Over at Good Reads, I get John Marko's blogs fed into e-mail updates, and he recently talked about his opinion of Arby's.
I was intrigued, because I had previously made it a habit to eat at Arby's before seeing movies at one of my local theaters. It's right next door, so the convenience alone was always a draw. Truth is, growing up Arby's didn't impress me much. I remember not being all that impressed by its signature roast beef sandwiches, in fact, so I never made it a point to go to Arby's.
The truth is, all that time I regularly went to Arby's before the movies I wasn't eating the roast beef sandwich, either. I was eating one of their chicken sandwiches. I love their curly fries, and the special Arby's sauce and horseradish sauce, too. In fact, it was as much the fries and sauces that kept me going back. But I also sampled the roast beef sandwiches again. And I liked it better this time.
Sometimes we can be a little quick to judge, thinking we know exactly what we're doing when we say something, when sometimes we're only fooling ourselves, posturing and being, basically, a fool. I will admit to that kind of behavior myself. I wish everyone could. Sometimes the ego won't allow it.
I still wish that writers weren't like that, but the truth is they are. They may be some of the most egotistical bastards out there. In some ways, they have all the reason to. Writing can look pretty glamorous on the outside, but when you dig into it, it's anything but. It's one of the dirtiest professions there are. Yeah, jobs are pretty dirty on the whole (and thank Mike Rowe for adding new layers of grime), but few jobs are as dirty as writing. People have a lot of expectations about writing. Most people seem to think it happens spontaneously, as if there aren't even people involved. It's the one job where the fantasy and reality of it have no relation at all. Ironically, writing is all about fantasy.
How do you survive as a writer? By compromise. By admitting your ego probably isn't deserved. That your elaborate defense only seems like it's helping you out. Writers are like actors. The more you pretend the more you'll lose yourself. No wonder Pynchon has kept himself out of the public eye. Of course, that's another pretension in itself.
I was just talking to my brother. He was in a horrific car accident on Sunday, but he survived it, and with injuries that were not nearly as bad as they could have been. The conversation still turned to me, because we hadn't talked in a while. I found myself using my defenses. It wasn't until we hung up that I realized what I'd been doing. There are plenty of excuses writers can have, but none of them should conceal the truth from themselves.
It's a tough life, even if you're not a writer. But as a writer, you have a certain amount of responsibility to the truth, even if you spend most of your time in fantasy.
Have an Arby's roast beef sandwich. You may just be surprised.