Friday, October 18, 2013

Do You Want To Be A Real Writer?

I had a friend who wanted to be a writer. He and I would exchange our writing every once in a while for critiques. When we met, he would talk with wonder and excitement about how great it would be to someday not have to work at his regular job. Instead, he would stay at home and write full time. He would be a REAL WRITER.

There was just one problem. He didn't write. Or rather, my friend didn't write enough. When he did write, it was pretty good stuff. But then, weeks (sometimes months) would go by without any significant progress on his manuscript. It wasn't writer's block that was hounding my friend. It was life. 

Writing can certainly be a side thing, like a little hobby you work on occasionally when you can. BUT, if you've never done more than occasionally pick up the violin as a side little hobby, don't get frustrated when you aren't all of a sudden playing first chair at the symphony.

I heard John Mayer, the singer songwriter, give an interview in which he talked about the writing process for his most recent album. Remember, that at this point, Mayer was already a multi-Platinum selling artist who had written hundreds of songs, performed thousands of times, and practiced many thousands more. He said that whenever he writes a new album, he generally writes a dozen or two dozen bad songs before he starts to write something good. He said, there are no shortcuts, and when it comes to writing (songs) nobody starts by getting off on the 12th floor.You have to work your way up. You have to start bad, give yourself permission to write bad songs and then work up from there.

If you want to write stories for a living, I'm betting you can figure out a way to do it...someday. It probably takes a little talent and probably takes a little luck. But, be sure of one thing. What it takes more than any of that, is hard work. This can't be about wanting the writer's life, whatever that is. It's got to be about writing. If you really want to write, then you will find a way to write in those little cracks and creases that show up each and every day.

We no longer live in a patronage society. There aren't people unloading buckets of cash so you and I can sit around and amaze them with our supernatural romances about vampire bunnies. If you know of a writer out there "making it", chances are high that they've encountered the same obstacles you and I encounter. The writers who have made it didn't get there through a life of Victorian privilege. Nope, they had to figure out how to write given all of the excuses you and I sometimes make for not writing.  Regular job? Check. Kids that you have to bathe and feed? Check, check. Errands you've got to run and bills you've got to pay? Check, check, check. Spouse who doesn't really understand why you're spending so much time doing something that probably won't make you a dime? Check, check, check, and checkmate.

These real writers overcame all of the many obstacles to being a 'real writer' by writing their brains out whenever they could. And as unglamorous as that sounds for you and I, it is what you and I need to do.

And if in your heart, you are a 'real writer', then the thought of writing whenever you possibly can doesn't scare the hell out of you; it makes you smile, it gives you joy.

So.........Write. Revise. Show your work to people who will tell you the truth (and the truth is, you and I aren't that good yet). Rewrite. Revise. Edit. Repeat the cycle over and over again.

And never stop.  Happy writing!

1 comment:

Carl Hackman said...

I see myself as an author, albeit not represented or published yet. I write every day and am working on my 3rd novel. I try to communicate with other authors and agents in a professional manner and hope that one day my dream of seeing my books in Barns and Noble will become a reality.