I can't believe I'm writing this post.
Those who love me and a few who just like me a little have expressed the thought--a large number of times--that I have a habit so infuriating it distracts from my better qualities. And while I understand their point, I have always been less than enthusiastic about doing anything that might attempt to refute it.
They say I am self-deprecating to the point of exasperation.
Keep in mind that I was brought up to be modest at all costs. Bragging in my family was just distasteful and coarse. Let others think you're a good person and always strive to project the impression that you're simply trying to live life as everyone does. Or should. Or something. I was never really clear on that last part, but the fact was that anytime one celebrated an accomplishment or pointed out a positive character trait about oneself, it was considered in bad taste. It was fine for others to tell you that you were wonderful (as our parents and a few others did, in my opinion, too much) but never, ever think of doing so yourself.
Also, I grew up (sort of) as a short male. In this country that is a sin almost as egregious as enjoying soccer. Sorry. Futbol. In order to avoid getting beaten up on a regular basis in school, it was necessary to develop a self-deprecating sense of humor. Beat the other person to the insult. It actually works pretty well.
But then there are my family and friends saying I'm overindulging in the jokes directed at myself. That's something worth considering, as I really like my family and friends a lot and value their opinion. So grudgingly, painfully, against my every better instinct, I offer the following list, after which I sincerely promise nothing of the sort will ever happen again.
Things I Am Good At
- I turned into a really good dad. It was rocky there for a while because I have a temper and little kids can get under your skin like no one else, but as it happens, I'm a terrific parent. I treat my children (and always have) like the interesting individuals they are. I value their opinions and offer my own. I guide without insisting. I have always tried very hard not to say, "because I said so." As a result, and that of them have an exemplary mom and being themselves, they have become really good adults. I had a hand in doing that.
- I can write really good dialogue. My plots aren't always airtight and sometimes they're not even plausible, but if you read one and like it, you'll come back for the conversations. I have the ear, which a lot of writers don't, and I use it every chance I get.
- I'm a good friend. If you need me, I'm there. If you want advice, I'll give it. If you don't, I'll listen. I'm so thrilled you chose to like me I'll pretty much back you up on anything you need.
- You'll never find a better husband. I spent 28 years looking for my wife, largely because she insisted on living in other states until I was that age. If the woman had stood still a little while it might have been easier. But since we met I have been her most fervent booster, her ardent devotee and her greatest admirer. I sometimes wish she would let herself need me more.
- I'm a very smart baseball fan. You and I might not agree on the team to root for and that's okay. I understand the game, after watching for 50 years or so, extremely well. I get how the strategy works, I know when a pitcher is having a good day right away and I admire players for doing things right and not just doing them a lot. I won't trash talk when my team beats yours and I understand why you don't root for mine. But it'll be hard--although hardly impossible--to get the game more than I do.
- You like my dialogue? My characters are better. You'll never find a two-dimensional person in my work. I try to think of and for my characters as fully fleshed humans, and they will be interesting even when they're not necessarily admirable. There are no "villains" in my books. Because villains don't think they're villains.
- I can always see the other side of the argument. Don't confuse that with agreeing every time someone disagrees. I understand that those with whom I sometimes argue (politically this year especially and in general on any topic all the time) have valid points of view. I get that most people are not idiots, and I spend very little time dealing with the ones who are. I'll hear you out. I will still disagree with you and have a hard time believing you weren't swayed by my cogent points, but I will hear you out.
- You want to sit behind me at the movies. I'll never talk. I'll unwrap any candy before the trailers begin. I try not to fidget in my seat much, but I'm old and some things can't he helped. I will never open my cell phone in a theater. And neither will either of my children (see pt. #1).
- I have narrow but good taste in music. I will not say that I'm good at playing music myself because I am at best an okay amateur. That's at best, and I mean it literally. (I also understand what "literally" means, but that's not worth a whole listing.) I can hear the things being done with instruments that some will miss and I get why the songwriter chose that word and not another. I'm a very well-educated fan.
- I can walk away from a car salesman. My wife loves to point out that I will not be bullied into buying one vehicle or another. If I feel like I'm getting played I'll get up and leave. This is true in virtually any retail environment. I grew up in retail and I know the tricks. If you're buying something big, bring me along.
- I write good titles. They're not always the ones on the completed book, mind you, because the publishing business is a business. But I don't just slap a name on the thing and forget about it. I try to come up with titles that have some relevance to the story and hopefully amuse at least a little.
- Eventually, I'll make you laugh. I have taken on as my mission in life getting everyone I ever meet to laugh. I'm pretty good at it when I'm not trying to hard, but if it doesn't work the first time, I'll keep at it until I succeed. I have a quick wit and I'm always looking for an opening. You have been warned.
Okay, that's all I can think of. May I please stop now?