Write On, Man

DEAR SEAN:

Since I am writing a book I wanted to know what it’s like being an author. So I prepared the following for you:

1. Does it get weird when people you don’t know know your name?
2. Is writing tiring?
3. Do you get too much attention?

Write me back soon with your answers. How are Otis and Thelma Lou and Ms. Jamie doing? Tell them I said hi.

Sincerely,
10-YEAR-OLD-IN-BATON-ROUGE

DEAR BATON ROUGE:

First off, kudos for writing your book. Books are fun. Writing a book is a lot like jumping out of a speeding vehicle. It hurts, and all your friends send Hallmark cards when they hear about it.

In fact the hardest part of the whole book process is simply beginning. I have met many people who want to write books, who have great ideas for books, who possess heaps of bookish talent, but never actually sit down and write the dang book.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. You asked three well-formed questions. Therefore I will answer. And I promise to answer with the kind of straight talk I wish someone would have used with me when I was your age.

You see, I’ve wanted to be a writer since the fourth grade. Whenever I would tell this to my teachers they usually responded by patting my head and saying, “Well, just remember God needs janitors, too.”

1. “Does it get weird when strangers know your name?”

You must be confusing me with someone else, nobody recognizes me.

Then again there was one time when I was in a train station after an author event last year. I deboarded and two excited kids rushed up to me with smiles and notebooks in their hands. I was so flattered.

One girl said, “Can I have your autograph?”

I did my best John Wayne and replied, “Be glad to, ma’am.”

No sooner had I borrowed the girl’s pen than she shouted to her mother. “Mom! Look! It’s the guy from ‘The Hangover’ movie!”

“No,” I said. “You’re confusing me with Zach Galifianakis. My name’s Sean Dietrich.”

“Sean who?” The girls were crestfallen.

The other girl removed her phone camera and said, “Can we still tag you as Zach Galifiniakis?”

2. “Is writing tiring?”

Yes. Here’s why:

A lot of people think writing is sitting behind a keyboard and waiting for tidal surges of inspiration to fly from your fingertips and (bada-bing) there’s your book.

No. Writing is not about making paragraphs. Neither is writing about coming up with great sentences or chapters. These things are merely “first-drafting.”

The actual “writing” takes place during your 234th, 312th, and 1,905th revisions.

Take this column for example. Before I send this to you I will go over it about a hundred thousand times—maybe more.

This letter will change with each pass I make, until it doesn’t look anything like the first draft. And when I’m done painstakingly revising this, it will finally begin to resemble semi-solid organic matter which falls from the backend of livestock. Whereupon I will admit my own miserable inadequacy and cry myself to sleep.

Writing.

Revising will make your eyes hurt and your fingers sore. You’ll read the same line of text over and again until you know it by rote. And even after all this labor, you’ll still mak al sorts of typos. Then your brain will slam you with all the top-40 hits from the jukebox of self-doubt, such as:

“Nobody cares about this garbage I’m writing.”

“I’m not a real writer.”

“I have no literary talent, my entire life’s ambition is a morbid joke.”

“I wonder if Sean remembers that I’m only 10 years old?”

3. “Do you get too much attention?”

No. Unless of course you are referring to attention I get from semi-professional hate-mailers. In which case the answer is yes.

Hate-mailers are just critics or anyone else who pays attention to every little thing someone else does instead of actually doing something creative.

As a writer, you will have hecklers, this goes with the territory. The important thing to remember is that you cannot win against them. They are way more experienced at being jerks than you are. So don’t play their game.

Besides, if you ask me there are two basic kinds of people in this world. There are the eye-for-an-eye people, and there are the turn-the-other-cheek people. The goal of my life is to be the latter.

And the good news is, as a writer you will be afforded many opportunities to turn all four of your cheeks.

4. “How are Ms. Jamie and Thelma Lou and Otis doing?”

They are well, thank you. Right now my wife and dogs are in the living room reading Chapter 27 from your novel that your mom sent us. And guess what? We all think you’re pretty amazing. One day, when I get to Baton Rouge, I promise to tell you this in person.

Sincerely,
Zach Galifiniakis.

25 comments

  1. Steve McCaleb - June 3, 2021 7:31 am

    Dear Zach/Sean, can I join your Wolfpack ?

    Reply
  2. Mark D MacIntyre - June 3, 2021 7:41 am

    Funny you should ask. I’m supposed to write a book. While doing an x-ray on a patient she prophesied that the Lord told her that I am to write a book. She said the Lord also gave her what I should name it. So I wrote it down. Now I’m waiting for the “tidal wave of inspiration” to fly out of my fingertips. Thanks for the encouragement. You are awesome Sean!

    Reply
    • Lori Moore - June 7, 2021 1:46 am

      “Sincerely, Zach Galifiniakis”
      I love your column!
      Lori M.

      Reply
  3. dymenovel - June 3, 2021 10:39 am

    God works in mysterious ways…I find you inspiring, Sean.
    Thank you, Baton Rouge, for asking these questions for many of us…I find you inspiring too!

