In today’s Journal
* Quotes of the Day
* Topic: Some Thoughts on Writing and Writers
* Of Interest
Quotes of the Day
“Writers, of course, make the worst enemies.” Emily Temple (Appropos of nothing—I just like the quote.)
“Writing is a joy. … If it’s not, something is wrong with the process. … For those who are mired in the ‘sweat equity’ of writing, please, for now, consider your approach and your attitude—and try something completely different.” Dan Baldwin in “Sweating Blood And Now For Something Completely Different”
Topic: Some Thoughts on Writing and Writers
My apology in advance for a very long post.
As I wrote yesterday, I understand the world doesn’t work the same way for everyone. It’s easiest to simply say all writers are different and move on.
It’s also fair to say I really don’t care how anyone else writes. What difference can it possibly make to me? In fact, if it takes another writer a year to outline, workshop, revise, rewrite and polish a novel that’s in any way similar to mine, that’s less competition for the 10 to 20 novels I’ll turn out in the same year. Shrug.
But I like to share with others what works for me, so here I am. If you’d like to know what works for me, go to the Search box in the sidebar on the website and enter Writing Into the Dark, then click Search. You might also check for posts on Cycling. You can also still email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and request the complete archives of this Journal in PDF, which are also searchable.
If you haven’t tried my process, I recommend it, naturally. The beauty of writing into the dark is that there is no risk. How can there be? You can try it. If it works for you, it will open up a whole new world you never knew existed. And if it doesn’t work for you, well, then you can easily go back to how you used to do things. No downside.
However, I can attest that among writers I know who have trusted the process and honestly tried WITD, none have returned to outlining, revising, rewriting, etc.
That said, I understand that not everyone can simply choose to believe in themselves or even in the knowledge they’ve assimilated. Or even believe they actually assimilated the knowledge in the first place.
Not everyone can attain that level of trust in themselves. It’s a true testament to our educational system that so many believe so fervently in all that they can’t do.
The inability to trust in one’s own abilities as a writer is so rampant and so normalized that even human beings who have been wildly successful in other endeavors are stopped cold when they first attempt to write something so unimportant as a short story or novel.
If my old acquaintance is still reading this, I submit that the flooring store you started from scratch and built into a multi-million dollar business was actually important. You risked everything to provide for your family. Yet you find it impossible to believe you are capable of writing a 3,000 word short story, which is no more important than a few minutes’ entertainment, without enlisting the help of critique partners.
Or the other acquaintance who was a successful heart surgeon for over thirty years. Again, an endeavor that was actually important and that produced an end product that was important. You literally held dozens of human lives in your hands and saved most of them. Yet you really believe you’re completely incapable of providing something as unimportant as a few hours’ entertainment by writing a novel. Because all your life you’ve been told (mostly by non-writers) that you can’t.
In most endeavors, success breeds confidence that we can accomplish anything we set our mind to. A person who’s wildly successful at any endeavor probably will be equally successful at anything else about which s/he is passionate.
Well, except telling stories. You know the drill. Sight-unseen, all first drafts are garbage. To write a “good” novel you must outline first, then write it, then consult critique groups and so-called developmental editors for their input, then revise and rewrite and polish (and eventually your unique, original voice is erased).
I’ve even seen in guidelines for a particular (now-defunct, I hope) magazine that a submission must have endured at least 10 rewrites before it will be considered for publication. (How they can discern the number of times a piece has been rewritten is beyond me.)
But as I said, I do understand why so many succumb to this inanity. It’s much easier and safer to accept that we are incapable of creating anything of substance with our eerie, mysterious creative subconscious—
than it is to climb onto a roller coaster and plunge off into the darkness without a clue as to what’s coming!
But I get it. The prospect of working without a safety net is frightening, especially after being taught practically all our lives that we need that safety net.
It’s also much easier and safer and more self-gratifying to buy into the BS that being a writer is a special calling of some kind. It’s much easier to follow the crowd, to take the long, hard route of controlling every word, every action, and every event from an authorial ivory tower with a solid, thick stone floor under your feet and a luxurious robe and mantle adorning your shoulders.
