A mental exercise for aspiring novelists:

Imagine that you’ve decided to build a luxury hotel. Although you may have some construction experience and you’re convinced you have a decent understanding of the necessary skills, you’ve never built an actual hotel before, and you certainly don’t need a hotel—in fact you’ve learned that there is a surfeit of hotels in the world, and for some reason fewer and fewer people are using them—but this is something you feel, perhaps irrationally, compelled to do.

Because you lack a blueprint, you can’t predict what this hotel will look like when it’s finished. You don’t know how large it will be, how many rooms it will have, if it will actually be habitable, if anyone will ever step through the door, or, really, if there will even be a door. Your hotel might turn out to be a trailer, a log cabin or a birdhouse. The truth is you have no idea if this theoretical structure will ever be complete, or how you’ll feel about it if and when it is. You certainly have no reason to believe you’ll earn money from this endeavor.

Check-in 2:00 PM

My Hotel

You’ll most likely spend years toiling, but toiling in a fashion that from the outside precisely resembles staring idly into space. When you’re doing your most taxing work careful observers will think you’re comatose or, at best, wasting time, and, in fact, it’s quite possible that you will be. It’s not unlikely that if you do complete your hotel, trailer, log cabin, birdhouse or (let’s be realistic) ant-farm, you’ll be deeply disappointed and depressed. You might feel the urge, even the need, to set it ablaze and flush the ashes. But there is, or you believe there is, the most infinitesimal wisp of a chance that you’ll be so gosh-darned proud of the majestic structure you’ve created that you’ll soil your adult diapers (building a hotel can take years).


But …

In spite of your enthusiasm there is a very good chance that no one else will have the slightest interest in your accomplishment. Indeed, those few who even become aware of it might abhor it, wretch at the very sight of it, drive blocks out of their way to avoid it and petition for its immediate destruction. Real estate values in the area might plunge, leading to a sudden influx of drug dealers, homeless ex-cons and congresspersons. After six months of desperately trying to get the word out, doing everything you can to make others see what you see, the three guests who have actually stepped through the great arched doorway might leave comments such as these on your website:

“A grotesquerie.”

“Another cheesy homemade bird house.”

“This dump smells like old fish.”

“The toilet ate my favorite gonad.”

“I stepped into the lobby, turned around, walked out and vomited on my poodle. I’m suing, and so is Princess Zsa Zsa.”

If this sounds like a pleasant, rewarding venture, go right ahead, write your damned novel. I’m not going to read it because, in spite of all the logical arguments against such a lunatic undertaking, I’m too busy working on my next novel. I suppose that’s just how passion (see also insanity) works.

On the other hand I might be interested in an ant-farm, though I did hear something about a free ant-farm app for the iPad.