Meeting The Rockstar for the First Time

I met my thesis adviser, TC Boyle, yesterday, and he looked exactly like he does in photographs. I mean, exactly: the post-punk braid in front, the earring and the funky t-shirts. In fact, I even said to him:

--You look exactly like you do in photos.
--So do you, he said, sarcastically. I mean, like this dude's ever seen a picture of me before.

My first conversation was a little less than a half an hour, but I learned a few things:

1. He's working on a collection of short stories right now and trying to promote The Women, so he's gonna be hella busy. But, he agreed to work me later in the semester to talk about my writing, which, in a way, is better than taking with workshop with him

2. He encouraged me to stop by his office and chat again, and offer I will absolutely take him up on

3. This dude is fucking smart. I mean, he really knows his shit

4. We both like the performative aspect of reading our stories, though, truth be told, he's amazing when he reads and I'm simply a novice compared to him. But, I've got my own thing, nevertheless and I'm comfortable and happy hitting the mic

Where I'm different than TC Boyle is that when I read in public, I'm trying to convince people that they should listen to me read whereas his audience already knows that before he says a word. He agreed. And when I told him that having an audience has made me a better writer, he was surprised. I get the impression that he writes for himself and picks the pieces he's going to read out loud based on what he thinks people will get the most out of. When you've got hundreds of stories to pick from, that's probably a little easier. Maybe I should think more about what the audience wants in my reading than what I like to read, but there's a stubborn part of me that hopes that if I'm into it, it will show, and the audience will be into too

Where I tend to think about this more is in terms of what I'm writing: ever since I accepted that I have a readership--no matter how minute but no less devoted--my writing improved because I started to make sure my sentences made sense. When I used to write just for myself, I wrote some terrible shit that could only have been written by someone trying to impress himself, literally proving to myself that I was a writer by acting writerly. But as I got older, once I'd accepted that I was a writer and that on some basic level I always write my own stories for me because I'm the only person that understands what I'm trying to do, but now, as an evolving writer, I also acknowledge the dialectical relationship my writing has with my idealized reader. Ever since then, my writing has gotten better because I've become more objective, which has helped me revise my stories. My artistic side is still crazy and ebullient, and the ideas still flow like meade in Beowulf, but my critical and editorial side is much better than it used to be, and this honed skilled has helped me learn to finish stories. I used to only know how to start the story, but now I'm learning to be a finisher, which is much harder for me. My sentences aren't less lyrical or ambitious, they just make sense on some objective level. I guess it's phenomenological in that way

The other possibility is that I still write for myself, but that my technical standards of what is good writing have gone up as I've read more and more good fiction and creative non-fiction and my revising skills have improved enough because of that. Who knows?

5. TC Boyle's work ethic is sick and it inspires me to commit to my profession in a complete and absolute way. Truthfully, I was always that committed (which is why I was sometimes a social outcast at Notre Dame), but seeing that kind of commitment in one of your favorite writers is still inspiring

6. Spending time with him is going to be difficult, but worth the effort. Fuck, I'll get in line