My sainted wife, The Duchess, is an inveterate and unapologetic fan of American Idol. Me, not so much, though I admitÂ it has a certain gonzo freakshow entertainment factor. The other night she was watching and wondered aloud how it is that people who are so obviously untalented could delude themselves into thinking they are undiscovered geniuses. I mean, its one thing to be modestly talented and think you’re better than you are; at least there’s some toehold in reality to grab hold of. But some of these people are fucking dreadful, how do they imagine they’reÂ good?
Ah, but I understand. I’m a writer.
It does take a certain amount of arrogance to be a writer. I’d imagine it takes some arrogance to be any kind of artist. You have to push past negative criticism, rejection letters, heavy-handed editors who get angry if you resist some of their suggestions, and the mockery and disdain of your friends and the shame of admitting that you earned $12.34 last year from your writing. If you’re not 100% sure you’re hot shit, how in the world do you push past that?
A lot of people don’t, of course. I know a lot of writers who haven’t written in years, or who still write for themselves but who have given up trying to publish or sell what they’ve written. Some of them have talent, some of them suck and the world breathes a sigh of heady relief at their surrender, but I think they all lacked the sort of psychotic conviction that their work is some of the best work ever written. Like the one guy onÂ American Idol said last night before launching into some of the craziest crazy mousic a crazy man has ever sung a-cappella in the history of crazies singing unaccompanied: “These songs need to be on the radio.”
Get it? Not “I think I’m pretty good” or “some folks at my job say I could be the next Meatloaf”. These songs need to be on the radio. Like the history of culture won’t graduate to the next level unless we hear this guy’s wacked-out stylings.Â ThatÂ kind of arrogance I’m familiar with, because it’s what I’ve been saying about my writing since I was about twelve. Back then, everyone pelted me with trash and called me Writer Boy. Or worse things. But now? Well. . .now it’s actually kind of the same, but at least I can whip out my Amazon rankings to prove I actually have a book on sale.
That’s what it takes, I think–that sort of crazy certainty that you have talent, even in the absence of any actual evidence to that effect. That sort of arrogance is absolutely necessary for what we do. And also damned entertaining for you, considering how often the dying Pac ManÂ sound goes off around me, signalling yet anothe rterrible failure. Enjoy!