I hate books that are written like the spoken word

I just finished a book that is a New York Times bestseller, has probably made the person millions of dollars, and gets great reviews online. But after reading it, I was irritated, not just because the content wasn't my type of stuff, but because the entire book was written like the person was making a speech. And it went on like that for a couple hundred pages.

I don't want to name the book because I don't want to get flamed, and other people I know who read it loved it. But that's the second book I've read recently that was written by a famous, rich person, is a bestseller, and is beloved by many people all over. The other book, which I also won't name because it was so popular, was much worse than the one I just read. It promised to be a kind of self-help book, but it gave no advice, just had repetitious ideas and phrases, and was more like a choppy one-person show than the written word. And what's even more baffling is when some of those writers talk about their education, whether it's private schools, honor rolls, or prestigious universities. So they're educated and probably had to write a lot to get good grades, but pretty much cop out of a more literary style when writing several pages. It's like they don't want to commit to trying to write complex sentences and more thoughtful expressions, but instead want to transcribe their talk and call it a day.

There is another person whose books are extremely popular, who've made them millions of dollars and allowed them to have a private plane, huge home, etc. They didn't start out famous, but they became that way after speaking all over the world and writing those books. One of them has sold millions of copies, so I tried to read it after someone recommended it. I could barely get through the first several pages. Every sentence read like a speech. I found another book that covered the same topics (which makes me wonder if the rich person took those ideas, since it was written before their bestseller), and it was way more enjoyable to read, and effectively communicated the writer's ideas, because it was created as the written word, not the spoken one.

And in case you think I'm being critical because I'm envious, I'm not. Sure, I'd love to become rich through a book, or write a book because there's an audience waiting to hear what I have to say. And I don't disparage anyone who likes those kinds of books. I'm just bringing this up because I really like when people attempt to write a book reflecting a style that glides, that takes the reader on a journey, rather than throwing words in our faces, assaulting us with a loud stand-up act or stage performance. If I want that, I'll watch them live or on video; I don't want to read it.

Also, in case you're thinking, "Well you don't know those writers; you're not a fan; you didn't like the content anyway," that's not accurate either. I am not a big Liz Phair fan, even back when she was super-popular. But I enjoyed her book anyway, even though I couldn't relate to what she was talking about, and even though some of the content was not the kind I usually read. But it was very well-written. She has a good education, which she doesn't negate to write super-simple like some of those other people.

There's another angle on this, which I just realized: Judy Blume was saying in her master "class" (which is really a series of very interesting lectures more than a class) that before you send off your manuscript to the outside world, you should read it out loud. She said that she realized the importance of doing this when she recorded the audio versions of her books, and was told to strictly read what she had written instead of improving it along the way. She said that when you read your writing out loud, you'll understand it better, what works, what doesn't, etc. So maybe some of those multi-millionaires wrote in that way because they knew they would eventually record them, and they wanted to make sure that their audio sounded as good as the published version of their books.

Whatever the reason, I'll continue being in the minority of non-fans of those blockbuster writers/celebrities/super-successful people and will continue toiling in obscurity.


Translation of a Polish student's personal creative essay

I've been teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) for several years, and one of my students from this past semester gave me a translation of something that she wrote in Polish. Unfortunately, I don't have the original Polish text (maybe I can ask her to give it to me next year), but I have her translation, which she wrote by hand and which I typed out here:

Romeo and Juliet

The end of romance, the end of spoken words, "Moment, please last forever."
Only emptiness is left...a longing for closeness, for the touch of bodies that, despite the influence of gravity, could not penetrate each other, could not become one.
There is only an echo, an echo of memories...of those crazy nights, a subtle shining moon that opened its eyes at the sight of drunk Romeo and wild Juliet--a version from under the bridge.
They were not allowed to die together of love. Someone wrote a new script, a new version of the film in which the characters played themselves--so called sketches of the past.
Romeo is dancing tango with the chosen one of his life--a bottle of brandy. Julia experienced her first death, she buried her feelings. It wasn't she who became dead. Others became dead to her...Dead to make her able to love again, to fill her interior with pleasure, with desire for closeness. She became like his sperm--she exploded with a lust for love for a second, and then she returned to her previous form--a self-sufficient haven.
I think the art fell in love with her. It was the art who opened its mouth one night and whispered words to Julia--"I will be your lover, I will caress your inside and through your visible moans you will let the world know that you feel fulfilled."

