Because first off, you’re not a bug.
- We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little.
- – Anne Lamott
I was dismayed this morning when another blogger mentioned that someone had tried to tell her she shouldn’t have written about a certain topic because it was too sad. The topic in question was an incident that had troubled and upset the writer, and as most of you who read this blog are also writers, you will understand what it feels like to need to say something because it is pressing on your heart.
What we write about is what comes from our core, things that move us. Sometimes those things are very sad, and they make us want to cry and wring our hands or shake our fists at the sky and scream “Why?!”
Our writing is us. And sometimes we are upset, and we sort things out by writing. It’s the equivalent of opening all the windows in our heads and airing out our brains, neatly stacking thoughts where they should go on the various synaptic pathways. Otherwise it’s just all going to lay around all over the place and eventually we’re going to trip over something and do a face-plant. Nothing good can come of that. We are not the kind of people who can simply bury our heads in the sand and pretend something’s not happening.
- A writer without interest or sympathy for the foibles of his fellow man is not conceivable as a writer.
- – Joseph Conrad
If we had no interest in the world and were content to live in a tiny bubble of our own making, untouched by other passengers on this voyage we wouldn’t be writing at all, because there would be nothing to say. There would be nothing to understand. Nothing would be happening.
But things do happen: to us, because of us, around us. And we are AWARE of those things, and they have an effect on us, whether good or bad. And no one has the right to tell you what you should or should not write.
Because after all, you are not a bug.
…the novel you’re working on makes you cringe at the idea of actually showing it to someone.
So what to do. I can toss the whole thing, forget it ever existed, and start something else, hoping it’ll be better.
I can revise, losing large chunks of what I’ve already written and take the story in an entirely different direction.
Turn in my quill and admit defeat. I’m starting to understand why Hemingway drank so much. At least he ended up with something to show for it.
I probably shouldn’t have read this article about “How I Got My Agent” because the whole thing reads like a fairytale:
So, as it turned out, I’d spent six months obsessing and panicking about querying, only to get an offer of representation from my number one agent after two weeks in the pool. Was it stressful? You bet.
Forgive me if I can’t sympathize with her two whole weeks of ‘stress.’
Margaret Atwood was right.
‘Writing is not a job description. A great deal of it is luck. Don’t do it if you are not a gambler because a lot of people devote many years of their lives to it (for little reward). I think people become writers because they are compulsive wordsmiths.’
I either need a drink, or copious amounts of chocolate.
‘The writer’s intention hasn’t anything to do with what he achieves. The intent to earn money or the intent to be famous or the intent to be great doesn’t matter in the end. Just what comes out.’
Do we have an ‘intent’ when we set out to write something? I guess in the back of my mind, I have an intent to make a living as a writer, but it seems to be secondary to simply writing. I’m not really interested in fame. The older I get and the more I see of ‘famous’ people, the less I find I want to be like them, or have my life taken over in that way. Fame seems to come for some very silly reasons. I’m sure we can all name any number of current ‘celebrities’ who have done nothing noteworthy, other than that they seem to be famous for being famous. People who are actually doing something seem to be vastly less interesting to the public. Being obnoxious, wealthy, or pretty seem to be the main criteria for fame now.
Making money: You bet I’d like to. I have to fund my Tarot addiction somehow. A career as a writer would have the side benefit of freeing me from the tyranny (not to mention the deathly boredom) of life as a corporate wage slave. More power to you if you can find excitement in tracking finances and sales forecasting. Personally I’d rather stick pins in my eyes. How did business become so bogged down in paperwork and spreadsheets? Business used to be about making something that other people wanted to trade for. Now it seems to consist of sitting in meetings where people expend a great deal of energy arguing, nothing gets decided, except that more meetings are deemed necessary. Seriously, if you want to know what my life is like, just read Dilbert.
So we’re left with what comes out. Words, and lots of them. Am I trying to be ‘great’? OK, I’m not going to lie about this. Of course I’d like to be a ‘great’ writer. Who wants to be bad at something? Not everyone agrees on what makes something ‘great’, though. As in any art, some will love it, some will hate it. There are people who hate Monet. We all know what they say about opinions. My only concern then is whether or not I am able to express what I’m trying to express. If I succeed in that, whether anyone else loves it or hates it, is all that matters to me.
Writing is the hardest work in the world. I have been a bricklayer and a truck driver, and I tell you — as if you haven’t been told a million times already — that writing is harder. Lonelier. And nobler and more enriching.
– Harlan Ellison
Say what you will about Ellison (and many people have said many things), I think he’s got it. If it wasn’t for my writing I don’t think I could survive my day job. There’s not much enrichment in being an administrative assistant. I spend the greater part of each day looking forward to coming home and spending time on my WIP. I am lucky in that I have a decent bunch of people to work with which makes all the difference. But every single day I have my little jump drive with me, with my WIP on it, and if I get a few spare minutes try to get some few words added. Even when I can’t it’s always in the back of my mind, filling up the spaces the job leaves vacant.
Sometimes I think it’s better for writers to have day jobs that don’t demand too much of them so they can focus on their writing and not stay up until midnight working on a big sales presentation, or still be answering e-mail at ten o’clock at night. I, at least, could not expend that much energy in two directions at the same time, but maybe others can. I do not live for my job, and until I become a full-time writer, I don’t think I ever will.
‘Contrary to what many of you may imagine, a career in letters is not without its drawbacks – chief among them the unpleasant fact that one is frequently called upon to sit down and write.’
A modern Dorothy Parker, she’s been called. If I could I’d never do anything but write: at the keyboard, with pen and paper, however. The reality is I’d get really hungry eventually, which means shopping, cooking, cleaning… feh. Forgot to buy a lottery ticket again which means I won’t be independently wealthy any time soon and no flock of servants to keep house for me.