Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Confessions of a Failed Author #9

When your writing reduces people to tears, you know you're TRULY a fucked up writer...right?
by Nick van der Leek

Look, please pray for me.  For I reheheheheaaaallly know not what I'm doing, especially when it comes to writing. Say a little prayer for me. Together, forever...it would only mean heartbreak for meeeeeeeeeeeee...

So look, this is the thing. You know Nietzsche?  Fuck off I'm not asking if you know him personally, you've heard of him, right?  Anyway, Nietzsche once said, "The higher we soar, the smaller we appear to those who cannot fly."
Well, the further we fall, the smaller we become too, and boy, have I fallen far.  As a writer.  I've fallen so far sometimes I even forget how to spell basic words.

Like manners.

And cordial.

And nice.

Of course, no offence Nietzsche, but to a failing writer like myself, everything and everyone looks very small.  From down below in Nowhereland, it's a small small world.

HELLOOOOOOOOOO, can anybody hear me?

Could anyone hear Horton?

Evidently not.

I'm so small.

So very very small.

Or is it large.  Hang on, how does it work?  If you're small, doesn't everything look, like...lank big?  I dunno, see I'm confused.  Which is why I should take up a regular job like...I dunno.  A regular job.  Whatever that is.

Not working in Joburg

This column is about confessions, right?  And failures, right?  Well, how about this.  A few short years ago I had a regular job.  I kind've enjoyed the work. Can I be honest? I didn't enjoy some of the folks there. I dunno, I guess I'm not cut out to enjoy people in the media.  All that A.D.D.  It just gets to me. Which may explain why I didn't like the film Horrible Bosses. When I watched that film I was like...okay my bosses were a gazillion times suckier.  Unless it was me.  Maybe I was the world's suckiest employee.  You know, like Steve Jobs was.

So anyway, when I was a office drone in Johannesburg I worked (or pretended to) in a newsroom. In Johannesburg. Oh, right, I already said that. My job was essentially to mind my own business and I kinda tried to do that.  I'm a curious person but my job role was to mind my own business.  I sometimes failed at that.  I won't go into the ins and outs of that, except to say that some corporates are complete and utter jokes in how they treat themselves (very seriously) and also how they treat others, including their competition (not seriously at all). In other words, although the joke is on you when you work there, it's sort of them in the larger scheme of things.  Does that make sense?

Suffice it to say that corporate has since had to rebrand itself after it rebranded itself, ja it became that terrible, and then it sold off half of itself to stay afloat. But things have improve A LOT since then.  Really.  No really.

Anyhooo, I digress.  The important point was I offered to interview one of the editors who used to work there, a mild-mannered oke who wrote a book I thought was worth paying attention to.  The editor though (right now, as I write this) has taken a few weeks to put pen to paper (ironically enough), and the sheer turnaround time I must say puts him in poor company compared to...let's just say a bunch of other writers, celebrities and...people who are definitely more important than he appears to think he is.  Well, in my opinion.  Maybe he's right, maybe he is very important and not having time for anything, ever, is how he shows - proves - that.  I dunno.

Which is why I must assume he doesn't want to be interviewed.  Hey, I could be wrong, I don't know. But it does seem as if...well, he doesn't want his book reviewed.  Well he does, that's why he's doing interviews back to back, and doing a book tour.  He wants all the PR he can get, just as long as I don't do any for him.

Look, he was always a funny guy.  In the two years I worked at that company, and we worked in the same open plan office, he said exactly one word to me.  He read the word on the back of my t-shirt, and that was the extent of his interest in me.One word.  In two years.  But who was I?  Just some lowly non-journalist not worth his breath, and...well, it seems that hasn't changed.

Except kind've a lot has changed.  I was actually fired by his company for pretending to be a journalist.  That was the accusation.  As though I was pulling an enormous charade, like a sham jewellery salesman, or someone like TB Joshua (except, you know, a bogus faith healer, not a real one like TB).

So ja my crime was that I worked for a media company and I said to someone I would write a story and they nailed me on that.  Because I wasn't a journalist, I was something else. And how dare I write articles for them, specifically after I'd been asked to stop writing for rival publications.  Because I wasn't a journalist.

Well, they've always been right about that. So anyway, I sued them, won a settlement and said goodbye.

