Writing “As If”
The hippie version of behavioral therapy (I remember it well) was “acting as if.”
Are you scared? Are you anxious? Act as if you’re not.
Shawn has a principle for Black Irish Books: publish as if. In other words, bring out a book/promote it etc. as if we were Knopf, as if we were Random House.
What about writing as if?
(Remember, the theme of this series is “Why I Write.” It’s my own admittedly personal, idiosyncratic, possibly demented view of why I do what I do.)
I definitely write as if.
I write as if I’m being published by Penguin Random House/Simon&Schuster/Hachette/HarperCollins.
I write as if my stuff is gonna be reviewed by the NY Times, the New Yorker, the Times of London.
I write as if the Nobel Prize committee will check every comma.
I write as if Steven Spielberg will be personally eyeballing an advance reading copy.
I write as if people will be reading my work five hundred years from now (assuming of course that planet Earth is still habitable by humans at that time.)
More critical than all the above, I write as if the Muse herself will be going over my stuff. I don’t want her saying, “I gave you this?”
But let’s take this line of thinking to a deeper level.
You and I as writers must write as if we were highly paid, even though we may not be.
We must write as if we were top-shelf literary professionals, even though we may not (yet) be.
We must write as if we were being held to the highest standards of truth, of vision, of scale, of imagination, even though we may not be.
We must write as if our works mattered, even though they may not.
As if they will make a difference, even though they may not.
As if our lives and sanity depend on it. Because, believe me, they do.
To say that we write (or live) “as if” is another way of saying we have turned pro.
We are operating as professionals.
We are in this for keeps.
We are in it for the long haul.
We are committed.
We are warriors.
We are for real.
Therefore … take no thought how or what ye shall speak; for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.
There is great wisdom in acting as if and writing as if.
Is life without meaning? Are you and I marooned on an atom of dust hurtling in the dark through a pointless cosmos?
But we can’t act as if we believed that.
We must act as if there were meaning, as if our lives and actions did have significance, as if love is real and death is an illusion, as if the future will be better than the past, whatever that means.
One of Seth Godin’s great contributions is the idea of “picking yourself.” Don’t sit on a stool at Schwab’s like Lana Turner waiting for someone else to pick you to be the next star.
Act as if you were a pro, a fastball hitter, the real thing,
And there’s additional magic to the practice of acting as if and writing as if. In some crazy way, acting and writing as if makes our beliefs about ourselves come true.
What we had only projected takes on its own reality. That’s a law.
“You’re an actress,” Art Carney tells Lily Tomlin at a scary moment in Robert Benton’s great private eye flick The Late Show. “Act brave.”
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