why I write

4 Simple truths to keep you on track

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Being an author is, in many ways, strange.  You’d think it would simple; you write down what’s in your head, and after tidying it up and obeying all the normal ‘rules of good writing’ you publish it.  Physically that’s all you have to do and it’s easy, but there are all sorts of emotions that go with being a writer, and they often seem to be at opposite ends of the extreme.

On the one hand, you are happy and fulfilled that you have managed to create something tangible from something so abstract.  Thoughts, feelings and ideas have become a physical thing you can hold in your hands, and that’s amazing.  Then you have disappointment that people aren’t falling over themselves to read it, that people aren’t as amazed by it as you are, and that they don’t gush over it all the time.

Sometimes, other emotions come in and mix everything up and you have turmoil for a while.  Sometimes you feel like giving up and never writing again, other times you wonder what planet everyone else is on because they can’t see what a magnificent and world changing creation you’ve just brought into being.  As an author, you will experience them all, you will swing through the whole arc of these emotions, and many others.  The trick is to keep a few basic truths at the forefront of your mind.

Motive Why do you write?  There is only one right answer to this question, and unless you give the right answer, you will never be at peace with your life as an author.  The right answer is, “because I have to.”  If you answer that you want to make money or get famous, impress your friends, or because it’s therapy for you, then my advice is simple; stop writing.  Writing to get rich just will not work.  Yes you may make a little but you won’t make a long lasting income from this type of writing.  There are many of this type of writer out there; just think of those times when famous books have come out, such as 50 shades, Harry Potter etc.  The moment these came out, there were suddenly thousands of people out there suddenly writing erotica or young adult fantasy.  This is bandwagon writing, and any success will be short, sharp and temporary.  Flashes in the pan go out of fashion even quicker than they come into fashion, and when they drop off the radar, you will go with it and believe me, readers have very short memories.  You will be forgotten very quickly when everyone  has jumped  onto the new bandwagon, whatever that may be, and any income will dry up.  Bandwagon writing doesn’t have the staying power necessary to ensure you slowly but surely gain a steady and loyal following for your work, which is solid, dependably good quality, and true  to the genre you were meant to write in, which tends not to be the one that is the latest fad.  If you know in your bones that you need to write historical drama, then don’t write erotica, fantasy or any other of the latest fashion, (unless of course the latest fashion happens to be historical drama).  If you write true to way your brain and soul are wired, your work will have that spark of authenticity that will be missing from anything you churn out just because it’s fashionable at the moment and you want to make a few quid.

Perspective It really doesn’t matter if you don’t get rich or famous.  If you write with the proper motive, then your goal will be to produce an excellent quality work that anyone who reads will enjoy.  Making money or becoming well known, should not be part of your goals, as they detract from producing top quality work.  Those goals produce lower quality work that is churned out quickly, is often much shorter in length, (many bandwagon authors typically write books less than 40k words), their covers are the same as all the others and badly produced, and the work itself is just dead boring and badly edited to boot.  Of course there are good quality books and stories of less than 40k words, in case anyone is thinking of sending me dog turds through the mail, but many of the bandwagon authors write short stuff.  This is because they aren’t writing true to the write genre for them, and therefore they can’t find adequate creativity to make it longer.  Another reason is so they can churn out more stuff, more quickly and keep their name out there.  Once you let go of the desire to get rich and famous, and concentrate all of your focus on just writing top quality stuff in the right genre for you, the quality of your ideas will go up tremendously.  If you want to be sure of making money writing, join a newspaper.

Originality This is really joined at the hip with motive.  Jumping on any bandwagon will not allow you to be original in your creativity, because the need to churn out the same stuff all the time prevents you from being able to let your mind wander where it really wants to.  There are only so many ways to write about vampires, zombies, dragon riding knights of old and cheap sex, and it all  becomes old very quickly.  Be original, write something new that no one has yet thought of and you can be the trendsetter rather than a wagon rider.  It’s much more fun writing something totally new, than churning out the same boring shit everyone else is churning out just because you all want to make some money.  Forget the money and write something that’s in your soul, no matter if it’s fashionable or not.

The Tough Question This one is simple; do you actually have the talent to write?  If the only way you can produce anything at all, is if you follow the crowd and produce the same 20k erotica that everyone else is producing, but the thought of writing a 100k science fiction or historical drama, crime drama, epic fantasy etc horrifies you and makes your mind go blank and flaccid, then you’re probably not cut out to be a writer.  Be truthful when answering the tough question, and if you discover you’ll not likely to make a writer as long as your asshole points downwards, take a deep breath and find something else to do that you are capable of doing well, do it to the best of your ability, and be better than anyone else at it.  There are far too many people trying to be writers, who aren’t writers of quality and who really shouldn’t be doing it.  Don’t be a mediocre flash in the pan who is quickly forgotten when the fashion changes, do what you are good at and excel at it.