But I guess the editor who didn't have too much to say to me then still can't stomach the idea that I (who never went to Rhodes, never studied writing - because let's face it, in order to write you must study the craft, just as artists must study to be artists, ne?).  Anyway, it was all water under the bridge for me (not quite, but you know) and I thought I'm not going to hold a grudge, so...just to set things straight, you know, rigidly straight, he's holding one.  Which...well, he always seemed to do anyway, from the word go.  I recall emailing him on one occasion to publish a particular story and his response was:

"This is a non story."

It's a pity I never learned my lessons from these masters of industry. After all, they know it all, know the ins and outs, know the print media back to front (and found out about twitter as early as May this year, was it?) and really know how to treat people fairly.  So ja, it's a pity I didn't know my place better.

I wrote a little about that unhappy episode in an as yet, unpublished eBook, but it is available here until I get around to it. Yes, it's not even published as an eBook, how fucked up is that?

Not nearly as nuts as these cartoons.

Okay so that's all very embarrassing (for me, just to be clear, not for the editor) so let's move on to something completely different. Except....not.

Not writing a review for an amazing, award-winning journo

Okay then there's another writer who I contacted, and interviewed her. I heard her on the radio, talking about her book, and then I had a crazy idea.  I also wanted to talk to her.  I was bursting with questions and I was just....curious.

Wasn't there another reason though?  Like maybe to make money out of the story, or to show her up in some way?  No the story woulda coulda shoulda gone on the South African MAN website, which is my thing.  So it wasn't about money it was an excuse to talk to someone about something I'm interested in, and not just share her insights, but get her experience about the writing process too.  So, ja, it's my passion. I do stories on the stuff that interests me.  That's why I wanted to interview the jerkoff editor above and that's why I approached this amazing woman.

Unfortunately in this case, since I'm a fucked up journo (you know, can't hold a job, and...can't even record a voice memo) the 56 minute recording well...it wouldn't sync with iTunes.  I don't know why. So I tried the other computer.  Then I tried updating my iPod's software, which took 4 hours.  I couldn't figure it out.  I've done a bunch of voice recordings without a problem.  Transferring fine. Others have, this one wouldn't. I couldn't email it from the file itself because it was too big.  Maybe it was demon possessed.  Maybe she - the author - had a virus when she spoke to me and it infected the voice file.  Anyway, so I couldn't transfer it, and so what I eventually did was I recorded the iPod recording to my phone.  But then my phone would only transfer the file as 16MB attachments, which meant I had to hack the interview into 4 pieces.  So I did that. And then I transfered each one one by one, then uploaded them to the Wordpress site one by one. It kinda took heaps of time.

And then I put together the story - I sourced images - and wrote a little and then there it was. And it came together quite nicely.  I thought she'd like it.  Obviously I had killed myself in terms of effort, but hey, so what, sometimes it happens, no harm, no foul.  I was just glad it was finally done.

And then, after working through the night in getting it decent, I posted it. And then I just carried on working through the night on other work, also not paid written work....well, an eBook may pay out after a few months...but the point is...I was burning the midnight oil on passion, not running after treasure.

And if anything, my reviews and interviews would earn them - these authors - more treasure, but I was happy to do it, it was inspiring me and ja, not going to take too much of my time, except when it did.

So the next morning I suddenly got a bunch of hysterical messages.  YOU WILL BE SUED.  THE PUBLISHER WILL BE SUED.  I WILL SUED.  STOP STOP STOP.  And the hysteria was around - get this - an image of her book I'd found on the internet. I just googled the name of her book, and did a google image search, and I used the first image that came up.

And so I was getting these frantic messages on twitter and email from her and someone else at the same time.  And so what I figured out was that on the book cover (the image I found via google search) were the words Oscar and 'murder'.  And since he wasn't found guilty of murder, pandemonium.  So I told the hysterical journo to calm down, and I removed the image (it took 5 seconds) and found one that was exactly the same, except it didn't have the word 'murder' on her sample book cover. Problem solved, right?

Oh and could I use this info here from her latest press release.  So I got a few more emails asking me to add stuff to the story.

So I added that.

Oh and could I use this image [attached] as well.

Okay, so I added that.

Then I got the following email:

Will it be possible for you to remove the whole thing, including the interview, until we've sorted this confusion out? All this can have serious legal repercussions for everyone, so I think it's best and safest to remove everything until [the publisher] gives you the go ahead. Can you do that?

I'll really appreciate it and it will give us all peace of mind.

Apologies for the trouble.

