# of pages written: Worked on a story. Don’t even talk to me about a novel right now.
# of days left to write 1st draft: 124 (eek)
According to the “site stats” for my blog, my most popular post by far is the one entitled, “Drugs, Dreams, and Erotic Fiction.” Coming in at a distant second is the post entitled, “Why I Love Teenage Boys,” which, I’m assuming, some people thought might contain erotic material, but sadly for them, it did not.
This confirms what I pretty much already knew about people: they like reading about sex. This is helpful knowledge because I am, I think, trying to write for an audience. Oh, I know all these serious writerly type folks say that they write because they just have to, because to them writing is like breathing. They claim they don’t do it for anyone but themselves. I’m not like that. I often write with an audience in mind. I enjoy sharing my writing with other people, and I want those other people to like what I’m writing. And, it seems, they will like my writing if it is erotic.
It’s funny, because a few weeks ago at dinner Nate and Nikki suggested to me that I write erotic fiction. “We were discussing it last night in bed,” Nikki said, smiling. “We think you’d be good at it.”
I wondered why they were discussing my future career in erotic fiction while in bed, and then I wondered why they assumed I would be good at it. Do I exude a natural sexiness that is apparent to everyone except myself? Possibly. I was intrigued by the suggestion. So, that night, I made an attempt at writing some erotic fiction. I will not share that attempt here. What I will share, however, is a fun writing challenge I gave myself the next day, which was to pick the most non-sexy objects I could think of and write about them in a erotic way.
First I looked at the painting of a giraffe on the wall and wrote: the giraffe had a strong, sloping neck and a long, agile tongue that curled out towards the quivering leaf. Ew. Kind of gross, like animal porn. Next I tried the couch. Couches are not usually thought of as sexy unless they’re made of black leather, but here’s what I wrote: I sank into the soft but firm cushion, thinking about how his ass had been here before, imprinting the place where I now sat.
And so on. I amused myself for the morning in this way. But I knew I could never really write erotica. What would my grandma think?
Years and years ago I won a writing contest and received a free pass to the James River Writers Conference in Richmond, Virginia. I was twenty-four, and I was insanely jealous of a twenty-two year old at the conference named Nick McDonell who had published his first book at seventeen and his second only a few years later. His first novel, Twelve, was about rich high school kids in Manhattan partying and doing drugs. I had the feeling it was largely based on his own personal experience.
I went to talk to him after his panel concluded. He was alarmingly attractive in a thick- eyebrowed and strong-jawed type of way.
I asked him about his first novel. Was he worried about what his family would think of it? “Were you afraid they would think it was autobiographical?” I asked.
“Well, my family members are in the writing business,” he said in his deep and annoyingly confident voice. As if he needed to remind me. His father used to be managing editor of Rolling Stone. “So they understand that it was a work of fiction.” He gave me a pitying smile.
“Yeah,” I said. “But still, there was some pretty scandalous stuff going on. What about your grandma? Weren’t you worried about what your grandma would think?”
“Not really.” He shrugged. “If you want to be a writer, you just can’t worry about stuff like that. You can’t make everyone happy.”
And I suppose he was right. I can’t sensor myself because I’m afraid of offending or worrying people. I also probably can’t write stuff just because I think it’s what other people want to read.
I guess my problem has always been that I care way too much about what people think of me. I’m such a people-pleaser, and that goes for my writing, too. I want to write things that everyone likes, but you can’t please everyone all the time. I know it sounds trite, but the most important person to please is myself. I’m the one who has to sit with my writing day in and day out. So what do I want to write about?
Hmm. Good question.