Even your own conscious, critical mind goes along with the crowd. It will tell you at every turn that the story you’re writing lacks this or that, that it’s no good by comparison to so-and-so but that a pair of “fresh eyes” could help you “fix it,” intimating that there’s something wrong with it in the first place. And there isn’t.
But again, I understand. After all, the primary function of the conscious mind is to protect you. And it will protect even your self-esteem, though it must do so at the cost of your, er, self-esteem. It will strive to keep you from suffering rejection and embarrassing yourself with a piece of published writing by telling you, repeatedly, that what you’re writing is no good. How’s that for circular reasoning?
If you insist on writing, the conscious mind will insist you don’t finish. It will whisper, “It’s been done before,” or “It isn’t worth finishing. Nobody will read it anyway,” and so on.
And if you DO finish writing a story or novel, your conscious mind will insist you don’t submit it for publication or publish it yourself. Because again, “There are a million others out there just like it and they’re all better than yours,” or “There are only X number of plots in the world and they’ve all been told,” or even “Maybe you should stick it in a drawer for a week or a month.” Yeah. Or forever.
Both the conscious, critical mind and the creative subconscious have been characterized as being a “small, quiet voice.” Actually, the more you resist it, the louder the critical voice becomes. But there’s one other very important difference between the two voices:
Only the voice of the conscious, critical mind is ever negative, and it’s always negative. The voice of the creative subconscious is always positive.
Okay, so what if you’re determined to fight off your critical voice and have fun writing fiction? What if you want to see what writing fiction is really all about? (It really isn’t about endless labor and drudgery.)
As I wrote earlier, it’s easier to follow the crowd, to don the authorial robes and ascend into an ivory tower from which you control every aspect of the story. Honestly, it’s far more difficult to do what I’m about to recommend:
Drop the air of self-importance and the authorial robes in a heap on the floor. Then slip into a t-shirt, a pair of jeans, and sneakers and decide to just have fun telling a story.
Once you get that far, it’s a little easier to catch your breath in a stifled gasp as you step off the parapet into the trenches of the story. And it’s an absolute blast to race through those trenches with your characters. That’s when you’re really close to freeing yourself and fulfilling your potential as a writer. Just remember that they, not you, are living the story. It’s their story. In your story, you’re sitting at a keyboard. Now you only have to trust your characters. Write down what happens and what they say and do.
But what if you fail? What about the consequences? After all, nothing that is so much fun can happen without consequences.
The thing is, you can fail as a fiction writer only if you don’t write, or if you write but you don’t publish. And in either case, nothing at all happens. Hence, no consequences. You go on with your life, and your would-be readers enjoy the work of some other writer, one who was willing to take the risk.
Ironically, in writing fiction, there are consequences only for success. But really, even then, what consequences?
Acceptance or rejection—those are the perceived consequences, and if you publish through any venue they are unavoidable. But the keyword here is perceived. The consequences aren’t real.
Once a book is published (and given that it has a good cover and well-written sales copy), some readers will buy it and others won’t. Of those who buy it, some will love it, most will like or abide it, and some won’t like it at all. So there are two extremes:
1. If someone loves your story, so what? They won’t throw you a parade. And if you’re a writer, really you shouldn’t even notice. Probably you should learn something new about the craft and get on with writing another story.
2. And if somebody hates your story, again so what? The world won’t come to a screeching halt. And again, if you’re a writer, you shouldn’t even notice. Probably you should learn something new about the craft and write another story.
The writer’s job is to write, not to judge writing. The writer is the worst judge of his/her own work, remember? The thing is, that adage is as true when you think your work is horrible as it is when you think your work is good.
So write, submit or publish, and let the readers decide. Then write some more. No matter how you choose to do it.
Talk with you again soon.
See “Playing on Hard Mode” at https://fs.blog/brain-food/january-23-2022/. Especially scroll down to “Tiny Thought.”
See “The Eyes Have It” at https://killzoneblog.com/2022/01/the-eyes-have-it.html. Mostly for the example descriptions.
See “2022 could be a turning point in the study of UFOs” at https://www.space.com/2022-turning-point-study-ufos-uap. Possible story ideas.
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.