Monday, December 10, 2012

Stuff that you need to know about being a writer (but were afraid to ask)

Over on the BookTrust blog, Matt Haig blogged the 37 facts that he knows about being a writer. And hey, since it is a good idea...and this is the blogosphere, and I am a writer...this is my list of 26 things that I know about being a writer. (26 things because that is the number of letters in the English alphabet.) So here is more or less, everything that I know about being a writer after thirty-four years of writing (twenty-eight years actually spent being involved in the actual trade of being a paid writer), having sold greeting card slogans, numerous erotica stories, working for a college newspaper and several magazines, having done five years of monthly columns (astrology and Wicca), and having restarted my business last year.

1--The quickest way to annoy a writer is to suggest an idea to them, and then offer to allow the writer to write up the project while you take fifty percent of the proceeds just for having the idea. If it was so easy to write up the idea, then you should do it yourself and leave the writer to work with their own ideas. It is not like there is only one Muse in the world.

2--Writers have been practicing their story telling craft since they learned to spell, if not before they learned to talk.

3--Writers are insulted by the idea that all creative works should be given freely to the world. They are also insulted by the idea that the life span of their copyright should be less than their own and their spouse's lifetimes, plus a dollop of years for their dependents. Even more insulting is the idea that other people should be allowed to use their work without paying the writer.

4--Writers are deeply offended by the idea that they should support themselves with a burger flipping job, even if that burger flipping job involves retail work or a cubicle. In a writer's mind, a writer should be paid for what they do best.

5--While writers do believe that certain forms of writing are better than others, they do not need you to tell them which forms are better. Writers are quite capable of being judgmental all by themselves. The same holds true for market venues (traditional v. indie), other writers and their works; writers can weigh the merits of the written word without the need to consult you or your chosen model of literary standards.

6--Occasionally a writer will give away some of their work. It is called advertising, and does not violate the idea that writers should be paid for their hard work.

7--It is easier to find a new client than convince an existing client to pay a writer more; this is especially true if the writer started out by giving away some of their writing in order to gain a few bylines and portfolio items. It is not heresy for a writer to move onto more monetary rich pastures.

8--A writer is always working, even when it looks like they are playing computer games. Napping, gardening, and talking on the phone are also working on projects. Some of the best writing occurs while loading the dishwasher or taking a shower. The writer's work starts in their brain, and grows long before it is committed to paper or pixels.

9--A writer is capable of ignoring dirty floors and mountains of moldy dishes; such things are not visible in the world of forms and forces that their mind works in.

10--Writers can be driven to the keyboard by the lack of rent and cat food money. This is not prostitution of their talents; it is survival. If a writer could find a rich patron, they would be quite happy to never to write adcopy or any of the less-savory forms of writing ever again...provided that the less-savory forms did not give them a challenge.

11--Writers can play the same song over and over a thousand times without noticing that others are being driven crazy by it. In fact, the same song being repeatedly played may be essential to their writing process.

12--All writers write something that they do not admit to writing.

13--Pen-names, deadlines, and editors are just tools to help a writer be able to write more.

14--A writer's routines are holy, and necessary to compel their Muse to show up. The most valuable routine is quiet time at a keyboard.

15--Writers consider the details about their characters and worlds to be amorphous. A writer will never allow an inconvenient "established" detail to stand in the way of a good story.

16--Writers tend to collect books, cats, and stray facts.

17--Writers live on unguarded food, especially cookies, chips, and soda.

18--Writers obsess over their sales figures and audience numbers.

19--Writers hate people who expound upon how professional writers do things, especially when the expounder is not a professional writer themselves.

20--Despite popular opinion, writers know that not everyone can write. Likewise, they realize that not everyone can fix a car engine, or do plumbing and electrical work. Writers, being specialists, believe that specialists should be used as needed and paid well for their services.

21--Stories eventually find their audiences. The trick is to be happy with the size of one's audience, and have the skill to be able to grow it as time goes by.

22--The hacks of today are busy producing the works that will be studies in tomorrow's literature classes. Shakespeare was a hack; the proof of this is that he wrote entertainment for the masses--even more damning is the fact that he was doing it for money. A successful writer embraces being a hack.

23--Writers cannot help writing. A writer who is no longer writing is dead, or at the very least, very, very sick. Writing keeps the monkeys in one's head from screaming too loudly.

24--All writers are mentally ill. After all, all writers lock themselves up to be alone with their imaginary friends.

25--The market for writing is always changing. A successful writer deals with the market as it is, not as it should be. A successful writer has numerous projects going on, and cultivates new venues to sell their work in.

26--A successful writer needs a strong ego and well-established personal boundaries. They must be able to turn down work that does not help their career, and be able to defend their schedule and mental health from those who want to rob them of their limited time and sanity.


TsarAndrew said...

Good stuff!

I think my biggest pet peeve as a writer is people who say "I'm a writer," and when you ask them what they write about, they say, "I haven't written anything yet, but I'm planning on a short story collection."

S. J. Reisner || Audrey Brice || S. Connolly said...

Love #23 and #24. Was laughing my arse off.

@TsarAndrew -- Oh that is one of my pet peeves, too! So many people think they're writers by the mere virtue that they want to write or like the idea of writing. Who else does that? I've never met a plumber who says they're a plumber simply because they plan on doing some plumbing some day. Or even a painter who calls themselves a painter by virtue that they may some day paint something. This is only something people say about writing. Everyone thinks they're a writer just by saying they are. After all, they've got ideas. (Yeah, who doesn't?)