In today’s Journal
* Quote of the Day
* An Experience Shared
* Ask Yourself — Are You a Writer?
* An Afterthought
* Of Interest
Quote of the Day
“[W]orking in the arts requires a very specific sort of attitude. … It’s a combination of optimism and pragmatism, with a bit of cynicism mixed in.” Kristine Kathryn Rusch
An Experience Shared
Hey, folks, if you haven’t yet, do yourself a favor and read Anitha’s comment on yesterday’s post at https://hestanbrough.com/the-journal-learning-the-craft-revisited/#comments.
UPDATE: Anitha commented a second time before I could finish writing today’s Journal entry (grin). So be sure to read both her comments.
She took the time to write and post the comment specifically “in the hope that it will benefit someone.”
I responded briefly to her comment, but she also mentioned that her “mind is filled with all sorts of needless fears,” which she posed as questions. I’ll respond to those here:
“Why do I write sad stories?”
Because you write what your characters are living, and sometimes their story is draped with sadness.
“Why did I write a story that made someone sad?”
Maybe they were in the mood to be sad because of something that happened in their life. Or maybe that part of the story paralleled or reminded them of something that happened in their life. You are responsible only for your intent, not for someone else’s perception or reaction. And if you’re only writing what your characters give you, then you “intend” nothing. (More on this later.)
“I should only write happy stories from now on.”
Don’t “should” on yourself, and don’t allow anyone else to either. Just enjoy the escape of recording your characters’ stories.
“Maybe I should write happily-ever-after romances.” (I don’t even read mainstream romance, though I enjoy fantasy romance or historical romance.)
Maybe, but you “should” write whatever your characters give you. You are their recorder. If they give you romance (or any other genre) and happily ever after, enjoy it. If they give you romance (or any other genre) and tragedy or comedy, enjoy it. Your job isn’t to place limits on your characters or choose their stories. Your job is to record what they give you.
“If I write tragedies, no one will want to read my next book.”
If you DON’T write tragedies, you will disappoint all the people who read your story and enjoyed it.
Ask Yourself — Are You a Writer?
If so, the question is never WHAT you should write. What you write is literally not important. It’s only a story, only a few minutes’ light, dark or mixed entertainment for the chance reader who chooses to read it. It’s no more important than that.
If the story happens to have more than a transient impact (positive or negative) on the occasional reader, well, good for that reader. No doubt that is partially due to your skills as a writer, but by and large it has nothing to do with you. Primarily the way a story strikes a reader is the result of the reader’s cumulative life experiences.
As an aside, I felt wonderful when a woman emailed to say my short story “Old Suits” was the best she’d ever read and that it reminded her of Hemingway. (I didn’t like it much when I finished it, and I almost didn’t publish it.) But her enjoyment of it didn’t change the good, bad, or indifferent opinion of others who did read it. My reaction? “Thank you.” Then I wrote the next story. And the next. And the next.
If you’re a writer and/or if you want to be a writer, what’s important is THAT you write. Because just as real plumbers, carpenters, electricians, mechanics and all other professional tradespeople practice their trade, writers write.
In her comment, Anitha also mentioned that she’d written a new final chapter for the reader who complained about the tragic ending. That’s fine. But I wonder whether she also published that new ending. If she didn’t, I hope she will. Because both of those are her characters’ story.
If she does, she will have two versions of the same story out there: the original and the longer but “lighter” version with the new ending.
As for continuing as a writer and writing more stories, Anitha and us all have only to sit down at the keyboard, take a deep breath, and remember our role. We are the recorder of our characters’ stories.
And really, that’s a pretty big responsibility, recording someone else’s story without allowing our own thoughts to intervene.
Talk with you again soon.
See “Business Musings: How Writers Fail (Part One)” at https://kriswrites.com/2022/05/11/business-musings-how-writers-fail-part-one-2/. (Thanks to Anitha for the reference.)
See “The Moncada Barracks Attack” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/the-moncada-barracks-attack/. A reminescence for some, history for others.
See “Sixty-Two Percent of NY Freelance Workers…” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/sixty-two-percent-of-ny-freelance-workers-report-never-being-paid-for-work-performed-says-new-survey/. Posted mostly so you can see PG’s take.
Disclaimer: In this blog, I provide advice on writing fiction. I advocate a technique called Writing Into the Dark. To be crystal clear, WITD is not “the only way” to write, nor will I ever say it is. However, as I am the only writer who advocates WITD both publicly and regularly, I will continue to do so, among myriad other topics.