Sunday, October 7, 2012

I can't believe I lied to the CARE guy

So I was walking towards the health food store the other night, plotting out the purchases I was about to make -- overpriced gluten-free bagels and vacuum-packed tofu -- when a man approached me. He was wearing glasses, pants (of course), a bright orange vest, a name tag that read “Patrick.” But back to the vest. He wore it because he works for a charity called CARE and was on the street canvassing for donations. I’m talking “Commit now, here on the sidewalk, and pledge to pay us $10 a month for the rest of your life" kind of canvassing.

It was fluorescent orange because it was a vest with purpose: a guilt-inducing marketing ploy. If you didn’t stop and talk to Patrick, your excuse being that you “didn’t see him standing there” -- in a luminescent LOOK AT ME super vest -- well, then you’d have to live with the shame of knowing that not only are you an uncharitable asshole, but you are also full of $#it.

I stopped, of course, because I know all about these vests. Patrick leaned into his script and I nodded and he talked and talked and I pulled out my credit card and it was all moving along nicely. And then something changed. Somewhere between well-digging and microloans, and Patrick’s occasional Hugh-Grant-like stammers about some mishap at the bar last night and the fact that he was having a really bad day, the subject of my career came up.

“Oh yeah?” he said. “What kind of writer are you?”
“Well, for work I do finance marketing-type writing," I said. “But I also write fiction.”
“Ohhhh. So you want to be a real writer.”
“Actually, Patrick, I am a real writer. I wrote a book." Then I puffed out my chest and added "And I have an agent."
“Wow. When’s your book coming out?”
And this is when it got weird: “Sometime next year,” I replied.
I was amazed at how easily the lie came out of my mouth. It just rushed out of me like a breath.
“So is it going to be at Chapters and on Amazon?” he asked.
I looked at my phone as though I was very busy, a busy that my subconscious mind must have wanted Patrick to assume was a symptom of my being a published author with the kinds of commitments that published authors have. And then I looked at Patrick, laughed a little laugh, and said this: “That’s to be determined.”


Let me be clear: I do not, at this time, have a book coming out. We’re working on it, my amazing agent and I -- Okay, only really my agent. I'm just sort of lumbering aimlessly -- and I do believe that it will happen. But I do not, currently, have a galley in my purse. I have not yet received the phone call. I have not spent a Saturday afternoon scouting locations for my book release party. Not, not, not.

I’m sorry I lied, Patrick. It was a weird, sad thing for me to do. I’m not sure why I said it exactly. I was feeling defensive and embarrassed and mediocre, I guess. And there you were: hung-over and essentially begging me for money. You probably had a quota to fill, right? Or you wouldn’t get paid? You were vulnerable, emotionally and professionally, and I took advantage. I used you to feel, if only for a second, like the person I’ve always dreamed of being.

I hope, Patrick, that my $10/month donation will make up for my weird lie. That it goes towards, I don’t know, sturdy shovels and a communal goat or something.


  1. God, I love your honesty. And to be honest, the same slip happened to me too about a year ago.

    One of my students at USC said: --Jackson, I really want to read your novels. (This isn't the first time a student as said this + it drives me crazy that I can't give them any concrete info about my novels right now)
    --Well, I said, they're not out yet (Here, I CLEARLY used a double meaning to mean either they haven't been published yet but they're GOING to be published in the near future or I haven't gotten them accepted for publication).
    --When will they be? He asked.
    --Soon, I lied. It happened in the course of like 10 seconds + I felt so ashamed. Of course, you could make the argument that I didn't totally lie, but the truth is though I'm very honest with my writing career, I WANTED the 1/2 truth to be completely true + hoped that sometime in the future, my shit WILL be published so it's won't ultimately be a lie. Does that make sense

    But I know that unconsciously, I DELIBERATELY wanted the whole class to think that my books had already been accepted for publication, hoping to someday make the lie true.


    Anyway, I totally feel you. It's completely normal, I think, that sometimes our desires conflate with our reality, each one shaping the other dialectically. Someday, though, Emily, we will be telling the truth + then the people will be able to look us up + see that critics are tearing the shit out of us.

    Until then,

    Peace, Love, Courage + Momentum!


    1. Oh man, Jackson. I am so glad that I am not alone on this one! Thank you X 1000 sharing!

      "... + then the people will be able to look us up + see that critics are tearing the shit out of us." Ha! That will be the best day of my life, I think! (What the hell is wrong with us?!)

      I think part of the frustration of being a writer is that non-writers look at bookstores and see thousands upon thousands of books and think that this business is easy. And then they look at us and wonder WTF is wrong with us -- why the heck can't we just get a book deal already. The more I get responses like this, the more tempting it is to make up some exotic lie. Hmm. Maybe instead of lying to strangers on the street, I should be channeling this energy into book #2 and 3? Yes. Yes I should.

    2. I totally agree with you. It seems easy to be an author because there's so many books out there + a lot of it is shit. And the great literary fiction novels are heavy hitters so this creates the impression that the market has something for everyone, so if you're not published, you're obviously doing something wrong. But not true.

      Carry on!


  2. Hahaha!

    I think "about a year" is what we all say when we get tired of finding impressive-sounding ways to say, "It takes a really long time and sometimes it doesn't even happen. But it will."

    1. That's a mighty fine answer. Much better than me sticking out my tongue and running (while crying) in the other direction. Which is how I normally respond.

  3. You wrote it! Yay! The verbal edition was great, the written version even better.

    1. And the live, in-person version was, by far, the worst.