Note: I’m a columnist for the Reader Weekly, an alt-weekly newspaper in Duluth, MN. Every Monday I post a new column.
My friend Aaron Brown has completed his first book, “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range.” As a fellow writer, I despise him greatly for this achievement, and take his completion of a book as a personal insult to me. Add the fact that Aaron is a half year younger than me, and my rage only intensifies.
When I graduated from college, I assumed I would be the first person from my class to write a book. Naturally, I also assumed I would complete said book at the age of 47, like the other one percent of aspiring writers who actually follow through with their efforts. This is how books have always been written. You come up with an idea, write six pages, and then throw the project in a closet for 28 years until you have a midlife crisis.
People under the age of 40 can’t write books. They just can’t. The level of patience and maturity needed to complete such a massive undertaking is not in the blood of the young. Only a middle-aged person with no friends, little social life, and a disdain for all modern amenities should be able to finish a book, and when they do, they should under no circumstances actually be successful in publishing it.
Sure, Ernest Hemingway wrote his first book at the age of 26, but he lived in the early 1900s and didn’t have seven hours of “Wife Swap” sitting on his Tivo. Paris Hilton released her first book – I’m sorry, give me a minute to scream violently and punch a hole through the wall – at the age of 23, but she doesn’t have a working brain, and therefore is literally incapable of being distracted. Anything she attempts will invariably be completed, because she’s not aware that she’s actually doing it.
Would I go so far as to accuse Aaron of copying Paris Hilton? Yes, I most certainly would. Shame on you, my socialite Iron Range friend. Go dig for more shiny diamonds in your precious mines.
You could say I’m projecting my own shortcomings onto Aaron (and Paris Hilton) – and you’d be correct – but I prefer to avoid the subject of my laziness and self-absorption, and just assume that my friend Aaron is very mean. It makes me feel better to pretend that I have principals, and that by not publishing a book, I have stood up for everything that lazy, spite-filled writers believe in and cherish.
Achieving your dreams is for sellouts, man. Also, achieving your dreams goes against everything college graduates stand for. You’re supposed to go to college, get your degree, and then give up on whatever career you majored in and work as a mid-level manager at an insurance company. “Living the dream” is for people who dropped out of Harvard to start an internet company, not University of Wisconsin-Superior graduates.
Perhaps the most frustrating part of this whole issue is that Aaron’s book is actually good. He could have easily made his first book a lame collection of meaningless tripe. That would have given me the ability to scoff at and dismiss his achievement. But sadly, his collection of essays are funny, original, and give the reader a distinct feeling of home.
I tried to write a book a few years ago. I took the same approach I use when writing this column: I write a few hundred words, obsess over the quality of said words for hours until I’m sick of looking at them, and then drink heavily until I don’t care about the imperfections anymore. I take a similar approach to the women I date, but that’s a different story.
The point is, writing a book is hard. It’s not as hard as putting out fires or hosting the Academy Awards, but it’s also not as fun as those things. There’s a certain difficulty, especially in this modern day, of being able to sit at a computer or typewriter for hours and continually bang out copy without getting distracted or resorting to cheap poop jokes that bring in a larger college readership.
I guess anyone who can actually finish a book that doesn’t fill half its pages with crude drawings of genitalia should be a hero to us all. Rather than hating Aaron, I should idolize him. I should vow to always be happy for my enemies and proud of my friends.
So I will. Congrats, Aaron. You’ve completed a book in your 20s. I respect your ability, abhor your diligence (I’m still allowed to do that), and as soon as I’m done swearing and throwing things at the bookcase where your book currently resides, I’ll gladly shake your hand.
Just know that as I’m shaking it and congratulating you on a job well done, a little part of me will still think you’re a jerk.