    Reply
  4. Gretchen Hitchcock - June 3, 2021 11:43 am

    You’re not only an awesome writer, but seem to be an awesome human as well. My husband and I both love you and frequently send your articles to our friends and family. We look forward to when you can tour again and we can see you in person!

    Reply
  5. Bill Harris - June 3, 2021 12:01 pm

    Thank you Sean.

    Reply
  6. Nancy Crews - June 3, 2021 12:19 pm

    ❤your wrting.

    Reply
  7. Ann Robbins Phillips - June 3, 2021 12:32 pm

    This helps us writers everywhere!! A good morning pick-me-up just before we sit down in front of that keyboard. I use those same self-incriminating quotes to myself every time I finish a book. It helps to know that “real writers” have them too. Thank you!!!

    Reply
  8. Tammy S. - June 3, 2021 12:38 pm

    Zach who?!
    Thanks Sean. You always encourage us all. And are so dang funny in the process. If I ever write my book you are definitely getting credit in a couple of lines. Right after God, my husband and kiddos. So glad you put pen to paper and fingers to keyboard to write such great stories!! They are a gift each day we all look forward to. Hope you all have a great day!! I’m on a girlfriend trip in Destin, and this beautiful emerald water is mesmerizing and so relaxing. Maybe I’ll be ready to write that book when I get home from such a beautiful place!!

    Reply
  9. MermaidGrammy - June 3, 2021 12:39 pm

    You would have been and still can be, a super-terrific daddy

    Reply
  10. Dean - June 3, 2021 1:18 pm

    Thanks for taking time to respond to a young writer.
    Would love to see you when you get back o the roao.

    Reply
  11. Jan - June 3, 2021 1:55 pm

    Awesome thoughts on writing and life in general!

    Reply
  12. Barbara L - June 3, 2021 2:13 pm

    Sean, I’d recognize you. Maybe I’m not woke but I had to look up Zach Galifiniakis to find out who he is.

    Reply
  13. Shirley - June 3, 2021 3:09 pm

    Sean you are hilarious! I just joined a writing network called Hope*Writers and pray someday my words will be as funny and inspiring as yours.

    Reply
  14. Christina - June 3, 2021 4:40 pm

    You are a funny, realistic encourager Sean. Hope you know that we appreciate your daily labor of love in each column.

    Reply
  15. Kim Whittington - June 3, 2021 6:07 pm

    It so great that you, like, took time out of your “like” busy day to send the Baton Rouge writer boy a response. It seemed “like” truly honest and enlightening.
    Now, I’m 61 and realized “like” today that I’ve been hanging out with too many “like” kids.
    Thanks for pointing that out in a previous post. I am going to try to break the habit. 🤞🤞

    Reply
  16. Linda Moon - June 3, 2021 6:56 pm

    Fourth grade for students and teachers improves by fifth grade. At least it did for me….both as a student and as a teacher. I listen to good jukebox from you every day, Writer. I read it, and I somewhat hear it, too, with memories of your LIVE EVENTS that had both music and storytelling. You will never get hate-mail from me, so pay attention to my mail. And one more question…#5: How is Mother Mary doing?

    Sincerely,
    Goldie Hawn

    (people often confused me with her)

    Reply
  17. Suzanne Brantley - June 3, 2021 7:25 pm

    Sean, this is wonderful!!! Encouraging to all of us!

    Reply
  18. Susan Newsome - June 4, 2021 3:24 am

    I must correct u here…I recognized u on the Allstate commercial this evening! I remembered seeing u over a year ago in Columbus Ga. I remembered asking my daughter with me that nite if ur beard was real after we laughed our butts off during ur show! Then I bought ur book! YES! U r recognized and u r LOVED!
    Susan

    Reply
  19. Dawnie B - June 4, 2021 5:32 am

    😂 You are so funny!

    Reply
  20. Bob E - June 4, 2021 6:36 am

    Lots of funny stuff – enjoyed reading whatever revision/rewrite this may have been.

    Reply
  21. Karen Holderman - June 4, 2021 11:44 am

    Sean, I look forward to reading your articles daily. To start my day with your wisdom and humor is such a blessing.

    Reply
  22. Nancy M - June 4, 2021 12:52 pm

    Good luck to the young man from Baton Rouge! I’d never heard of Zach Galifianakis (sp?) and looked him up. You have a few things in common besides facial hair.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zach_Galifianakis

    Reply
  23. elizabethroosje - June 4, 2021 3:12 pm

    I love you writing. the revision process is indeed laboursome. But oh, the results of the labour! keep writing Sean!

    Reply
  24. Hazel Barber - June 6, 2021 1:57 am

    Never heard of Zach Galifianakis until today. I saw some resemblance when I googled him. I’m sure it is hard to come up with a different topic every day but you manage to do it and make it enjoyable reading. Thanks Sean!

    Reply

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