Some people dream big. They want to be rich. They want to be famous. They want to have sex with the rich and famous. They want to be rich and famous and have sex with the equally rich and famous.
You get the idea.
Me, I dream small: I want to stop feeling like a schmuck.
I've felt like a schmuck pretty much continuously since 1987 -- which was the year I first encountered the term "schmuck." (Hey, I grew up in the Midwest, alright?) Before that, I felt like a "geek." Before that, a "weenie." And before that, I was convinced that I was a complete "poo-poo head."
When one feels like a schmuck, geek, weenie or poo-poo head, much of one's life revolves around efforts not to confirm one's schmuckitude (or geekiness, weeniedom or poo-poo-headocity.) And the best way to avoid all that? Easy. Avoid people.
Real people, anyway. Sherlock Holmes, Philip Marlowe, Capt. Kirk, Batman, the Simpsons, Chewbacca, Super Mario -- they're all safe. Sure, they have their limitations. They're not going to offer words of comfort when your dog dies. But they're not going to make fun of you because your new haircut looks like a mullet, either. Which goes a long way toward explaining my experience in high school.
James Patterson was probably named "Most Likely to Succeed" in his high school yearbook. Joe Konrath, I'm guessing, was either "Mr. Congeniality" or "Class Clown." Me, I was voted "Class Quietest," an "honor" so dubious you won't even find it in most yearbooks. I may as well have been dubbed "Most Likely to Consume the Flesh of Murdered Prostitutes."
I stayed pretty quiet (and abstained from the eating of hookers) through the end of the 20th century. But with the new millennium came a new era for me. It was the dawning of the Age of Gregarious. I was going to be a professional mystery writer, dammit. And that meant it was time to face my greatest fear.
Well, not you personally. I'm talking about everyone else. The world. Those dreaded people again.
But I swallowed my fear. I swallowed my pride. I swallowed my Xanax. And I went to a Bouchercon and did my first panel.
Unfortunately, I soon learned a hard lesson -- something the outgoing never mention to the inward-escaping when they're browbeating them with lines like "Don't hide your light under a bushel."
That light you're going to shine? Some people are going to hate it. They're going to say, "Turn that damn thing off!" They're going to wish you'd stayed under your bushel -- and they're going to let you know it.
Plots with Guns was the first to let me know. (Click here and scroll down to see what I mean. I'm the "bearded wonder" the columnist flogs near the end. Sigh.) And it hasn't stopped there. In the past few months, I've managed to unintentionally irritate/infuriate/alienate...well, let's just say several people and leave it at that.
The bushel beckons.
Yet as a wise man once said, "Wherever you go, there you are." (O.K., it wasn't a real wise man. It was just Buckaroo Banzai. Still, wise is wise.) Under the bushel or out of it, I'll feel the same. Like a schmuck, yes, but better to feel like a schmuck who's trying (and hopefully building some kind of viable writing career), right? So perhaps it's time I dreamed a new dream.
From now on, I want to be a schmuck who paid off his mortgage.
November 14, 2006
Yeah, you read the line above right. I originally posted this more than five years ago. Ha! Got you! You just read a rerun! But the joke's on me, really, because so little has changed in all that time. If anything, I was more brimming with brio and self confidence back then than I am now. The long war against schmuckitude remains unwon. Which is why you won't see me at many Bouchercons or the like anymore. My schedule says it all.
Fortunately, two things have changed for the better. First, I figured out that I'm a textbook introvert. (One who can accidentally dominate the occasional convention panel, yes, but an introvert all the same.) So now at least it makes sense that I always left those mystery cons of yore feeling like I'd just retraced the Bataan Death March in a sumo wrestler fat suit. I'd go, I'd hang out with great people, I'd have a ton of fun, and it would nearly kill me and I'd come home an emotional wreck. Maybe not worth it....
Second, a couple little Interweb thingies called Facebook and Twitter really took off. Now I can connect with thousands of people at a time without feeling like my soul's being sucked out through my eye sockets. Thank you, Mark Zuckerberg (and everyone who's sued you for supposedly stealing their great idea)! Thank you, Twitter Founder Dudes I'm Too Lazy to Look Up on Google! You've allowed me to form and maintain new friendships (and, in the process, gain a little ground in the Foreverschmuck War) in a way we introverts can truly appreciate.
At home. At a desk. Alone. Without pants.
Well, the pants thing doesn't have anything to do with being an introvert. But it is a fringe benefit.
¡Viva la Web!