We're All Damaged

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Matthew Norman: Prolific Writer of Fiction

So finally I sit down to work on my novel—the very novel I’ve been ignoring flagrantly since Thanksgiving. My Diet Dr. Pepper is in just the right place to the left of my monitor in a faded Yankees cup atop a Simpsons coaster. I’m wearing my favorite oversized sweatpants because when one writes fiction one is required to look like a hungover shut-in suffering from social anxiety disorder.

I open the file on my computer and scroll through its 67 pages, enjoying the grey blocks of words that I, apparently, have written. I briefly consider deleting the whole thing and instead writing a novel about a team of sassy crime-fighting lesbians…who have a time machine…and are vampires. People would buy that, right?

I Google “Lamborghini prices” and try to figure out how many copies of a novel one would have to sell to be able to afford a bright green one. And then I imagine parallel parking a bright green Lamborghini in front of my row house in downtown Baltimore. I imagine looking at my wife in the rearview mirror as I work the complicated Italian clutch. “A little more,” she says. “You’ve got like six inches.”

I read a random sentence from a random page of my manuscript and find that it makes no sense. I’ve also badly misspelled the word “vigorously.” I then read another sentence on another page and begin “vigorously” doubting the credibility of the institution from which I earned my master’s degree. I reach over and grab a well-worn copy of a famous novel that I keep on my desk in the hopes that its random out-of-context sentences will sound crappy too. They don’t.

Before I start writing, I should really check Facebook, just incase anyone has said something witty. A girl I haven’t seen in real life since junior high has written a line from a Taylor Swift song. 14 people like this. Nine others have commented. I should probably check Twitter, too.

Oh look, Jessica Biel enjoyed a salad with Hilary Swank this afternoon. I then spend five minutes trying to remember the exact moment that I made the conscious decision to “follow” Jessica Biel. I make a mental note to drink less before logging on to Twitter.

Wow, this monitor is dusty. I should probably give it a good cleaning before I get to work.

I read the back of the Windex bottle from top to bottom. My mind is partially blown by the fact that there’s a person like me who sits in a cube all day and writes instructions on the backs of household cleaners. I wonder if he or she has a master’s degree. I bet he or she is writing a novel, too. Or maybe a screenplay.

If I won an Oscar for writing a screenplay, would I cry during my speech? John Irving did. What would happen if I got really nervous and accidentally said the “eff” word. Would the orchestra play that music and chase me off the stage? That would be so embarrassing.

I quickly write three sentences. They’re actually pretty good. Unfortunately though, the two paragraphs before them are stupid…and kind of misogynistic. I delete them by holding the “delete” key, and I watch the cursor erase each letter individually. And then I look up “misogynistic” on Dictionary.com. And then I read my three sentences again. They’re not as good as I thought they were, but they’re still not that bad.

Just to be sure, I’ll read them again tomorrow…or maybe Thursday. But right now I should really go see if there are any more M&Ms in that jar in the kitchen next to the……….



  1. Hi,Just wondering about your process and your book. I notice that you live in Baltimore. I am a writer, living in Baltimore and wondered what kind of a community you had, (if any), when you were in the process of writing your novel? I come from Taos, NM where everyone is a writer. There are lots of critique groups, readings etc. Here, none. Wondering if people just soldier on by themselves? Or if I'm missing something? Thanks much!

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