Judging by the time, I mean that quite literally.
There are moments when I feel like a writer, and many more moments that I don’t. But irrespective of how I identify, I know what’s entailed. For example, I know that love stories are written either by writers who are in great relationships that they are driven to share with the world, or people who have no relationship or any relationship in sight, but they’re interested in playing out their fantasies on the page. Either way, whenever a writer is moved to write, it’s because he/she is working some shit out. Kind of like I’m doing right now.
It’s the nature of writing. We write the best when it’s what we know or what we have living vividly in our heads. The problem is the reader. The reader is the person who interprets, and the person who believes that whatever is written could actually happen. Because it’s written, after all! It must be so.
For example I believe that, if wielded improperly, chick lit can be one of the most dangerous forms of literature (if we can call it that). I’m convinced that some people use chick lit to set expectations for their own lives, while I refer to chick lit as a writer’s whack-off. (People who are less crass might refer to them as adult fairy tales.) Why? Well . . . let’s look at the formula.
The protagonist is an office worker — sometimes even a frustrated journalist or a PR agent. She wants love, but can’t seem to find it. She has friends — maybe one with the perfect relationship, and another who’s even more of a mess than she. (The friendship mix will depend on who’s in the writer’s life at the time.) She’s given up on love, and has taken to harvesting stray animals or allowing herself to be seduced by a man who is horribly wrong for her — maybe he’s married, or he’s her boss, or he’s her married boss. But there’s another man in picture. He’s a nice man. A nice unsuspecting man. Maybe he’s her neighbor, or the guy she talks to in the morning before work as she gets her Venti-skim-latte-with-a-triple-shot-double-whip. The problem? He’s too nice and normal for her neurotic ass. He’s around, but he’s nobody that she would consider because she’s too busy dealing with Mr. Selfish Asshole. Finally, when Mr. SA shows his true colors (usually in the form of something drastic, like sleeping with her messy best friend), she turns to the unsuspecting nice guy. Funny . . . he’s been there all along, but she’s never noticed him. But when he takes on the role as her consistent, unwavering shoulder to cry on, she notices his cuteness. And little does she know that he’s been harboring a secret — he’s really a Prince. A Prince of a tiny European country (that doesn’t exist). Or maybe he’s the heir to a $30B company, and he’s been rejecting his family because he’s so misunderstood. Or maybe he’s quietly the owner of his own profitable business. Either way, he’s loaded, dammit, and he would like to share his booty with her. (Provided that she share her booty with him.) They get married and all is right in a world that was oh, so frustrating a mere 315 pages ago.
Sound familiar? And if you think that the story described above is anything but masturbation involving a plotline and computer, then, seriously? You’re a little cray-cray.
But believe me . . . some of my best friends write chick lit, and they’re brilliant at what they do. They serve a serious purpose, and I don’t begrudge them their successes. I just wish that average readers would understand that what they’re consuming is little more than escapism and behave accordingly.
I watch a lot of movies (and what is a movie, if not a book played out on celluloid?), and I find it interesting to juxtapose the plots of films and the realities of the life that I observe. Don’t get me wrong . . . I devour good, well-written, cerebral, dark movies. Or anything with action . . . or death and dismemberment. I don’t mind chick flicks, but I try not to overconsume them . . . .unless I need a special lift. I have my moments.
Chick lit has a usefulness when I’m overtaken by life. Like most of us, at any given time I know many people who are in financial situations that range from less-than-ideal to crisis mode. Some of those same people are in the midst of nasty divorces, heinous breakups, and horrifically expensive custody battles. A certain faction admits to being in bad marriages, but would rather stay than embark on an ugly divorce. Others are dealing with health issues. This is all normal life stuff, and unfortunately I tend to be used to it — without awareness of how sour I can become.
I know that I’m in need of a lift is when I hear a friend’s good news, and I can’t even be truly happy for him/her.
For example, an old friend called last week, exuberant. She’s getting married and she needed my address to invite me to her wedding. I’m primarily happy for her because she’s been wanting a family for so long. She was engaged in the past, but called it off (luckily, because had she gone through with it, she would have been trying to extricate herself from a relationship with a sociopath).
Because I love her and would never dare shit on her happiness, I outwardly rose to the occasion and gave her the reaction that she was looking for. But, if I were being honest, a bigger part of me internally shrieked: “Oh sweet mother of God! Are you KIDDING me?? MARRIED?? WHY??!! Most people I know are trying to get OUT of their marriages, and you want IN? Why don’t you start smoking while you’re at it.” And then I flipped through my mental rolodex of everyone in my life who’d had a bad marriage experience, and I recalled the divorce rate in the US, and wondered why anyone bothered, and why she’s bothering.
I realize that it’s not the best attitude, but this is where chick lit or more likely chick flicks, come in to give me a little reset.
Life can be so ugly. It’s nice to watch (or read) a slice of someone’s life where things work out . . . even if it’s only for a little while. It doesn’t matter that the story is born in the head of a writer, or that it might be lacking in realism. I don’t walk away from the viewing experience thinking that my life will change as a result of having watched it, but I’m happy to have had the escapism. Even better that I didn’t have to write it myself. Because, really? I would suck at it.