If you read A Sharp Poke in the Eye, you know that I wound up in a sorry state after struggling to write great literature.
The $1,800 bankroll I had been living on for one year was collapsing like a bad lung.
This is when you are faced with two awful impending realities: eviction . . . or . . . getting a real job.
What would you do? Apply for a job?
Uh, not me.
I wanted to keep writing my way to glorious fame rather than sitting in an office watching the clock until I could leave and get back to my writing.
I calculated that I needed about $500 to keep me going for another good while.
How to do that?
Answer: Write schlock
Quick and Easy Schlock.
Besides, surely some great writers started with schlock which they could disavow later as having been written by someone else with the same name.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to disparage any genre of writing, but as one of Einstein’s obscure formulas states:
T-S = m2n
. . . which means . . .
Time minus Symbolism = maybe money now
In other words, the less time you spend trying to write a book to please literary critics, the sooner you can get it to a publisher and maybe keep from starving for your art.
What I needed was a genre that had a loyal base of fans who didn’t give a hoot about symbolism. And what did I always see in the lowest portion of the revolving racks of paperbacks in drugstores?
Rootin’, tootin’, shootin’, high-testosterone reading for real men holed up in military barracks, logging camps, lighthouses, forest ranger towers, fire stations, and doghouses where pissed-off wives temporarily exiled them.
Yessirree, pilgrim, a thrilling, six-shooter horse drama would ride to my rescue.
After all, I knew everything . . .
. . . about white hats and bad hombres from growing up watching Western movies and television shows.
Unlike the vast cultural wasteland of today, there was a glorious enlightenment period when Westerns dominated the boob tube with twenty-six shows of prime-time evening programming.
On top of that, I could easily channel the emotions of the desperate characters of the Old West into my writing because I also was desperate.
But I inherited a problem from Great Literature
My writing technique.
You see, when I was a member of the Club of Serious Writers Attempting Great Literature, I had spent lots of time staring at the wall, then jerking paper out of the typewriter, crumpling it into a ball and throwing it against the wall because of having written a few dreadful sentences that, as Shakespeare put it, were a stench in my nostrils.
I could not continue to write that way because, not only was I running low on money, I was running low on paper, so every sheet counted for telling the story of a wise old rancher, the young excitable Kid, the mean rival rancher, a confrontation over water rights, and a shootout between cowhands of both ranches with the Kid coming out triumphant when the smoke cleared.
There was a solution.
I invented a new way to create that was revolutionary for the Age of Typewriters.
I wrote the book in my head
Here’s how: I would write a paragraph mentally while staring at the wall and sitting on my hands. Then I would rewrite it in my brain while still staring at the wall and sitting on my hands.
I would do that over and over and over until I was sure the paragraph was absolutely spot on. Only then would I actually type it on paper.
After having spent almost a year writing a book full of symbolism about the meaning of life and then dumping it in the trash, I gave birth to my rootin’, tootin’ baby in less than a month.
I gave that baby the best name . . .
. . . a new child has ever received: “Death Rides the Picketwire.”
No red-blooded American male would be able to resist that title when it showed up on the paperback rack.
Talk about a proud papa.
But now I had to give him up to the rest of the world.
COMING NEXT: “A Flying Saucer Lands on Me”
QUESTION: What have you done to get out of a tough spot?