Sometimes ideas hit you out of the blue. Sometimes, maybe that’s where they should have stayed.
Driving home from the dentist today, I passed the yard of a fellow who sells yard art. He makes it from scrap metal, you see, and welds it all together and paints it up, and puts it his own yard with a for sale sign on it.
Seriously, wouldn’t this trash-can owl look nice in your yard? How about these nice empty propane tanks that are painted to look like the Minions? Talk about the finishing touch out there by the pool!
And that’s where I spotted him: the empty-fire-extinguisher Mr. Peanut. Of course you know that Mr. Peanut has been the mascot for Planters Peanuts since 1916. Over a hundred years of dapper salesmanship. Truly, who can sport a monocle these days?
What does this have to do with writing, you query? Don’t click away – this is important.
So, looking at Mr. P instead of the road ahead, I wondered to myself who would buy such a thing?
Mr. Yardart did a great job – it really looks like Mr. Peanut. And I’m sure Mrs. Yardart said “Larry, that’s your best Mr. Peanut yet!”
“Yep, honey, I’m gonna put him right there on the corner. He’s gonna sell in a flash!”
But. But. But who wants an empty-fire-extinguisher Mr. Peanut? Do you? If someone gave it to me, Goodwill would have it the very next day.
And that’s when it hit me. What about my newest novel, Winchester Penrose. I like it. My wife says it’s the best thing I’ve written yet. My various readers have enjoyed it.
But agents have stayed away from it. And one of my readers said it’s like a really delicious frosting, but you find that there’s no cake underneath it.
Maybe it’s a piece of Mr. Peanut yard art. Maybe it is a good book, just like Mr. Peanut is a good likeness. But maybe I’m the only one who sees its value.
Do you think people read it and say “well, it looks like you had fun writing this, huh?” and then politely roll their eyes to their friends?
Yes. Yes, it is true. My book is clever and, God willing, funny. But it has no cake, no heart. It ain’t Faulkner.
My book is Mr. Peanut yard art for your bookshelf. Would you buy it and proudly display it? Maybe right next to your empty-fire-extinguisher Mr. Peanut?
Oh, this is a very hard lesson to learn, and very most quite sincerely painful.
You’re a writer, you know how it goes. You pour your heart and soul and countless hours into a story you just know is The One.
But it isn’t.
It ain’t Faulkner.
It’s only Mr. Peanut.