Are You a Father or Are You a Mechanic?

As you probably already figured out, I’m a writer, not a mechanic. Yes, like so many these days, I call myself a writer and no, it isn’t because I’ve been laid off from my third job in four years. Just so you know, I’ve been writing for decades. My first full-length novel about a single father meeting the challenges of raising his son and in the process, discovering things about himself that he never knew—is finally out. It’s called, Positives & Negatives, Tricycles & Pancakes. So yes, I’m a writer and I’d be a writer whether I was stocking groceries at the local market, or mowing lawns up and down my neighborhood streets.

What I am, and what I do to keep a roof over my head, are two different things. It would be great if it didn’t have to be that way but for now, that’s the way it is. For me it’s very much like living two lives at the same time, there’s the writer life, and the everything else life. The everything else life is real and largely out of my control, the writing life is fictional and even though it only exists in thought, for me it’s no less real. The only thing the two worlds have in common is that I have no control, and I’ve become accustomed to it.

On the other hand, the differences between the two worlds are myriad, but can be summed up by two words, make believe. In the writing world, I can experience anything; life, love, hate, I can fall out of a ten-story window and I can die doing it, or more sensationally, I can survive. I can do anything, or more accurately, anything can happen to me and I don’t have to experience it in the real world. So why, when I meet a prospective reader for the first time, are the questions always the same?

“Are you a single father?”

“No.”

“Do you have a son?”

“No.”

I’ve been marketing my book for about six months and it’s always at this point that the prospective reader decides to move on. Not only do they not buy the book, but later, if someone who has tells them good things about it, their first response is, “He isn’t even a father.”

Ugh—I, for the life of me couldn’t figure it out. Why is this such a big problem? It must be a serious one but the reason continued to elude me. At first, I thought maybe if I ignored the whole thing and didn’t make it any bigger than it was, it would go away. Especially, as people read the book and then told others, you know, the power of word-of-mouth advertising. I was wrong. As more people talked about the book, more people would inquire with the same two questions. Are you a single father? Do you have a son? I’d answer no, and they’d move on.

What to do? What to do? I thought about my possible options. Morality and personal responsibility aside, I suppose I could put the cart in front of the horse and find a way to become a baby-daddy. As time rolls on I would not only establish credibility and standing as a father, but I’d have a son too, or maybe a daughter. How hard could it be? Every day, thousands of men become baby-daddies and they aren’t even trying. Of course, being a real father takes a lot more than just a pregnancy, but as I said, I didn’t see the reason why everyone thought it was necessary in the first place. Why did I actually have to be a father? Why do I actually have to have a son? I guess I was just missing it.

The following months did nothing to change anything. The same two questions were still pestering me so I decided to perform a thought experiment. I asked myself, Davyd, what if instead of writing a novel about a single father, you wrote a book about fixing cars? Would I, as a reader of auto repair books, buy it? And the first question that came to mind was, are you a mechanic? And the second, do you fix cars? I never even thought to ask if I was a writer.

The light bulb went off in my head. If I were a mechanic with 10-15 years experience fixing cars and a professional certification or two, sure, why not? I’d buy the book. But if I’m a writer who writes novels, short stories, and sometimes a novella, well . . . I don’t think so. And there it was, I saw the problem and I understood it completely.

However, in order for you to understand it the way I do, you’ll need to prepare yourself because the problem isn’t as obvious as you might think. To prove it, I’m going to tell you something that isn’t going to make any sense but nevertheless, is true. There is no problem. The fact that I wrote a book about a single father raising his son, when I am not a single father, and I never had a son, is totally and completely irrelevant. Here’s why.

Anyone who has read the book automatically and without realizing it, loses their skepticism before the end of the first chapter. In fact, most do it after just a page or two, and the reason they do, and the reason I never understood the skepticism in the first place, is this. I never set out to write a how-to book about raising a son by yourself. I don’t write non-fiction (at least not yet), so that was, and still is, the furthest thing from my mind. True, Positives & Negatives, Tricycles & Pancakes, is about a single father raising his son, but I didn’t write a book about the father that I am. I wrote the book about the father I wish I had.

You see, a long time ago I was a son, and I had a father. So yes, I do have standing and credibility regarding the subject and beyond that . . . I will say no more. If you have other questions, you’ll just have to read my book, L. Davyd Pollack’s book.

 

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