Saturday, 12 October 2013

What I learned from Gib Van Ert

A few months ago, I read and reviewed Gib Van Ert’s book A Long Time Ago. The book is the story of the now man, then child, who grows up in the shadow of Star Wars. While it is not a book that would knock me off my chair, it is a charming book never the less; I quite enjoyed it. And I do have to acknowledge that weaving Star Wars into what is, essentially, an autobiography turned out to be a clever trick to make an otherwise ordinary person’s* life story into a much more interesting story.
A bit of a chain reaction followed. Van Ert noted my review and tweeted it to his followers. “In return” I set out to mimic his storytelling and posted my own personal Star Wars story, which then triggered another referential post from Van Ert, this time on his blog. Hooray to the miracle of modern day social media!
This affair made me think. This personal Star Wars tale of mine was not bad. It was not badly written, either, even if its first draft suffered from awful editing (which I can now politely attribute to me requiring the services of reading glasses). It occurred to me that given enough time and will, I could have written a book like Van Ert’s myself. Sure, there would have been plenty of room for further refining my writing skills, and granted, I would have had to rely on experts’ editing. But the point still remains: I could have written this book myself; what Van Ert had, which I hadn’t, is an idea.
Obviously, I am not planning on robbing Van Ert of any of the credit he fully deserves for writing his book. I am only trying to derive some personal conclusions here. And my conclusion is that if I want to publish a book of my own, the easiest way for me to achieve this task would be for me to heavily base my book on personal stories. Just as Van Ert did! More importantly, in order to make these personal stories of mine interesting enough to be worthy of others’ attentions, I should bind it around an attractive core theme. Just as Van Ert did!
The trick seems to lie in identifying such core themes. However, it wasn’t long, once I put my mind to it, before I could think of several qualifying themes: my journey towards losing all manner of religious faith, seeing Australia through Israeli eyes, seeing Israel through a “deserter’s” eye, and so on. I could fetch many such themes.
Then something even more interesting occurred to me. I have been writing down my personal stories for many years now; during the past eight years I have been doing so rather systematically upon these very pages. Further, my writing has often dealt with these personal journey themes that I came up with in the previous paragraph. To put it another way, I have already written my own Gib Van Ert book – it’s just that there is no book to show for it!
As I have said here before, I am interested in writing and I wouldn’t mind turning it into a career. However, I know fully well such a career would not be able to pay my mortgage half as well as my current one. I'm simply not good enough. Writing, therefore, will have to be content with its status as a hobby.
Since my livelihood will not depend on my ability to sell a book, there is no reason for me to want to write a commercially viable book. This leaves me to conclude that if writing a book was one of those goals I’d be proud to say I have achieved, then here’s to something I have already achieved: This blog is my book. It may not be as coherent and as well edited as a book should, but the raw ingredients are all here. The themes, the ideas and the elaborations, I already did all the hard work.
As far as I am concerned, I already wrote my book.

*As ordinary as any person can be. We are all extraordinary, but some life stories are more interesting than others.

Image copyrights: Gib Van Ert

1 comment:

Uri said...

I was with you all the way, but you lost me at your conclusion. I expected you to say you were going to pick out the relevant blog entries, do some minor re-writes, and try to make them into a book.

That is, after all, a time honored tradition. Writers did it long before there were blog posts (with newspaper columns), and the still do it now (John Scalzi just published his second such book, didn’t he? Third, if you count the movie related one that’s not from Whatever writings).