THE BENEFITS OF A SELF-DECEPTION
Hemingway said, “The essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, bullshit detector.” I have to agree. That’s how you create characters that readers can connect to. They have to feel real and honest and believable.
But besides that built-in BS detector, writers also need the ability to ignore the naysayers and the critics both within and without. To do that requires a healthy ego and a certain amount of self-delusion. After all, writers have to believe that people will want to read what they’re writing. They have to believe that what they’re writing is interesting and entertaining. And that’s not always easy.
That healthy ego is necessary in order to deal with the inevitable rejection every writer faces. There’s no way to avoid it. A lot of my writer friends have fallen by the wayside, waylaid by all the rejection. Rejection hurts. It’s painful as hell. I’ve learned to build up some emotional callouses over the years and I can take being rejected better than I used to…but it always hurts. Writing for me is a constant battle between having no confidence and having too much confidence. Some writers refuse to read any reviews; especially in this age of internet trolls. But I find that good reviews feed my ego and sometimes I need all the confidence I can muster. So I read the good ones and do my best to avoid the bad.
That doesn’t mean I don’t take criticism or notes. However, it needs to be constructive and I have to believe that the people who are offering this criticism know what they’re talking about. I have a group of beta readers and fellow writers who are honest with me and whose opinions I respect. Also, a good editor can make a huge difference. My editor at Imajin Books had fantastic notes for me and really helped me to improve the manuscript of “You Only Live Once.” On the other hand, there’s no reason to take notes from some random jerk on the internet. Rule number one is “Don’t let the bastards get you down.”
Of course if you take self-deception too far, you can lose touch with reality. And I think that’s why I identify so much with Don Quixote. Becoming a writer requires a leap of faith. You have to believe in yourself and your mission even when everyone else doesn’t; even when everyone in the world tells you that your dreams are impossible. As the song in The Man of La Mancha goes, “To dream the impossible dream, to fight the unbeatable foe, to bear with unbearable sorrow, and to run where the brave dare not go.”
James Flynn, the hero of my debut novel, “You Only Live Once” is a modern day version of Don Quixote. Just like most writers, he’s a dreamer, a madman, and a legend in his own mind.
“You Only Live Once” Synopsis
James Flynn is an expert shot, a black belt in karate, fluent in four languages and irresistible to women. He’s also a heavily medicated patient in a Los Angeles psychiatric hospital. Flynn believes his locked ward is the headquarters of Her Majesty’s Secret Service and that he is a secret agent with a license to kill.
When the hospital is acquired by a new HMO, Flynn is convinced that the Secret Service has been infiltrated by the enemy. He escapes to save the day, and in the process, kidnaps a young Hispanic orderly named Sancho.
This crazy day trip turns into a very real adventure when Flynn is mistaken for an actual secret agent. Paranoid delusions have suddenly become reality, and now it’s up to a mental patient and a terrified orderly to bring down an insecure, evil genius bent on world domination.
Reviews for “You Only Live Once”
“Orkin skillfully manages to create a story that is genuinely amusing, tenderly moving, and decidedly thoughtful. A manically funny farce, both delightfully absurd and strangely plausible.” —Kirkus Reviews
“A brilliant homage to everyone’s favorite super-spy, and a hilarious, action-packed, made-for-the-movies thriller about a man suavely dancing along both sides of the thin line between heroism and madness.” —Matt Forbeck, New York Times bestselling author of Halo: New Blood