Monday, July 26, 2010
Work Is For Suckers: I Want To Write!
A writer’s job is to dream, to conceptualize ideas no matter how fantastic or sublime in mere words alone that others may read them, be entertained, and even possibly become enlightened. There is no harder artistic discipline available. You, as a writer, can only be enjoyed with severe commitment. No one is entertained by watching your book. Nobody is fully engaged by listening to your stories despite the popularity of recorded books. Words have a rhythm and cadence the mind alone speaks with to the reader.
When I was a young man I was a stupid reader. It was upon my discovery of acting that I was first trained to observe language, to hear the authors’ intention within the words. Even though at age sixteen I had been a full-time reader for more than a decade, I was but a word glutton. I consumed words with no more discretion or appreciation than a pig at a trough. My training as an actor taught me to read with purpose. I, however, am the exception to the rule.
In this modern age people are busy. If you expect to get someone’s attention and keep it, then you better be damn good. You are in competition with TV, iPhones, the Internet, DVDs, video games, and ten other gadgets yet to be invented that will devour time, precious spare moments somebody could be using to read your work. Towards that, all I can say is thank you God for the Kindle.
The first question writers must pose to themselves is what are they writing for? If the answer is money or glory, then do yourself a favor and stop. These are sidebars to the craft. The person, the audience if you will, should be yourself first and possibly alone. You should be your own worst critic, never your best cheerleader. Perhaps the worst writing I have ever read was by those in love with their work. Criticism is not a friend to them, but an enemy that will destroy the vain. A good writer has no illusions as to perfection. A tenacious writer will always complain in the face of praise that they always could've done better, but simply ran out of time.
Let's assume though you are a good writer. Now what? The second question that then must be asked is if there’s an audience out there who will find your work credible. Maybe. The best writers have doubts. This pressure can be overwhelming. Nobody is an instant success. Your first novel may get published, but probably will flop. Along with your second and third. The tenacity to continue in spite of such disappointments separates the men from the boys.
I have friends, authors who are tremendous writers published by big houses, that still work forty hours a week at brick-and-mortar companies for a paycheck and health benefits. They get up hours earlier than necessary to prepare for work so they may write. After a long day at work, while their families sleep, they write.
The bottom line, the unspoken mantra that drives them all is this: A writer without readers is worthless. I presume it is the same with any discipline. If you wanted to be an Olympic athlete, would you train when it was convenient or would you give it all you could everyday of your life? It's raining, I'm tired, I've got school or work or both today are excuses champions never speak.
That leads to the most important, final thing every writer must ask of themselves when they sit down to write. Whether it is a sentence or a string of words that stretches into the thousands.
How bad do you really want this?
At this moment, I too am still waiting form my "big break." I have one book to my credit, but it is self-published. Notwithstanding this fact, I have been shameless in its promotion. Book signings, interviews on public radio, Facebook and reviews on-line have been but a handful of methods I've used to expose my work. To date, it has been a little over a year, and although I have received remarkable praise by complete strangers, I do not have a publisher to my credit, much less an agent. However, by November I will have completed two more novels that I will furiously submit until either I have exhausted all resources to publish or I can basically accept what I have written is not all that interesting…right now. If that isn't self-righteous overconfidence, I don't know what is.
The thing to remember is that despite all the unhappy moments, the anxiety, the doubt, and the outright self-loathing, you wrote a book. Time will tell if you’ve written something worth reading. Until then, write everyday.
Life is short. Stories are forever.
Download ‘Joe’s Black T-Shirt: Short Stories About St. Louis’ for free at Scribd.com or purchase a real copy at Lulu.com. Look for Joe Schwartz and J. Travis Grundon the special first issue of .insidious.