As many of you know, I have recently written a book. It’s true. You can buy it and everything. Perhaps it will wind up in libraries.
Now, when I say I wrote this book, I probably mislead you a little bit. It is true that I sat down and personally typed all the words that appear within it and that those words appear in the order of my choosing and that the cadence and much of the book’s vocabulary were generated in my head. But I did not write this book in a pure sense, because I was writing the thoughts and experiences of another person as if I were him, and this person is non-fictional.
This person was Tyrel Reed — Kansan, lover of Dr. Pepper and erstwhile Kansas Jayhawk. Tyrel and I spent hours and hours and hours talking about his life, going through it year by year, topic by topic. I would ask a question and sort of let him go with it, recording everything. We spent one especially engrossing weekend parked on the couch at my apartment in Lawrence, which was conveniently still furnished because the Mrs. hadn’t moved down to Houston yet.
I would then transcribe these conversations and turn those transcriptions into actual narrative copy and send them to Tyrel for review. He would change a word here or there and sometimes decide he’d rather not say publicly what he had said to me. He is a good copy editor. Very detail oriented, which was good, because I am not that way. This was, after all, his book with his name and photo on the front, written in the first person. My role was to take his thoughts and express them pleasingly.
So you can’t exactly say I wrote this book, but you can’t really say he did, either. Which is why both of our names appear on the byline, I guess.
But enough about the technical process.
I have always wanted to write a book, and have, beginning at age 10, begun writing three or four of them in my lifetime. All novels, of course. My first one, which I started typing on my parents’ IBM-compatible computer in 1993 — I think they bought this computer in about 1989. It had a black screen and you typed in MS-DOS. Windows was still in the future, so you had to remember all these keystroke combinations to load the program. — was a more or less plotless narrative about three boys my age stumbling upon an abandoned grain elevator and finding a bunch of cool old stuff in it, including a truck. My second one, which I started at age 12, was a novel about an American spy who was trying to accomplish something or another in Russia. He drove a Porsche and wore leather jackets and flew airplanes. He was basically the man I still aspire to be.
I didn’t get real close to finishing either of them.
In adulthood, I have usually had a Word file on my computer I use when I feel an impulse to write something. I have written maybe 10,000 words of narrative fiction in this thing. I’d tell you about it, but I’m really self-conscious about people seeing what I’m writing before it’s done. It just throws me all off. This is true even of the things I write in my daily work.
The point of all this is that writing a book is something I have always wanted to do, but never knew how to do. When I took on the Reed All About It project, I was intimidated. I would have to write a 60,000-word manuscript in six weeks. I don’t t know whether that sounds like a lot to you or not, but it sounded like a lot to me. I was surprised this was even considered to be possible. Considering I do have a full-time job, it was going to mean a lot of 10 p.m. pots of coffee. It kind of made me wish I smoked cigarettes. It would look pretty cool to be sitting at a desk with a cup of coffee and a cigarette, pounding at the keys. You have to admit that. I suppose I could have taken up smoking for a six-week period, but that seems kind of risky. Besides, nobody was seeing me except the wife and the dog, and their perceptions of my coolness are pretty well ingrained by now (respectively: uncool, cool).
Alas, I don’t think I looked very cool while I was writing this thing. It was a lot of me in the living room chair with tassled hair, wearing basketball shorts and a t-shirt, and the laptop on the ottoman. I don’t think this was good for my neck.
But while I didn’t make me any cooler, it did make me another thing. It made me aware that it is possible to write a 60,000-word book in six weeks and that I am capable of doing it. This is an important realization. Maybe I’ll finish that spy novel, now.