by Rebecca Drake
You, grasshopper, are a writer. You’re compelled to write. You don’t major in biology or computer science or business in college. While your friends go off to work at jobs that will allow them to take the European vacations you always dreamed of, you console yourself with the knowledge that you’re doing what you love. You repeat that many, many times a day. Sometimes you’re mumbling it to yourself when your long-suffering partner pries your hands from the keyboard at 2 a.m. and hauls you to bed.
You realize you need to work—you know nothing, you haven’t read enough, everyone else is better at it than you are. You work really, really hard, often nights and weekends, until every story your children tell includes the tag line, “Oh, that’s right, you weren’t there. You were working.”
Finally, finally you break through that door into the Emerald City: Published. You have done it. You have written a book and it will appear in a bookstore.
Strangely, you’ll be happier when you find out that your book will be sold in a discount chain next to toilet paper and three-for-a-dollar bags of cat food. Your secret fear has been that you’ll be spending your denture years greeting customers at this chain. Now you assume that they’ll be greeting you, lining up to buy your book.
Just when you thought that you could sit back and enjoy scribbling and never, ever again have to hear some gum-chewing friend say, “So, you published that book yet?” that’s when they send the suitcase.
It’s a pretty cheap little affair. Faux cowhide with single thread stitching. A plastic handle that’s seen a lot of wear. In faded gold letters on the side is printed, “Acme Authors, Inc.” Inside is a pamphlet. In Courier 12 point it says, “The sound of one book being stripped.”
You pick up the suitcase, join the legion of other authors heading upstream, and ponder the meaning of this amazing koan.* You will get used to hearing, “No, I don’t read mysteries. I like [almost anything but your book].” You will have to talk with them anyway so that they might consider giving/selling the book to old Aunt Sally who doesn’t share their discriminating taste. Occasionally, you will meet someone who says, “Wow, it’s so cool to meet a real author!” You will have to fight the urge to laugh.
After four weeks of nonstop hustling, you’ll pass by the mirror and seeing stooped shoulders and rictus grin have your moment of transcendence. You shriek, “I’m Willy Loman!”
Thus, grasshopper, does the writer achieve enlightenment.
*Satori - in Zen Buddhism a state of spiritual enlightenment that is a spiritual objective.
*Koan – A Zen Buddhist riddle used to focus the mind during meditation and to develop intuitive thinking.