If your one and only poem lays hidden under your bed, but you compare yourself to Dylan Thomas, this column is not for you. I do not wear black, horn-rimmed glasses or Keffiyeh scarves. I do not talk about my angst. Nor do I photograph myself suffering said angst and post grayscale profile pictures to Facebook hoping to break a 10-month spell of involuntary celibacy.
Even more heretically, I don’t write to express my “complex feelings.” I’ve never compared my heart to a black abyss. I write to make money and I intend to keep doing so until I come down with Carpal-tunnel syndrome.
If you are a literary genius, you will be sorely disappointed with this column. If, on the other hand, you are an admittedly crappy writer stuck with an inexplicable fetish for pecking at a keyboard six hours a day, let’s talk. If you’re a book lover, and you’ve never once thought of opening a literary novel to woo the attractive person adjacent to you at Starbucks, we can be friends too.
Which leads to the objective of this column, which can be organized into two subcategories, four bullet points, and several slides. Here goes:
Thanks to an endless grind of poorly paid journalism internships and a resultant endless grind of socially awkward interviews, I’ve gotten to know aspects of this city’s literary scene that the bicycle circuit from Barnes and Nobel to Saxby’s doesn’t quite show you.
I’d like to impart some of my hard-earned knowledge onto you young whippersnappers. If I can help it, you won’t find yourself spending your college career either: A. Humping sweaty strangers in dank basements or (even worse) B. sitting in some University City townhouse with 45 bicycles lining it’s curb, chain smoking American Spirits while listening to some band that formed two-minutes ago and imagining what a great poet/artist/musician you’ll one day become.
More seriously, I have a confession to make: I’m not that cool. This column’s “voice” is for your entertainment only. Meeting me would be a letdown. Frankly, what really excites me isn’t preaching what little knowledge I have, it’s finding out cool new stuff and sharing it with you guys — though my advice about the townhouse scenario still stands.
I assume that, if you’ve been following me this far, you’re probably some legitimate permutation of writer and/or reader who knows you have much to learn. If so, then we’re in the same boat.
I want to get better at writing. I’d love to sit in a room with real writers and either listen to what they wrote and feel inferior, or listen to how they managed to get their article/book/poem/column published and feel simultaneously optimistic and terrified.
I want to discover cool places and find obscure books. I discovered a 19th century printing of “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage” once, so the bar is set high. I want to meet cool people, whether pros or Temple undergrads, who’ve snuffed out their American Spirits, pulled up a Word document and inched themselves to a Carpal-tunnel diagnosis in the name of art (or money — whatever floats your boat).
If you want any of these things too, then please, read my column. It validates my writing this (writers need a lot of that) and gives me 20-odd dollars each month.
Yes, I did say I plan to get paid to write. I never said I’d have health insurance. There’s a reason I haven’t shot down the “writers and Ramen Noodles” stereotype.
Carl O’Donnell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org