See, I can't even get a basic book review right.  I mean what an idiot, I search for the book cover of this amazing writer's book, and I find a book cover online, on google images, saying Oscar and murder in the title.  How fucked up am I to make that mistake - to find her book cover and not realise, just because it's already in the public domain, I should know better than to actually use it.  I could get someone in trouble.  Idiot!

So I removed the story I'd spent the better part of the night working on, and because I had upset her and wasted so much of her time, I promised I would not be in contact with her again.

Now, as if things couldn't get any worse, they did.  And there's no one to blame here than me. Well, I mean I'm clearly to blame for the two other fuck-ups mentioned above, but what I'm saying is this was all on me. Well, maybe one could also blame Nietzsche.  No, that won't fly.  Fair and square, this was me doing a one man show and the show was called Another Nick vd L Fuck Up.

Are you ready to cringe?

A Particularly Bad Case of Writer's Diarrhea 

Ok it's 16:48 as I write this, on September 20. If you click on this link you'll arrive at my 5th eBook on the Oscar trial (that's right F I F T H), putting my total word count for all five at around 350 000.

Yeah that's gross word count, and yeah, it's pretty gross. When I should have been working, and around doing free interviews and PR for other writers, I dunno, I did this.  Where I got the crazy idea that people would even bother to read this when I've had seasoned veteran editors telling me 'this is a non story'
 and other journos counseling me 'to take the whole thing down, just to be safe'...I'm not sure.  Look I dunno, maybe I have a mental disorder.  Because:

I just never learn!

Look, I hear what you're saying and you're right.  Expressing your opinion is fine but three hundred and fifty - fucking - thousand words.  Who does that?  Who has time for that?  Am I koo koo?  Hey, clearly I am.
But can I be honest with you?  This is a confessional and so...well, I would like to.  Can I?

See, I guess, yup, I had a thing or two I felt I needed to say. And so I said what I wanted to say and heck, then I felt I needed to say something else.

 Have I cleared the air? Well, I reckon I'm almost there. One more eBook - maybe a quick 50 000 worder - on the Oscar trial might finally do it. I dunno, maybe something like...this:

 Maybe even one more after that...

But beyond 7...seems very unlikely. I mean, I do have a day job, don't I?

Although hang on... I hear some of you lifting a finger and saying with appreciable wisdom, "Nick, quit while you're ahead."

Harder to hear is...what sounds like sniggering. Can't quite make it out but it sounds like something along these lines: "This shithead can't even get the basic facts right. Who is he kidding?" Well, you're not wrong. The description, right now, at this link provides the following explanation in this regard:

Book Description

 September 18, 2014
RESITITUTIO was published on 19 September 2014, exactly 7 days after Judge Thokozile Masipa pronounced her controversial verdict...

"Errrr...first of all, Nick, shithead...it SAYS the publication date is September 18.  IT'S RIGHT THERE! ARE YOU BLOODY BLIND AS WELL AS DUMB?"

Either I am, or Amazon is.  Seems Amazon records US-based time (there is no Amazon.co.za).  So the 28th in America is the 29th here.  But hey, you're 100% right, the Restitutio typo is genuine.  There's no getting around it, capital 'i's and 't's look the same, especially when they're juxtaposed like so: IIITIITIITITITITITIIT

I have tried to correct it so hopefully by now it's right.  Is it?  I hope so.

Now I can tell you after writing the last eBook in like, 3 weeks, I got a few things done, but my physical self went to hell.  Insomnia.  Backache. Eyeache. And a lowered immunity to the writing gods mentioned above, who look so small up high to little 'ol me trudging through the marshes of anonymity down here.

On Saturday I decided to make a break and go for a 5km run.  I have hardly gotten out of my chair for days (how do you think books get written - you sit, and shit yourself for hours on end).  So I thought I'd just run.  Shake off all the cobwebs.  All the crap, you know.  And ja, so I've been completely sedentary for like...weeks.

So I ran 5kms in 27:41.  I may not be able to write, but I think I can run.  And sometimes I do run with it. Which is my privilege, even if I don't know what I'm doing and I'm just high on life, and trying to make the most of it while I'm mucking about down here.

For more on the behind-the scenes 'mucking about' on RESTITUTIO click here.

P.S. Here's how Jim Carrey got his start (mucking about at the back of the classroom):

1 comment:

JBR said...

Nick, readers get tearful, reading some of your writings, not because you are a 'failed writer'. On the contrary, because the subject is worth crying about and because it is well written. So is most stuff you write about well written, so do not sell yourself short. We cry for the same reason we get turned on reading about sex and laugh when reading about humor. JBR