So yesterday I read Just a Geek.
I found the book strangely moving, so when I finished writing it, I hopped online to write a review on Goodreads. When I enjoy a book, I like to spread the word about it.
I started to write the review, but it kept getting longer and longer. So I figured I should probably write it as a blog, instead.
So I wrote a blog, and it went terribly, terribly wrong. It was a complete trainwreck.
I considered not posting it. But when you spend two hours writing something at four in the morning, it’s hard to just erase it. So I shrugged and posted it up, figuring that while the blog itself was an embarrassing mess, the underlying theme was pretty clear: I liked the book.
But today I woke up and thought that I’d go onto Goodreads and actually write the review I meant to do last night. More to prove to myself that I could than for any other reason.
This time it came out fine. Easy as anything.
As a writer, this is extremely interesting to me. It’s important. If one day I try to write something and it sucks, then the next day I try to write and it works, something big is happening. There’s a secret here, something that’s close to the heart of my magic.
It took me a while to figure it out, but here’s what I think happened:
Generally speaking, I don’t worry too much about ripping off other authors’ styles when I write. It’s a common fear of newer writers, and I spent a couple years anxious about it, just like everyone else.
But eventually I got over that particular fear for the simple reason that I never found any real evidence that it was happening. At least no more than is strictly necessary and/or polite.
There was one exception to this. Back in 1997 I read every Sherlock Homes story Doyle ever wrote in about five days.
On the sixth day, I wrote a chapter in my book. And what do you know? Kvothe turned into Sherlock Holmes. He was deducing shit all over the place. Bast fell into an odd Watson role, too.
It took me years to get all the Holmes out of that chapter. Many revisions.
The point is, I’d soaked up so much Holmes in those five days, that I couldn’t properly assimilate it. So when I tried to write, it spilled into my book.
After a couple of days my brain managed to digest all the Holmes and get itself back into its baseline state. But I’d learned my limit. A thousand pages of compelling, distinctive prose in a week’s time is bound to influence my writing for a day or two.
(This is part of the reason I haven’t tackled Martin’s series yet.)
I suspect the same thing happened to me after reading about 150 pages of Wheaton’s strangely compelling anecdotal bloginess. I doubt very much it would have thrown a monkey wrench into my novel writing. But it sure as hell confused my blogging. What I wrote yesterday was probably some bastard hybridization of my style and his.
Why do I mention this? Partly because it’s interesting to me, and writing about things helps organize and clarify things in my own head. But I also mention it because I know a lot of you are writers, or are at least curious about the writing process.
Anyway, here’s the better write-up of Wheaton’s book.
* * *
I’ve always known Wil Wheaton as one of the greater internet Powers.
That’s how I think of people like Wheaton, Doctorow, Scalzi, and Jerry over at Penny Arcade. They are people who occupy the internet community on an almost deific level. They’re actively engaged in discussions about things like creative commons, and web freedom, and other bigthink information-age issues. When they speak on a subject, the air shakes, people tweet and link and perform other media-appropriate types of adulation.
These people are their own Metatrons. They’re like the totem spirits of the internet.
That said, I don’t tend to read their blogs with any sort of regularity. I poke around Jerry’s blog every week or so. I read Scalzi a couple times a month, or if someone sends me a link. Same with Gaiman. It’s odd. I find their blogs interesting and well-written, but I’m just not drawn to follow them in my regular compulsive way.
That means that when I picked up Wheaton’s book, I wasn’t wearing fan-colored glasses.
Don’t get me wrong, I know who he is. I liked Wheaton in Stand By Me and Next Generation. I loved to hate him in The Guild. I even wrote an epic poem about him, once upon a time. A poem I dream of reading in public one day, as he, Scalzi, and Felica Day perform an elaborate dumbshow, acting it out while dressed in period costume appropriate for a 9th century mead-hall.
During this reading, I would like to be wearing a fur cloak of some sort. And perhaps a crown. In this little mental fantasy, I look rather like a cross between Brian Blessed and an angry bear. I also imagine myself as being profoundly drunk on mead.
My point is, when I started reading Just a Geek, I didn’t know what to expect.
Quite to my amazement, I was sucked into the story. It’s autobiographical, and covers a time in Wheaton’s life when he was going through a bit of a rough patch, trying to come to grips with his life, his acting career, his fluctuating celebrity, and his feelings about Star Trek.
Simply said, I enjoyed this book to a startling degree.
It was funny, touching, snarky, and remarkably sweet. I didn’t start the book as a Wheaton fan, but now that I’ve finished it, it’s safe to say I’ve swung over to that side of the fence.
In my opinion, you really don’t need to be a fan of Star Trek to enjoy it. (Though it probably wouldn’t hurt.)
But this isn’t a book about a guy that used to be on Star Trek. It’s not a book about being a celebrity. Or being an actor.
Ultimately, it’s a book about a guy dealing with being human. That makes it interesting to everyone.
It’s worth your time. Check it out.
* * *
There. That’s a good write-up.That’s what I meant to do the first time around.
Goes to show that if you write something that’s a shitty mess, it’s not the end of the world. Sometimes all it takes to fix it is a night’s sleep and a willingness to get back on the horse that threw you the first time around.
Later space cowboys,