The charm of self-published authors

The worst part about having a fulltime job is the decreased time available for reading.

But Reading Is Fundamental, so I just finished reading my friend’s book, Bahamian Rhapsody, a chronicle of his time living in the Bahamas with his family. I read most of it during layovers, plane rides, and soaking in the hotel hot tub. All other hours of my existence are occupied by work, studying, or drinking too much beer on a Friday. Is that what they mean by balance?

One of my 2018 goals is to read 50 books. It’s April and this was book number 16. A few books ago I read my grandma’s memoir, which is not available on Amazon so is therefore not listed on Goodreads or my online reading list. I read the first 15 books before March, while unemployed. I’m losing speed. This new job is really getting in the way of my personal accomplishments.

Jimi’s book is the second memoir by a friend I have read, the first actually being my grandma’s memoir of her time living in Africa. I think people like to write about living or traveling in foreign countries. It usually marks a highlight or pivot point in their lives and makes for a rich backdrop. Both my grandma and Jimi reflected on life in a similar way as a result of their experiences. People also like to talk about their foreign adventures, as though their travels were the most interesting parts of them, which is sometimes true but usually not. I think it’s just the change in our environment that sparks a new perspective. And new is interesting. At first.

*cue heavy judgment and residual resentment from a past experience*

I had a boyfriend years back who loved to talk about his time “living” in Vietnam. He lived there 3 months. He also loved to talk about his time “living” in Geneva. He lived here 2 months. He would go on and on about his adventures (usually involving heavy drinking), while I’d smile and blink. He’d compare how things were done over there, often citing America as inferior. It got really fucking old really fucking fast. After almost a year and a half, he’d cycled through his travel stories so much that he ran out of things to tell me. At that point, he asked me why I never talked about my travels. To which I responded: who really enjoys hearing other people’s travel stories? Not. Fucking. Me. I have my own, thank you very much, and they are equally as (un)exciting and cliche. And nobody wants to hear about those stories, either. I didn’t really say that, exactly, but I thought it. I don’t want to hear your fucking travel stories.

Unless you write them in a book and package them as a thoughtful reflection on life, which verbal storytelling just can’t match. It’s the same reason I prefer reading personal, honest, vulnerable blogs by people not trying to sell me anything, more than listening to the same person pontificate on life. A self-published author has very little to gain by you reading their work. A conversation hog just likes to dominate a conversation. The intention is inherently different between the two mediums. The blogs and books that exist not to gain followers or profit, but instead simply to be written, are the ones I enjoy most.

What I loved about both my grandma’s and Jimi’s books was their raw and unedited honesty. They both had that self-published charm, typos and all. While both provided glimpses of insight into the human condition and astute observations of the world around them, they’d also each quickly tumble to material reality, falling short of any realization or greater awareness. Their plots didn’t twist and surprise, but rather jumped and mashed between scenes, leaving frayed loose ends. There were fun characters, but we didn’t get to know them or see their side. Details wouldn’t quite match up. A perfect memory.

Like life. Neither quite reached a climax or epiphany or brilliant insight. And I liked that because it’s how life goes. It’s how we actually remember things. It’s how people think. Imperfectly. We just kind of exist, rarely forming complete thoughts or realizing our own shortcomings. We see our perspective. We’re limited by our biases. We’re self-contradicting, grammatically incorrect, syntactically awkward humans who fumble around, somehow convinced that we have it together more than the average person, which is why we convince ourselves we should write a book! And we should. These kinds of books are rustic, and sometimes that’s exactly what we need: a charming reminder that we’re all about as average as the rest of ’em.

Anyway. I thank everyone who reaches this conclusion, that you should write. You’re doing it right. I love you.

Hey! Have you written a memoir? Know someone who has? Comment below with a link. I’d love to support your writing and give it a read!

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Wife, yogi, and cat mama living in the SF Bay Area.

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