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Friday, May 10, 2013

Small Miracles of a Writer's World

"WHEN I WROTE the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, in the woods, without a razor blade."
Henry David Thoreau once said that "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." When applied to private economies in the modern era and perceptions of failure and success, it holds equally as true today as when it was first written.

What on earth will the neighbors think?
The crushing weight of those perceptions of failure and success guide our lives. At times, it causes us to zig when we should have zagged. It is the crushing burden of shame and embarrassment that causes a woman to hide in her cubicle and quietly answer the calls from creditors, praying her co-workers won't hear.  Quiet Desperation.

They were gonna get it anyways...somehow.
Whether you're a couple earning $200k a year and wondering how you're going to make the boat payment, worried about what the other people on the lake will say when the repo guys show up, or a struggling single mother wondering how on earth you're going to put food on the table next week... the quiet desperation remains a truth for so many of us. Always, it seems, it is out there, waiting in good times and in bad, a crisis away from destroying our lives.

You will sit there until you stop wanting to be a writer!
With so much pressure to "succeed" and quiet desperation being the norm, it seems all the more abnormal when someone willingly and consciously decides to pursue a passion like writing or art, where monetary rewards are so rare as to seem virtually non-existent, or akin to having won the lottery.  

"He said he wants to be a writer!"
When you know you're a writer, you might even keep it bottled up inside, not telling anyone about it. Eventually, you have to "come out" of the writer's closet. When you do, there will be no shortage of people laughing at you. They're all struggling. Quiet desperation consumes their lives. They can't imagine what on earth would EVER cause someone to pursue such a foolish endeavor because in their world, time is money. Laziness? Stupidity? Insanity?

It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Once you've made that leap of faith and followed your heart, it's extremely freeing. You begin to view the world differently, and concepts of failure and success begin to change. That doesn't mean however, that you don't land in a wet spot every now and again, or all the time...sometimes face first. But, when your perceptions change, tiny victories will seem like major miracles. Savor those. There aren't very many.

"This Buzz Malone fellow writes rubbish. I shall buy his new book so I can say it is rubbish as well, I think."
For me, it remains a miracle each and every time that someone reads one of my books. From Silence of Centerville, to my earlier, local historical novellas, it is such an incredible experience when people approach me on the street and talk about having read something I have written. What an amazing gift to receive!

"We've been looking for you, Mr. Malone."
Which brings me to yet another small miracle. Much to the chagrin of angry creditors and government agencies who'd like to garnish the garments right off my back... I have a grand total of $9.64 in my checking account. Just to be clear, there is no savings account.

Insert embarrassed remark from my mother here, saying, "oh, Buzz. Why did you have to tell them that? What will people think?"

Me: "Umm, I dunno. That I'm a broke writer."

Me on my way to town. Yes. I am that cute. Really...if that puppy were a 40 year old fat man.
Anyhow, I ran into town yesterday. I needed $30 pretty badly so I stopped by the little coffee shop where I sell my books to settle up. The owner disappeared into the backroom and came out with a check. "39," she said, handing me the envelope with the check inside of it. I celebrated all the way to the bank. $39! That's like, a whole extra twenty in my pocket! I'm rich. Rich I tell you!

When I got to the bank and signed the check, I almost fell over. It wasn't $39. It was for the sale of 39 books! I knew then that either mom started getting much larger social security checks than normal, or a fair amount of local people are still buying and reading my books. The woman at the store also told me that a number of folks keep asking when my next one is coming out and why it's taking so long (it's been two years. The locals still don't see a need to bother with editing and don't care how many times I use the word 'that').

"We'd be insane to loan you money, Mr. Malone. Insane!"
From a business perspective, my low pricing for locals and brilliant scheme to giveaway books to anyone who looks like they need one, has proven to be a dismal financial failure. But from the standpoint of an independent writer, people are routinely buying, and in some cases, even reading, my books, and there is no greater reward, and it remains nothing short of miraculous...each and every time it happens.

Thanks for reading!



  1. Hey Buzz, I write for a living too and I thought I was broke. Send me a paypal link and I'll spot you $10 :)
    I've written a weekly column for the local paper since 2006 and in the last couple years, people have started recognizing me at the grocery store.
    My wife and I are also singer/songwriters (another booming enterprise) and we played at Art in the Park today. Just as an afterthought, I took some of my books and put them on a small table with a sign that read: "If you love your mother, you'll buy her one of my books." I sold a half dozen books in a couple hours. I stopped on the way home and bought a bottle of wine for dinner tonight.
    Life is good. Keep on writing my brother, it's not about the money.

    1. Rick,
      Anybody who believes writing IS about the money, would've quit writing after two pages. Even if there was a big sack of cash at the end of every writer's rainbow, it still wouldn't be worth it. It's too painful. It's too much trouble. It's too...well...everything.

      We write because we are writer's and it's hard wired into our DNA. You can no more control it than you can choose who your parents were. It just is.

      Most of the time, we're damned miserable for doing it too. In fact, the only time that we're more miserable than when we're writing is when we aren't writing anything at all. Tis a curse! A curse I say! And don't bother sending the $10. It would only give me a false sense of security.

      I love your sign though! That's great stuff. Also, I've been stalking you on your page for quite some time. You're my kind of crazy, and as a Southern Iowa country hillbilly myself, I can relate to a lot of your stuff. Hopefully, when my lottery numbers hit, Lorri and I will be able to stop in, hear some music some, and swap some stories someday on our way to our new beach home in the Keys.


  2. This is awesome buzz! Thank you for putting a smile on my face. :D

    1. You're welcome, Vashti! Lorri is fond of saying that every girl is prettier with a flower in her hair. That certainly must apply to smiles too! Thanks for reading and congrats to your sister!


  3. Buzz...as you have probably figured out, Jack Kraven seldom delivers a comment with substantial meaning, but, nevertheless, I am sincere when I say...I share your quiet desperation.
    I can say without affectation or pretense, a short time is all we have, a few rare moments of true awareness is what we cherish. Try not to waste any of it wondering about the future. I'm 66 years old (40 only moments ago), have piles of written material (written by me), and would not give up the memories of a single hour spent on researching, not for a hundred lifetimes of success. As a writer, you must know, in the end we will return to wherever we came from the same way we arrived...alone.

    1. Well put, Jack. I am a firm believer in those "rare moments." I also have come to believe that we can weave such moments into a beautiful tapestry over the course of a lifetime and create something worthy of admiring before and after we have gone.

      The rest is all schematics, I suppose, but I still can't help but be troubled with wondering why in the hell Jack Henry Kraven does not publish some of his work? Someone, somewhere, would love it and get something out of it.

      As always, thanks for stopping by, Jack. Your comments are always appreciated here.