These four simple truths, if answered correctly, will help keep you focussed during the down times when your emotions are taking a dip.  When you haven’t made a sale in a few weeks and feel worthless, remember these truths, answer them again and get your focus back on track.  Treat them like a self inflicted kick up the backside when you need it most and they will help you move away from all the wrong mindsets that try to misdirect you on your path, whether that path be as a writer or not.

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Novelist

Okay so the title’s a play on words; an adulteration of the title of the famous short story by Alan Sillitoe but this blog was inspired by similar feelings to that of Sillitoe’s main character Colin.  In Sillitoe’s story, Colin uses long distance running as a way to cope with the borstal regime he is forced to endure after committing a crime and it helps him to focus his energy and determination in a positive direction.  It’s very similar to what writing does for me.

why I write

 

I haven’t made the best that I could of my life; let’s face it, who does?  I’ve had obstacles like everyone has and some of them have been pretty huge.  I’m autistic, which means I can’t communicate as effectively as most other people when in the physical presence of people.  It also means I don’t ‘get’ signals and can’t give them.  Let me explain about the signal thing as most folks don’t know what I’m on about.  We all give subtle (or not so subtle) signals to each other, body language etc, to communicate on a non verbal level.  Our subconscious mind is expert at reading these signals and this is where our gut feelings about people and their behaviours come from.  One typical form of signal is flirting.  The eye contact, licking the lips, playing with hair etc etc, all those are signals.  People instinctively know how to give them and our subconscious minds expertly read them and we communicate in more ways than just talking.  If I am in a crowded place and I’m watching two people interacting, which I do quite often: people watching is fascinating, I can read their signals to each other with 100% accuracy.  Put me into an interaction and something goes wrong with the process.  I now can’t read the other person’s signals with any accuracy at all and I can’t give accurate ones.  The whole interaction gets fucked up and they can’t wait to get away from this ugly crazy woman.  I long ago gave up trying to overcome this particular obstacle.

I was an abused child, sexually abused and this gives one a very warped sense of what men are, who they are and what my role with them should be.  This was probably the reason I always made the most horrendous choices possible when it came to boyfriends.  Two divorces later and I realised I was never going to get this dating thing right, so I resigned myself to being alone for the rest of my natural.  Don’t get me wrong, I like to look at good looking men.  After all, a thing of beauty is a joy forever, so they say, but I know that I’m neither pretty enough, slim enough, young enough or adept enough at conversation and interaction, to attract one.  I do get lonely but constantly trying and constantly being rejected is more painful than being lonely and unloved.  Believe me, it is.  You take the lesser of two evils when the chips are down and make what you can of it.

These two things combined, meant I grew up an outsider on the fringes of society.  I was always looking in the window but never had the key to the door.  I wanted to be a part of society but at the same time, I knew I never would be and I had years, decades, of anguish over it.  Inside myself I knew I had a voice, with something to say but there was  never anyone to listen or hear it and so what I had to say never got said.  I knew there was something inside wanting to get out but I had no clue how to give it that freedom.  I tried several things as I grew up, drawing, playing guitar (that one lasted a few years until I had to realise I was shit at it), acting (the shortest lived of all), craftwork of various kinds (I still do this one, kind of) but it was always the same.  Whatever I tried as a conduit to get my inner voice out, I was, at best, mediocre and no one listened.

As I grew older and older, I’d make acquaintances who would quickly tire of me and walk away hating the very thought of me (that’s one thing I am good at) and I resigned myself to just being an invisible old person who would one day wither away without fanfare (oh please let that be soon) and the world would carry on as if I’d never been.  Then Vin Diesel got me writing (yes, if you hate my writing, blame Vin as he started it) and suddenly after all these years, my voice had its way out.  It had been so long waiting that on that first night when I began to write, I wrote for 8 hours non stop and finally dragged myself from the computer at 4am knowing I was a writer, a novelist, a science fiction novelist.  I knew it with every fibre of my being and it was wonderful to know I’d finally found my place in the universe.  Now I could give what was inside of me its freedom and that would remain as part of the universal consciousness until the end of time itself.  Now I knew I had a legacy.

That was June 2011, not long ago and although I sincerely doubt I will ever be a famous writer, nor even able to feed myself and pay the bills from it, I feel I am finally fulfilling my life’s purpose.

As I say in the quote above, only via my writing can I achieve all that I failed to achieve, only via my writing can I experience all that I failed to experience and only via my writing will I be, all that I failed to be.

Through writing with my characters I can be strong, courageous, fearless, popular, funny, beautiful and loved.  So long as I write, I can be them, live their lives on their worlds, feel their feelings and be a part of the universe at last.

That is why I write, why I will always write.  Without writing, I had no life and without continuing to write, I will have no life.  I am still the outsider but for a moment, when I am with my characters, I’m someone else, somewhere else and I’m smiling.