Friday, September 19, 2008

Artistic Anguish

Many writers say you have to write every day.

That's BS.

"Write when you can" is a good rule of thumb for newbie writers trying to break in, or those who have busy lives and need to micro-manage their time.

My personal motto is: "Write before it's due."

I don't believe in muses, any more than I believe in writer's block. I heard a fellow writer once say, "No one ever gets farmer's block." I agree. If your job is to be creative, performing on cue is a must.

And please don't overplay your own importance.

A famous writer once said, "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you."

She didn't ask for comments, but I'd offer, "Being trapped in a burning car seems a bit worse."

Writers tend to do two things really well: whine and inflate their own importance.

Who was that famous guy who spent an entire day anguishing over a semi-colon placement? Am I the only one who thinks this is ridiculous? And we're supposed to look up to him as some sort of ideal for artistic integrity?

Tell you what--spend two minutes fretting over the punctuation mark, then spend the other eight hours of the day volunteering at a soup kitchen. Then you'll have my admiration.

Writing IS NOT HARD. Laying bricks is hard. Curing disease is hard. Fighting in a war is hard.

Writing is sitting on your butt and stringing words together.

And what's with these writers who think all they have to do is write? They really, truly believe it is a publisher's job to sell the books, and all they have to do is turn in a decent manuscript.

Look, I'm the first person to admit that self-promotion is expensive, exhausting, time-consuming, and difficult. I'd much rather sit in my house and write books instead of doing all the travelling, lecturing, signing, and Internet busywork that currently occupies most of my professional life.

But name any other job that is 100% fun. Tell me who loves every second of their 9 to 5 day.

Imagine an executive saying, "It's not my job to take meetings" or a chef who insists "I won't cook vegetables."

Here's a shout out to all of my writing peers: We're entertainers. We're the folks who tap dance on the street corner for money. We should consider ourselves lucky to have this job, and be willing to do whatever we can to keep this job.

Save the drama for that journal your kids will throw away when you die, and realize how good you really have it.

And the next time you think that writing is hard, or that you don't want to self-promote, or that your precious words are the most important objects in the world, gimme a holler. I'll stop by with some matches and a can of lighter fluid and I'll help you readjust your priorities.