What You Need To Do Now

“I’ll tell you what you need to do now,” he said, “and I know you don’t want to do it, but believe me, trust me, you need to do this now.”    

How did you get in here?

“I live here, my friend.   Don’t waste energy puzzling over  pointless questions.   This is what you need to do.”  

I don’t need anybody to tell me what I need to do.  

“Your opinion, which I respect as much as your asshole.   Look, we all have them, doesn’t mean anything, really, outside of excretion.   If you would be a little more wise, stop interrupting and listen to me.”  

Who died and made you the boss?  

“Dave.  His name was Dave.  Look, are you going to keep playing the fool or are you going to straighten up and fly right?   All you have to do is open your ears right now.”  

Says you.  

“Nobody else here.”  

How do I know that?  

“Jesus, man, you really know how to channel that old friend of your’s who read the article that pointed out that just because a thought pops into your head doesn’t mean you have to express it.   He told you how much of an impression it made on him, although not enough of an impression to stop him from acting like you are now.   You remember how things escalated and escalated simply because he could not stop to think if the thing he was about to say was about to make things better or worse?”  

You made your point, go ahead.  

“I just want you to know that you did good yesterday.   What you wrote was good.   You set the stage, the difficult father, the lifelong war, the fact that he was a good man and also a prick.    There was a distance to the telling that was not in the previous version where you tried to condense the whole personal story into a few claustrophobic pages.   The description of your father fading before your eyes, the brutal fact that he was astride a ticking time bomb and didn’t know it, though he also must have known it, that there was no time to waste, though you two managed to waste it nonetheless, all good stuff.”  

Do you know another adjective besides ‘good’?  

“Do you really not know how to simply shut the fuck up and listen?”    

The sound of cars shushing like a river on the nearby parkway.  

“What you wrote yesterday, with a little cover letter, may get your foot in the door somewhere, to the office of someone who knows how to get you paid.  The best authors work with editors, in fact, every published author works with an editor.   You remember Robert Caro’s story about finding the right editor.   These people are like midwives, the best of them experienced in helping to birth the most unlikely of creatures.   You need to find one of these, a talented one.   Before that, a literary agent is probably your first move.  The literary agent will help you sell something and find you an editor.”

Wake me up when this part is done, would you?  

“We’ve been over this a hundred times, ass-bite.   Now I have to show up to tell you what to do.  You resisted the impulse to be a smart ass in that piece you wrote yesterday, which was… good.   I know referring to being a lawyer as ‘the world’s second oldest profession’ flashed through your mind, and you resisted.   The impulse to whine about how hard it is to write a meaningful book, you cast that aside this time.  All of that, good.  Nobody who hasn’t attempted it knows what hard work, what an unlimited truckload and barge-load of hard work it is, to write a coherent book.  In less than three years, my dogged friend, you’ve assembled a 1,200 page first draft.  Mazel tov.  Now I’m here to tell you what you need to do.”

Go ahead.  

“That’s a good boy.   Now you need to write a very short cover letter, a few hundred words at most.   This letter will first and foremost not waste an extra second of anyone’s time.   It will describe the project you’re working on, perhaps refer the recipient to the website where you got paid to let them publish a couple of short pieces.   The first of those pieces tells a major story of the book in 1,000 words.   If your letter is good the recipient will read the four pages you wrote yesterday.   You need to send between 20 and 50 of these letters out, to literary agents, obviously.   You got that?”


“Now here is the important part.   This thing you wrote yesterday, once you’ve worked it over a few more times, is probably as close as you’re going to come to giving this your best shot.  Don’t worry over that part much more.   This is important: give yourself a date to send these letters out.   You can do it in waves, ten at a time.  The main thing is that you send some of them, say ten, by a date certain.   What capitalist guru Seth Fucking Godin calls your ‘ship date’.   You need to keep to a schedule now, otherwise, you’re riding in a car, astride a ticking time bomb, talking to imagined dead people instead of the father who was disappearing in front of your eyes, as your life itself slips away.   You got me?”


  “Good.   Now, pick an arbitrary date.”

September 30, 2018.

“Excellent.  My work here is done.”  

Heh, you do know an adjective besides ‘good.’  That’s good!  

Hello?   hello?

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