The thing about reading is that it’s a lifestyle. I record books both here and on Goodreads, but I read a lot more than books. Although I don’t have much time for magazines or even newspapers, I read a lot on the web. And billboards. And sidewalks. I’m quite content doing it. One thing I’ve noticed in all this reading is that fiction writers tend to be more often cited as experts and intellectuals than do non-fiction writers. Oh the non-fic practitioners get their footnotes, and other specialists mention them, but fiction writers get analyzed, probed, and explored. Literary types wonder what they meant by some obscure doggerel they wrote. When’s the last time a non-fiction writer drew that kind of attention? It makes me wonder about all the time I’ve been spending on non-fiction lately.
I suffer from graphomania. There’s no cure. The other day I went looking for an old, pre-electric typewriter to get my fix in case the power goes out. I have notebooks, zibaldones, commonplace books. I carry one in my pocket. I have one on my bedside stand. And the thing I’ve noticed is that the ideas that come to me unbidden are often fictional. You see, I have a hidden life as a fiction writer. That persona is very poor since he’s never made any money from his writing. He was nominated for a Pushcart Prize some years ago, but he never won. That fiction writer has been suffering cabin fever because I’ve been finding publishers for my non-fiction work. I wonder, however, if maybe I shouldn’t be spending my time on fiction. It’ll never get me to the point I can make a living on it, but it might get quoted after I’m gone.
Writing, after all, is a stab at immortality. Those of us who do it are legacy builders. Even as the web has moved us more and more toward visual, iconic forms of entertainment, it has still left a few dusty corners for the written word. When I pass the sometimes impressive graffiti on the way into New York I think I know what the vandals are feeling. We’re kindred spirits. We don’t want to be forgotten. Whether with spray can, fingers on a keyboard, or fountain pen (or maybe even an old-fashioned typewriter) we are trying to say, “I was here.” I used to print out all my blog posts in case the web failed. It grew to thousands of pages. I had to stop. I was beginning to act like a fictional character.