The Journal: An Experience Shared

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

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.

An Afterthought

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.

Of Interest

See “Business Musings: How Writers Fail (Part One)” at (Thanks to Anitha for the reference.)

See “The Moncada Barracks Attack” at A reminescence for some, history for others.

See “Sixty-Two Percent of NY Freelance Workers…” at 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.

2 thoughts on “The Journal: An Experience Shared”

  1. Harvey, you are truly a blessing! Thank you, thank you for sharing your words of wisdom! I have printed your post and taped it to the wall in front of my writing machine. Your point-by-point answers to all those questions that were swirling in my head have quelled the Critical Voice. And when it rears its head again, all I need to do is look up and read your post again.

    You truly are my mentor from afar. I only hope to keep writing for long enough so that one day I too may be able to encourage another lost writer! And yes, I do plan to release the additional chapter, first to my newsletter subscribers, and eventually publish the longer work as another version of the book. I can’t thank you enough for such an enlightening and uplifting discussion! 😀

    • You’re very welcome, Anitha. Thanks for being so open so others, including myself, might also learn.

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