not that I want this to happen to you, because then shit happens to you like playing around with sharp objects and wondering hopefully if your second-story window is big enough to fall out of and die from by the time you’re 12.”

    “It also helps if you grow up not being able to talk, and sure that every facial expression you have lights up a neon sign in the mind whoever you’re talking to that you must be a knife-packing serial killer.”

    Meowser,
    You have me laughing & crying at the same time. I can relate. Love you kid.

  4. kateharding Says:

    Oh man, your three requirements, especially the last two, were some of the hardest things for me to learn as a writer. In fact, I’m still learning how to let myself suck with fiction — though blogging has been an excellent lesson for me in how to let go of things I would otherwise revise to death.

    And your first one is SO damn important. For me, it totally goes along with what I said about knowing what you do well. Unsurprisingly, what I do best tends to be what I love to read best. But I’ve always had a major inferiority complex in literary circles because what I love to read AND write isn’t highbrow. There’s nothing like some classics, sure — and even some contemporary literary fiction, though I hate a LOT of it — but mostly, I love to read chick lit and Oprah books (or reasonable facsimiles) and mysteries. I like stories where things happen; in some MFA programs, I swear that could get you expelled. So it took me forever to admit to myself, let alone anyone else, that those were the books I flew through — the books that made reading fun, like it was when I was a kid — and all the stuff I was supposed to be inspired by was, as often as not, utterly agonizing for me to get through. Which is why Sweet Machine is SP’s resident English PhD candidate, and I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.

    Aaaaaanyway.

  5. fatfu Says:

    “When imagining your ideal audience, don’t ever, ever have Dan Savage in it. You will get the worst writer’s block ever.”

    This is a good one for me. I *never* forget about the assholes when I write. The only good thing about it is you get blindsided a little less – I usually know what’s coming from the other side before I’ve even gotten the words on the page. But it doesn’t stop it from happening and it does make it hard as hell to just say what I think.

  6. littlem Says:

    “halftime at the Ti-Dy Bowl in front of 50,000 of your closest trolls”

    *doubled over, stomach aching, crying with hysterical laughter*

  7. JeanC Says:

    Congrats on getting a mention in the New York Times article!

  8. meowser Says:

    Hey, JeanC, that’s all Fu’s handiwork. She put together the Fatosphere feed, she put together the links on the sidebar, and she wrote the article that the NYT singled out for mention. I just get to reap the fruits of it, for which I am amazingly grateful.

    P.S. I do have a new post in the works, but it’s an epic and it needs a lot more work before I put it up.

  9. JeanC Says:

    Well you both deserve kudos :)

    Am looking forward to your epic :D


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