September 22, 2011 at 8:17 am
Susan Orlean’s new book about Rin Tin Tin comes out this week and I feel proud. This is odd because I had absolutely nothing to do with it. I doubt Susan Orlean even knows I exist, although she’s retweeted me twice. (Not that I’m counting or anything.) Twitter is actually the reason why I feel so proud of her. She’s been tweeting about the book process for at least a year now, updating her followers throughout as if she were sending us ultrasound photos of her baby as it headed toward birth.
I felt reassured about my own writing habits when she tweeted about avoiding her writing for the day. I shared her excitement when she reported a high word count the next day. I was relieved to learn she didn’t know the proper usage of “toward” or “towards” either. I totally related when she realized something brilliant she wrote yesterday seemed like crap the next day. I was happy for her when she turned in the manuscript, when she finished proofing, and when she first glimpsed the book cover. I sympathized when she reported her first mixed review. I felt excitement when she was praised elsewhere.
And I had nothing to do with any of this, though I did send her a link to Grammar Girl’s post about “Toward” versus “Towards.” I feel like I was a fan cheering on a football team throughout the season, following the players as they moved toward (proper U.S. usage!) the playoffs, until we finally reached the Super Bowl. We all got here together, even though we didn’t really–or maybe we did. Writing can be such a solitary act, but from this side of the computer screen it didn’t seem so lonely. Susan Orlean’s book would be coming out with or without me, but getting those glimpses into the process made the whole thing seem more personal, like it was happening to friend of mine instead of a New York Times bestselling author and columnist for The New Yorker who was portrayed by Meryl Streep in the movie Adaptation. Because really, how could I know someone like that? That person lives in a whole other world, unlike Susan from Twitter who raises chickens in her backyard.
I will admit, I don’t necessarily have any innate interest in Rin Tin Tin, but I will pick up the book because I love Susan Orlean’s writing style. She can make anything seem interesting and beautiful. Someone wrote to me a few days ago with this message:
This may sound like a stupid question but humor me. What is the point of blogging? I always feel like I do not have anything important enough to say and put in writing. I do not want to tell the world about the pizza I ordered.
I refrained from telling him that yes, this was a stupid question. Nor did I tell him he was obviously just a boring person. The best thing to tell him is that a good writer can make anything seem interesting, even ordering a pizza. Anything can be important enough to say and to put into writing if you believe it is. That’s the sense I always get from Susan Orlean’s writing, even if she’s writing about something I otherwise wouldn’t be interested in. It’s important and interesting through her eyes.
So thanks, Twitter! Thanks, Susan! When I see her book on the Barnes & Noble table next week I’ll secretly be thinking, “Hey, I know her!”