Foundations of a Writing Life

This will likely translate to another article for Examiner, but I’m going with the casual side of things for now (for this blog anyway). After being stuck on the last few chapters of ‘Nightshade’, I broke ground. Once I voluntarily walked away from gainful employment back in September, I struggled to overcome depression and heartache and to really write like I once had—with total abandon and dogged perseverance.  I realized today, just like I realized after my first really bad block, that all it takes is the promise of a deadline. An immediate deadline. You see, I sat down in my kitchen this morning and proclaimed to the dogs (I mean this literally), that I wasn’t going to get up until I had the rest of Nightshade plotted.

They laughed.

And yet, I emerged triumphant, despite my own fears and doubts (and those of my hairy companions). 1500 words of plot, fully fleshed out and ready to be written. Tomorrow (or likely the very wee hours of tomorrow), will bring with it an excitement that I haven’t genuinely experienced in over a year. I wrote Icarus (the vampire novel that I’ve been working on and no, that isn’t the title…consider it a nickname) while I was working in the dredges of hell. Ok, that was a tad dramatic, but you’d understand if you worked there. And while I love the characters and their story, it wasn’t the same as Nightshade and the Fable trilogy. It’s a matter of urban vs. epic fantasy. Even though Nightshade is a stand alone piece, the stakes involved are epic indeed. So, the bottom line is that the emotions involved in those works differ from one to the next: Icarus is gritty and harsh—bloody, gruesome, gratuitous sex and violence (and inappropriate humor). Nightshade and Fable, are light and while there are most certainly darker scenes in both (this is me we’re talking about here), they don’t translate the same to me emotionally, as an author.

All of this got me thinking about what it means to be a writer. We’ve discussed writing rituals and how isolating an experience it can be, but those are different things. I am talking about the decision to become more than merely a writer by title, but by practice. You are essentially laying down a foundation for your life as a writer—unknowingly, you are setting a cornerstone into place that will determine how you deal with frustration, sorrow, relationships and ultimately, how you will see your writing in light of publication or lack there of. You’ve got to ask yourself the question, “Am I writing for recognition, or for the craft of it.” This is not the same thing as asking if you wish to be published or not. Don’t confuse the two. The former question is simply clarifying your motives. The answer is the cement of your foundation. It is the thing that glues it all together and not unlike a story, it is what gives you strength while you are still learning and developing. Consider this: If you knew, right now, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that your work would never be published, would you write it anyway?

Would I? You ask. Without any hesitation, my answer is yes. Yes, a thousand times. When I started, I feared what all new authors fear—not being talented enough. But, I’ve come to learn that while I will always fear not being ‘good enough’, you only lose this battle when you quit. So what if you suck right now? Most authors who write for a living will admit to sucking worse five years ago (assuming they were writing then), than now. Some claim to still suck, though we as readers know better. What was their answer to that question? Agents tell us all the time, that the chances of getting published are akin to winning the lottery. Friends and family ask why we don’t take up something more, profitable? But if you love writing enough and believe in your characters and stories enough, there is no other option but to spend time with them and work on putting down a reasonable resemblance to what we see in our heads.  It may take much, much longer than you expect. It may flow better than you dreamed possible. But you will never know until you begin.

So, lay those foundations. Set a goal, find someone to hold you accountable. I’m always here. Have a great Monday tomorrow!

J.S.

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6 responses

  1. And to answer the question, no that isn’t actually me in the photo, but if you’ve seen my hair—it might as well be. That’s the exact length and color =)

  2. I don’t know that I could ever have written anything if my only goal was to be published. When I first started writing seriously I fully expected to never be published and while I kept a tiny little bit of hope that maybe one day, long into the future, I might write something that would be published I wrote for myself and for my friends. Then I started sharing my stories with a wider audience through webook and then, I began to submit to agents and publishers. After so many rejections i lost count, one of them finally took me on and I am now working toward being published. I want it to happen. I really want it to happen. However, if it doesn’t, I will still write. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your stories with us.

  3. I wish you the very best of luck!! That’s fantastic that you have found an agent! Keep me posted, I will certainly support you. Have faith, getting an agent alone is a huge feat…and I totally understand about the losing count of rejections, thing. I’m there. I’m okay with being there, but I’m there nonetheless. I’m placing a link to your blog here (blogroll to the right), assuming you don’t mind.
    J.S.

  4. Was this your first blog entry? I’ve read (skimmed) through the rest and I liked and admired them. Been looking for a model for starting my own blog and this is the most appealing I’ve seen. I’ve had 5 books in print with major publishers–all non-fiction. My newest is a novel, and I’ve decided to go Kindle. Interestingly, your entry about the alleged rules of writing as just another catalogue of bullshit, runs parallel to my intent of pointing a finger at conventional crap. For me it extends way beyond authorship–” Whether it collects in the automatic group-think conformity of our social connections, or in the hallowed halls of our establishments–like politics, academia, religion, and so on…” Thanks for the inspiration, and if you have any other suggestions for linking blog to book promotion, I’d appreciate them. Just in case you don’t receive posts that go this far back, I’m posting it to your current entry too. Thanks again!

  5. Hey Stan, no I started the asylum back in early 2008, but didn’t really starting blogging until 2009…I appreciate the kind words and hope I’ll be seeing you around here as a regular. I welcome all comments and opinions, etc. I’ve found this blog, in general, to be a HUGE help in building an author/platform, but the most important thing about making that connection between blogging and readers, is to be genuine. Be yourself, and say what’s really on your heart. Oh, and make sure you moderate comments. You probably already know that, but it’s UBER important.

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