Going out in public is a dangerous thing. Angry drivers, mask-less sneezing dimwits, air pollution, noise pollution, pollution pollution!
Going out in public to write is dangerous for other reasons. I never know when some nosy pissant will stroll over to ask me questions about my writing, even when it means interrupting my bourbon.
I see them coming out of the corner of my eye while I write a poem about dirty ashtrays or scraping the dog crap off the bottom of my shoes. They always have questions, and if you don't mind me saying, their questions are always annoying.
This one punk in particular - he'll probably edit this part out - was one Fred Charles. He approached me while I downed my mid-day espresso at Steel City Galaxy in Phoenixville, PA. He asked me if I was a writer, which he admitted was a dumb question since I clearly had a pen in my hand and was writing into a yellow legal pad. When I pointed this out, he asked me what other writing-related questions annoyed me, since, in his words, "you've obviously been writing since the Civil War!" A reference to my grey hair and wrinkled skin--I said he was a punk, didn't I?
Being the type of guy who can take as much as I give, I didn't hurl my coffee cup at him (I did that once to another writer back in '77, but that's a different story). Instead, I made him buy me another espresso, and I laid it out for him in small words so that he could understand.
It turned out that Mr. Charles is the co-owner of a literary magazine called Loud Coffee Press. He asked me kindly to do a write-up about the questions that piss me off the most when I mention that I'm a writer. Why did I agree? Because I'm loud and I love coffee.
Here it goes…
So, Frank, where do you get your ideas?
I once told a guy that I got my ideas from Idea Mart, and his next question was, " Is that on 3rd Street?" Never ask a writer where we get their ideas because we don't know. They pop into our heads, and that's the long and short of it. Sometimes, if we're lucky, we get an original idea and not the plot of some long-forgotten episode of Columbo that's still hiding in the crawlspaces of our minds. When someone asks you where you get your ideas, tell them, "the voices in my head give them to me." Trust me, they won't ask again.
So, Frank, you're a writer, right? I have this great idea! Can you write it?
We live in a capitalist society. If your idea's so great, why don't you write it yourself? I'll tell you why, for one, your vision for "Game of Thrones" in the future is called "Dune," and secondly, it sounds like you want me to do the hard work while you collect the checks. No thanks!
So, Frank, where can I buy your book?
Believe it or not, some of us write for the sheer pleasure of the craft. If a friend tells me that she likes driving, I don't ask her if she owns a car dealership. Writing is a creative pursuit! If you made millions doing it, you were either in the right place at the right time or your goddamned Stephen King! And to be Frank, which I am, I don't want to read anything written for the sheer purpose of making money. Let the drones at the big publishing houses weed through all of the Harry Potter cash-ins.
So, Frank, how do you have time to write?
How do I have time to write? How do you have time to binge-watch three seasons of Ozark over a weekend? People who say that they don't have time to write are mostly full of shit. The harsh truth is that it's much easier to watch TV after a long day of working a thankless job than planting your ass in a chair to write a book, compose a song, or paint a picture. Making something from nothing is hard, dammit, but creating of a piece of art is its own reward.
That's all I got for today.
Be kind or show your way out the door.
Frank Blank lives in Phoenixville, PA where he spends his retirement writing at local cafes writing and drinking espressos. He lives with his cat Hemingway, who he frequently argues with about the merits of James Joyce and F. Scott Fitzgerald. If you have a complaint, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. He will most likely file it under “Junk."
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