I’ve had a busy spring. My spring semester class was by far the most difficult class I’ve taken thus far in my M. A. program. I was struggling with the material to start with, but then when my grandmother passed and I had to be out of town for a week, I got even further behind. Thank God for gracious professors. I rewarded myself for muscling through one of my papers with a brief jaunt to Asheville to listen to one of my favorite authors, Ready Player One‘s Ernest Cline. Cline was touring to promote the new paperback edition of his latest novel, Armada, and I knew I could never forgive myself if I didn’t haul myself to the last stop of the tour for the chance to hear him speak, especially when he was only a couple hours away. It was well worth the drive.
Ready Player One is my favorite book since Harry Potter. For anyone who knows me, you know this is the absolute highest praise that I can give it. I wrote a paper on it for class last spring. I’ve probably listened to the audiobook at least 10 times, if not more. Cline combines my love for all things retro (think 70s and 80s science fiction/fantasy/pop culture) and my enthusiasm for all things in the realm of nerd/geek culture in his novels. Hearing him speak was an exercise in wit, humor, and learning to write from your roots.
Cline is the ultimate fanboy. No surprises there, based on his body of work, but he would call himself, not a nerd, not a geek, but an “Enthusiast.” I like this term. While the world has now embraced nerd/geek culture to a degree, those who have long been nerds/geeks still get eye rolls when it comes to our unabashed enthusiasm for the things we love. Cline gave his audience a tour through his childhood, which essentially became the foundation for his novels.
Cline is an engaging speaker, keeping his audience in stitches with his humor, but I also learned something from him that really inspires me as a writer. Cline confessed that he wrote Ready Player One without hopes that it would actually be published. Because he approached the novel from that perspective, he unabashedly threw every single geek reference that he possibly could into the book. The book was written entirely for his enjoyment. When the book was published and hit the bestseller list, Cline was just as surprised as anyone else.
What would happen if I did that? What if I wrote my what I loved, not caring what anyone else thought? I’m certain that I’d have a novel or at least a short story by now. Just a note of encouragement from me to you. Write what you love. Write what you know. Chances are, there are other people in this world who will really get what you write. They’ll identify with you in some way. Confessedly, it was all I could do not to freak out when I met Ernie. I am thankful that though I could tell he was exhausted from being on the road and meeting fans, he took time to take photos, answer questions, sign autographs, and shake hands with each of his fans. Today, I raise my glass to you, Mr. Cline. Thanks for teaching me to write from my roots and to be myself. It never hurts to have a reminder.