I was in third grade when I decided to be a novelist. It sounded so glamorous and important. You and your books are studied in school. People discuss what you were thinking, what you meant when you wrote “the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” They pay money for your thoughts! There’s a catch, though. To be a novelist you have to finish and preferably publish a novel.
I did pursue a writing career as a journalist, but nearly all of those hundreds of thousands of words have crumbled into dust, barely remembered the day after they were read. I never achieved that third-grade hope of writing some soul-stirring, enduring piece of work, like that of Ernest Hemingway or Jane Austen.
My novels still reside in my head and on scraps of paper and in numerous files on my computer. I’m sure there are millions just like me. My son recently forwarded me a link on how to publish a book on Kindle. Now, I have no excuse for not finishing the work that everyone has been breathlessly waiting for! No publisher or agent stands in my way. I am my only obstacle. (Which so far has been a HUGE obstacle.)
One good thing is that I no longer have delusions of grandeur. The New York Times Bestseller List? Who needs it! The Nobel Prize for Literature? A farce! A Pulitzer Prize? Don’t make me laugh! I just want to finish something readable and absorbing. My goal is to have a novel finished and on Kindle by the end of 2011. You heard it here first. Hold me to it! If you want to write a novel, join me in this goal. We can download one another’s books. We can have our own book club. (Kindle link at the bottom.)
I was looking through my zillions of photographs and came upon the above photograph, which I took from the balcony of the Chelsea Hotel, a mecca for creative people. I’m going to tack up the photo as an inspiration to write.
I took the photo in 1989, when I visited my friends Jan and Richard in their apartment at the Chelsea Hotel. Jan and Richard are both extremely talented and creative people, so it was fitting that they should live in a building that had been a home to so many writers, artists and musicians. Among the writers who have lived there are Mark Twain, O. Henry, Dylan Thomas (who died there of alcohol poisoning), Arthur C. Clarke (who wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey there), William S. Burroughs (who later moved to my college town of Lawrence, Kansas), Leonard Cohen, Arthur Miller, Quentin Crisp, Gore Vidal, Tennessee Williams, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac (who wrote On the Road there), Robert Hunter, Brendan Behan, Simone De Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, Thomas Wolfe, Charles Bukowski. Among musicians who lived there were Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin and Patti Smith. The Grateful Dead stayed there.
The Chelsea is at 222 West 23rd Street, between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, in the Manhattan neighborhood of Chelsea. The 250-unit hotel was designated a New York City landmark in 1966, and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.