WHAT ALWAYS HAPPENS WHEN I GO TO A READING OF A WRITER I ADMIRE

  1. Tonight I went to see/hear Steven Pinker read at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
  2. He has written a few books that I admire including his latest, The Sense of Style.
  3. Anyway, this is what always happens when I go to readings:
  4. I pack a couple copies of the writer's books into a tote.
  5. I try to come up with interesting and/or witty questions to ask during the Q&A period.
  6. I find a seat early, usually somewhere in the middle-ish area of chairs.
  7. At some point before the reading starts, I glance around the room and generally notice that I am the youngest one there. I am 42 (This is for writers who write serious adult-y things, anyway).
  8. As the chairs fill in with more and more people, I start to feel disheartened. I AM THIS WRITER'S BIGGEST FAN, I think, like a doofus school child. NONE OF THESE OTHER PEOPLE MATTER, [Writer's name]! I MATTER MOST!
  9. Anyway, and then I sit and listen and lose myself in the reading.
  10. At one point Pinker asked us not to be "AWFUL: Americans Who Figuratively Use Literally" and I LOLd and LOLd.
  11. Toward the end of the reading, I get nervous about asking my question. Sometimes I am brave enough, sometimes I chicken out.
  12. Tonight I was a chicken bird.
  13. So I sat through everyone else's questions.
  14. I egotistically tell myself that everyone else's questions are super dumb and that my question is deep and insightful and Pinker will appreciate me the most.
  15. Then I clap along with everyone else.
  16. Then I wait in line to get my book signed.
  17. Usually if I was not brave enough to ask my question in front of everyone, I will ask the author while s/he signs my book.
  18. Since Pinker was talking about writing style this eve, I asked him if he ever looks back at some of his earlier books and cringes at his less mature style? In other words, does he ever feel compelled to go back and rewrite everything constantly?
  19. His answer was amazing. He said, "I don't. I try to take the advice of a writer friend of mine who told me, 'Steven, you don't finish. You stop.'"
  20. And while I'm milling around afterward, I always feel a little bad and ashamed.
  21. I don't want to be one of a million fans. I want to be the only fan. The best fan (this is totally irrational). I think this is the opposite of what most people feel. Like Grateful Dead fans. They love being part of a big group of fellow admirers. But I don't.I don't know why. I guess I want my connection to a writer to be more personal. Or 1-to-1.
    Or something.
  22. And I also feel a little silly with my autographed book. What the fuck am I going to do with this now? Stick it on the shelf, that's what.