A few years ago, I met Clive Cussler.
Actually, I'm not sure it was Clive Cussler. I didn't even connect the dots until very recently. In case you're not familiar, Clive Cussler is a huge, blockbuster best-selling author, best known for his series of thrillers about diver, treasure-hunter, and lady's man Dirk Pitt. His books incorporate history and science with a James Bond sort of playfulness and a Robert Ludlum pace. He has sold more millions of books than even seems like a real number.
None of that came up when I met him. Or his clone.
I was on a domestic flight at the time, sitting next to an older gentleman, whose general fitness and charisma spoke of an active, rich life. As we got talking, he told me stories about places he'd been and things he'd seen. He had a great eye for detail in the stories, which were engagingly told. He was less detailed and less engaging about what exactly had brought him to those places or exposed him to those things. He'd been around the world. He'd grown up in California, he lived in Arizona. He loved classic cars. He was pretty clear that what he did now was collect cars, but not about much else.
I'm not an expert on Cussler's biography, and I was just enjoying the conversation with the man on the plane, not probing him for information, but given his appearance, age, personality, and the few general facts I have, I like to think there's a good chance it was Cussler himself.
But this isn't a story about meeting a famous writer. This is a story about how I met Clive Cussler and one of the few things we didn't talk about was books or writing. Sometimes as writers, I think it's easy to focus so much on our writing, that it's all we talk about and all we think about, and the next thing you know Amazon.com has close to 12,000 eBooks self-pubbed in which writers are writing about writing. If you're writing or have written a book about writing, I'm not criticizing that. It's a a fine thing to do. But I wonder if it's what you wanted to write when you started writing?
We blog about writing. We tweet about writing. We FB about writing. We make friends with writers. We go to writing conventions. We join writers' social groups.
All fine things, all things I do or have done.
But it narrows the world frightfully.
Romance writer Roni Loren, writes terrific blog posts about writing, but she also talks about hot guys and family life and healthy eating. Zimbabwean ex-pat Andrea Eames blogs about fashion and style as much as more than she blogs about writing. Literary craftsman Scott G. F. Bailey blogs about writing, but he also blogs about whatever he's reading, as well as plays he's seen, and whatever else is on his mind. Darkly comic literary writer Aliya Whitely blogs about her writing, but also about vegetables and video games and she tweets ridiculously sharp verbal humor. Writer of published crime novels and women's short fiction, Frances Garrood blogs about horses, shopping dollies, houses, politics, the elderly, and the entire tapestry of life.
There are other writers who maintain a diverse activity set, but I run into more and more of us who get dragged into the LaBrea tar pits of writing.
Ben Sisko said it, and I've repeated it, and I'll repeat it again: "I'm no writer; but if I were, it seems to me I'd want to poke my head up every once in a while and take a look around; see what's going on. It's life, Jake! You can miss it if you don't open your eyes."
Assuming it was Clive Cussler I met, and not his clone, that's the kind of writer he is. The kind who can tell stories about China and Mexico. The kind who has stories about boats and bicycles, about hunting and kidnappings. The kind who can fill a flight with entertaining stories, without ever once talking about books or writing.
That's the kind of writer I try to be. I don't usually make it.