A tree without feathers...stands naked, all exposed.
It's watching my window. Maybe it thinks it would be nice to be in my room, warm its nakedness under a warm duvet. I am sure it would appreciate four corners. What about the yellow walls?
The sun would speak to the tree through them. The tree would admire with pride two artificial butterflies. It would say--"They dared to fly to the sun."
Maybe it would do a little redecorating...
Right in the middle of my room it would set its root.
It wouldn't need a window anymore.
It would remind it about naked days, days when everyone passed it with indifference, even the one who opened the curtains from night every morning to make her room a light for a moment...
"The darkness of your eyes awakened me from my sleep. I say, with hand on my heart, that in the whole spectacle they play the main role.
The thunder sounded in my heart!
Lightning, however, has its beginning in your pupils.
Your repugnance will not last forever.
There's something about you stranger..."
They f--- every night.
"Only those who went through darkness can see the beauty of the stars."
"I curse tradition--thought patterns that attribute immortality to themselves, wanting to serve their people forever. It's not easy to tear this system apart. We would have to become complete darkness for a moment, so that we can turn on our own light...the light of freedom. I thought I had reached this state, that I had completely faded. Damn it! The light is still shining. I will give myself time. I will understand in time that this is all a process."


I did Nanowrimo again...but this is it!

Even though I told myself I would not do Nanowrimo again, I did it this year, and finished in time. I can't believe I wrote so intensely for a month, but I did, and I feel like I just ran a writing marathon. The only requirement is to write 50,000 words of fiction, what they call a "novel," but there's no way the novel is good. The writing has to be immediate, unedited, and spontaneous, otherwise you end up editing and thinking and slowing down, which means more words to write per day, which means you never get ahead.

I decided to do it because I thought I wouldn't have much work, and figured with the extra downtime I could work on achieving this goal. But I ended up having more work than I thought, thus I should have not continued, but I'd already announced my project on the Nanowrimo site, and I wanted to finish what I started. That meant lots of writing at odd times, which made me super-tired and sort of stressed, because I had to do my regular work, meet deadlines, but also get lots of words in per day (or every few days if I was under word count).

As with last year, this year I learned and experienced a lot, including:

1 - When I know the end, it's easier to write to it. I didn't start out writing the end, but when I was almost at 50k, I decided to write it because it had crystallized as I'd written a bunch of random stuff over the month. If I do want to shape it into a more decent story, I definitely know where I want it to lead, so creating scenes and characters will be easier.

2 - I developed a new habit. I was already writing at least a few times a week, but I was so consistently and intensely writing, that when it was all done, I was already on that treadmill. It became a part of my routine and I want to continue.

3 - Writing lots of junk helped me to come up with a focused character. I thought I was going to have a certain main character when I started the whole thing, but as I was writing tons of stuff, I realized that the main character should be someone who was previously minor. I decided to write it through her eyes (though not in first person), from more of an outsider's perspective, so that I can communicate workplace dysfunction more effectively if she's the one observing and trying to defeat it.

4 - Writing 50,000 words is no big deal. Not if you don't mind writing badly. And as I learned last year, who cares if I write a bunch of junk? It's fun to write and write and let things flow and more concrete ideas will emerge, as opposed to thinking so much and then creating something that you hope will work. Of course, the better option is to plan and write as well as possible instead of writing anything that pops into your head.

5 - Creative writing is more integrated in my life. I used to have a hard time going from the practical real world to the imaginary one, but writing so much has broken that wall, so switching between the two is no big deal. Before, I wouldn't see a reason or be motivated to write because I figured it wouldn't lead to anything anyway. Absolutely no one is waiting for my story, and no one has asked for it; that seems to happen with well-connected people who can tell their successful publishing friends or agents that they're working on something, and those people might say they'd like to look at it once they're done. If I knew people like that, of course I'd be writing day and night to get something done. But since I don't know anyone like that, it's very hard to get going. But because I was writing all the time, I really enjoyed just writing, so it's not about the result at this point but the process. It's just fun to create a bunch of people and stories and take a break from obligations and always doing what others want me to do.

6 - I really don't want to do it again. It's a nice exercise, but I have too much to do. Plus, I realized I have a non-work life that I want to participate in, and I was so busy trying to get the 50k done that it really made my schedule packed, and I felt like there wasn't much breathing room. And I was just very tired. I basically slept for several hours on Thanksgiving because of all I'd done that month, and it's not really worth it at this point. Now all I need to do is really finish a proper book and get a pro to look at it. So if you see pigs flying, that's when it will really be happening.