Cynical Guy

There’s still a few things the old subconscious is working out for the climax of And That’s the End of the News. There was another shower lightning strike, and I had to keep cycling the thoughts through my head until I could get to the iBook and jot them down in Stickies.

Then there was another shower thought that really made me think.

My goal all along, of course, is to make the jump into full-time noveling. For a long time, I’ve thought that I’d be happiest doing that sort of thing, and it’s a siren call that will simply not go away.

But in keeping with my philosophy that there’s no such thing as a perfect day, I realized this morning that even if I reach my lofty goal, I’ll never be truly happy doing that, either.

Either I’m being practical – because technically, I’m always trying to improve as a writer, and will therefore never be completely happy with anything I do – or I’m being cynical because I see things going on in my personal life that I think would deflate the moment once I get where I want to be.

Before you pshaw off this charge as simple writer’s neurosis, you should know that I have a long, rich history of cynicism (although if you’ve read some of my novels, you may already realize that). I think it was cultivated when I was in Junior High and High School, for reasons I won’t bore you with. I think I managed to put a lot of it behind me after college (a college buddy of mine told me a few years ago, “I think you went through cynicism and came out the other side”).

But I still have my moments. Right before DelRey books bought my first novel, co-founder and editor Judy Lynn DelRey died. She had helped her husband Lester build DelRey into the dynasty it was starting to squander in the late eighties, but her work had never been formally recognized by SF fandom.

When that year’s next round of the Hugo awards (the ones voted on by the fans) came around, Judy Lynn was nominated for Best Editor.

When the awards ceremony came around, she won. So Lester took the stage and said something like, “I have no reason to believe that Judy Lynn would have been nominated for this award had she not died. She does not need an award for dying. The award is refused.”

Way to go, Lester.

Years later, I told my wife, “If for some reason I get nominated for some kind of award after I die, turn it down. I don’t need an award for dying. Everyone dies.” I thought it was a reasonable request to make of a woman who once told me, “I don’t want flowers at my funeral. I want fmy lowers while I’m living.”

So this morning while we were still in bed, the radio newscast announced that Johnny Cash had won the Country Music Association award for best album. And I said, “See, there’s another case of an award given to someone for dying.”

My wife said, “Before you get all cynical, weren’t you the one who said that his last album was supposed to be really good?”

I was tired, so that shut me up. But afterward, I thought, It depends. Was Johnny Cash nominated for the award before he died or after?

There’s a difference.

Peter Finch won an Oscar for his role in Network. He was dead. But he was alive when he received the nomination.

Judy Lynn DelRey was dead when she was nominated. It was as if she had to die in order for people to realize the contribution she had made to SF and not just give the award to Gardner Dozois again, as they are wont to do (this is not a slam on Dozois, who has great editorial vision).

So I’m not sure if I truly am being practical, or was venting cynicism at my ultimate goal because I couldn’t grouse about giving Johnny Cash an award when he was alive enough to enjoy it.

Maybe there’s some caution thrown in there. For years when I was an unpublished writer, selling a novel was my nirvana. When I did it, I was ecstatic. But there were some things that happened in my personal life that kept it from being a Perfectly Wonderful Time.

There’s also a third answer. It’s the one I like the best.

I think this morning was God tapping me on the shoulder to say, “You know, if I give you what you want, it still won’t be the answer to all of your problems. I am.”

I knew that before. And I’d been trying to do things like be happy wherever I am* in case this whole bestselling novelist thing doesn’t work out. But I don’t think I ever really elucidated it to myself like I have over the last couple of hours. Now I really know it.

Besides, if God wants to have a best selling novelist on his side, he wants a happy one. He already has plenty of cynics.

So I’ll continue to write. I’ll be happy where I am as opposed to content. I keep reaching and writing. And most important of all, I’ll keep praying about it. If I can keep my priorities in the right order, the rest will take care of itself.

Including my attitude.


NP – Tears for Fears, Tears Roll Down

*Note the difference between happy and content. I can be happy with God but I don’t have to be content in my situation – if we were content all the time, we wouldn’t initiate change. And if we didn’t change we wouldn’t do things like build bridges and cure polio. Or write books.


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