When I sit down to write these posts, I never know what they’ll be about beforehand. It’s a first-thought-that-hits-me-stream-of-consciousness sort of thing. Sometimes they’re on point, other times they meander a bit, but as stated in the About This Blog section, the posts are less about me attempting to appear clever or knowledgeable (what are the odds, really?), and more about getting myself into a proper writing frame of mind with a warm up exercise. Mental calisthenics, if you will.
As you might imagine, it doesn’t always go to plan. Case in point: the post below. Inspired in part by Susannah Breslin’s Forbes article, Why You Shouldn’t Be A Writer, and Martin Levin’s, You Suck And So Does Your Writing–which is more about petty squabbles between notable literary figures (how I would have combined the two ideas is anyone’s guess)–it was meant to be a discouragement piece, you know, separating the wheat from the chaff, and all that, that started out like this:
Of All the Things You Could Do With Your Life, Why On Earth Would You Purposely Choose To Be A Writer?
Don’t worry, it’s not a trick question, but one you should be prepared to ask yourself and answer before undertaking writing in any fashion as a serious profession. Among the more common reasons I’ve come across in my travels are:
1. No commuting and every day is Pajama Friday!
I can’t fault your logic here because commuting is generally a nightmare and what’s better than tooling around your house in a onesie all day long like an agoraphobic superhero? Sadly, it isn’t a good enough reason to want to be a writer, especially since there other telecommuting positions that offer more stability and better chances at becoming a career.
2. What better way is there to make a ton of dough and roll around in my piles of cash?
Well, you could try your hand at playing the lottery or betting the ponies, for starters. Rich writers are the exception to the rule. The majority of people who claim writing as a profession, work their mental fingers to the bone, producing material for years before they even get a glimpse at recognition, let alone a healthy paycheck. Instead of rolling in piles of cash, you’ll most likely be rolling up your coins, praying your landlord accepts pennies for rent.
3. Nothing better than being my own boss with flexible hours!
Flexible hours? Been writing long? Writing is a huge commitment that commandeers your entire life with absolutely no guarantee of any sort of financial gain. As stated earlier, there are other work-from-home opportunities that are far more secure and come equipped with a steady payday. And being your own boss isn’t the sipping Mai Tais under a beach umbrella fantasy you imagine it to be. First off, there’s no one to delegate all the donkey work to, and your brain doesn’t simply punch out when the working day has ended. Writing–and the guilt of not writing–never leaves you in peace until the article/book/screenplay/project has been completed.
4. It would be amazing to see my best-selling book in a bookstore/my script turned into a blockbuster feature film/win the Pulitzer Prize for my groundbreaking article series.
Who wouldn’t want any of those things? While we’re daydreaming, I’d also like to be an astronaut so that I can save the planet from extraterrestrial threats, be the smartest man in any room I’m in so that I can solve all the world’s problems and become Earth President, and build a safe-box time machine–that protects me from any sort of injury–equipped with a high end movie camera in order to jump back and forth in time to make the ultimate series of historical documentaries.
Now that my feet have touched terra firma and I’m once again grounded in reality, I can tell you that while it’s great to dream big, fame is one of the worst reasons to choose writing as a profession.
But the post wasn’t really working for me because I could feel myself getting snarkier as the piece went on, which wasn’t my intent going in. So, I decided to step off my soapbox and kill the post. And there it sat in my trash for days, forgotten like Charlie-In-The-Box, Dolly, Spotted Elephant, and King Moonracer. But it miraculously survived deletion during my numerous trash emptying sessions. This had to be a sign. What sign, I hadn’t the faintest, but I decided to attempt recycling it into a less judgmental, more positive message:
Writers are born critics who will criticize any and everything that crosses their paths, especially fellow writers. They will issue their assessments and commentary with the righteousness of having had their opinions validated by the Mount Horeb burning bush. These are the writers who cut open veins and bleed for love of the craft, whose skulls ring with haunting voices that cannot be silenced until exorcized onto the page, who believe in their heart of hearts that the only words that deserve to be written are the truths that need to be told.
I can’t lie, sometimes I feel the same way.
But I’m not as bothered by it anymore, because I know first hand that the writing process has it’s own way of weeding out the fly-by-night scribblers, posers and pretenders with the obstacles it scatters on the long and winding path to a completed project. Whether your driving force is money, fame. to impress a person/people, burning need, or love of the artform, you will still experience your fair share of procrastination, anxiety, writers block, time crunches, lack of motivation, fear of rejection, judgement of peers, and impatience of selling a piece.
If you can repeatedly bash your head into these walls, get up, dust yourself off and continue to write, who am I to question your motives? That, my friends, is the best I can do fer ya, today.
Sally forth and be writeful.
— Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys
Some of us need your snarkiness more than you realize. It is tough to make your point subtly and gently. Unfortunately, humans need truth to hit us like a baseball bat across the forehead. I am one of those people.
It is so easy to fall in love with the current work in progress. It is easy to tell yourself how cool you are, how the world will love your writing, and imagine the problems of scheduling late night talk show appearances. You know New York today and LA tomorrow. With the current airline schedule it will be much easier to fly on your own private jet. Which has its own problems. You really need a Gulfstream jet to get cross country but it isn’t really suited to make the shorter legs like LA to Vegas or New York to the Hamptons. So then you might need a couple of jets, now you need a flight department with a chief pilot, a couple of line pilots for each jet and a couple of flight attendants. And a ground crew to welcome you, a couple of assistants to arrange transportation, lodging, catering, etcetera.
It is really tough to have problems like that. It is much better to sit in a cubical from 9-5 working for the man.
The sad truth is that if you draw a paycheck for what you do, you’re likely never to be truly out of the evil clutches of The Man. I’ve had many a cubicle job and I even managed to like a few of them. You’ll most likely need a cubey to help make ends meet if you wanna write for a living.
My main reason for scrapping the post originally was I didn’t want to appear that I’m standing on some sort of pedestal thinking I’m more knowledgeable and/or better than anyone reading these posts.
I struggle with the things I write about more often than you might think.
Thanks for the feedback.
Fortunately for my family, their well-being is not derived by my ability to string together words. I would like to think that one day, it would be my sole source of income. But until then, I will keep my night job.
I totally understood what you were attempting to state in this post. I have never thought that you were the type of person to preach to the masses. I think you are the person who is in the foxhole with me. Fighting, struggling and ultimately engaged in the battle for the right to be a published author.
I also think that writing is such a individualistic endeavor that it is often intimating to share thoughts with the world. It is normal to struggle. It is not okay to cower in fear. I hang on every word you write like a little bird being fed by the mom. Please keep the wisdom flowing. I am here to drink it up.
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