Okay, this is gonna be one of those rants, so you’ve gotten your warning upfront. Things might get nasty, and they will very likely get blue. You can read on, you can go do something else, or your can watch this video of Yamamura Sadako–aka, the original version of Samara Morgan–throw the first pitch at a baseball game. Watch it, and die seven days later. You’re welcome.
Also, there is a particular reason for the title, and that reason has very little to do with taxation. It’s a metaphor, more or less, and I’m more interested in writing that discussing the evils of taxation. Just so you know: I’ve read my Milton Friedman (as well as John Kenneth Galbraith), I’ve read For a New Liberty, and I’ve been a member of The Libertarian Party. Take notice of the past tense declarations in that last sentence, and keep in mind I’m just like Liz Ten: ”I’m the bloody queen, mate. Basically, I rule.” I will lop off heads.
That said, onward.
I love reading Chuck Wendig over at Terrible Minds. He’s funny; he’s rude; he’s sometimes very profane, but in a funny way; he’s right when he says the people at Fox News simply make shit up. The thing I like about him most, however, are his “25 Things” lists that he offers up to other aspiring penmonkeys who want to be writers, opining upon what he’s learned over the years. When you read those lists, you know he’s been there. You know he’s suffered, even if the way he says he’s suffered somehow involved tequila and a $10 hooker while he was trying to make a deadline, but the suffering is still there on the blog.
One of the things Chuck goes on about, at length, is the fact that you gotta have a hell of a lot of discipline to write. And there’s a reason for that, but I’m not ready to go there, not yet. I know of what he says, because I’ve worked on that very same issue. A year ago at this time I was a mess. I talked about writing, but I was doing jack-little of it. Lots of talk; very little of putting the characters on the screen sort of thing.
Now, a quick divergence here . . .
While I may have a lot of opinions, I’m pretty much not about getting into people’s faces and casting those opinions their way. Part of the reason is I can go on for hours about something, ’cause I don’t do soundbites very well. If I have something to say, I’ll say it, and I’ll get into all the various reasons for saying it.
I try not to be a bad guy about things: a lot of times I’ll hear something that’ll make me cringe and I’ll not say anything, either in person or online, but in my head I’m banging my head upon the desk, search for sharp objects to ram into my eyes. I mean, if I responded to every comment I came across that I didn’t like, I’d be on the Internet all day long. Oh, wait . . .
Anyway, I’m not about confrontation–unless my bullshit meter gets pegged. Then I’ll usually say something.
The other day I was speaking to someone, another writer, about–well, writing, what else? Said writer struggles with a busy life, as do many of us. I get that part, and I generally don’t get up on my dead horse about that.
No, it was the other things they were saying that was making me grind my teeth into dust.
See, when I was discussion how important it was to get into certain habits with writing, every so often there would be this comeback: ”I’m not very big on that.” Fine and dandy. Only a few days before there was another discussion about something I do in writing, and the comment was, “I don’t handle that well.” Or, a few days before that, the answer to one of my suggestions was, “I don’t do that.”
In fact, during one conversation a week before, I was hit with variations of those comment four times in the course of about forty-five minutes. That led not only to a great deal of headbanging, but to a conversation with My Muse over why some writers are that way.
Let me be clear: I have sat in that same seat. I have thrown out every excuse there is about why I’m not writing. I’ve run them many a time on other people, and I’d done so for decades. And I continued to call myself a writer while, as I mumbled out of the other side of my mouth, I was mentioning why I wasn’t actually, you know, writing. And I’ve paid for that inaction. Truly, I have paid.
But I’ve also learned, and I’ve taken those lessons to heart. Because I have those lessons in my heart, it bothers me to see others fall into the same pit I’ve crawled out of–like a mule, if you believe one of my fans.
So, being as tactfully as possible, I told them they were spending an awful lot of time bitching about not being able to write, while at the same time complaining about how some of the things they could do to help them write, they just didn’t, you know, “handle well”. And that they need to do something about that later thing.
I didn’t say it to hurt; I said it to help.
I have my disciplines these days. I get up and blog first thing in the morning. Right now it’s 7:30 in the morning on Saturday, but I started this sucker about 45 minutes ago, and it’s taken me this long to come up with something short of one thousand words because of “distractions”. During the week, I rip off my post before I go to work, which means I usually start between 5:00 and 5:30 AM, and crank out a minimum of 500 words in thirty to forty minutes.
I do that because I have gotten into the habit of writing. I do this blogging thing because, to take a partial quote from Neil Gaiman, “(Y)ou’re still putting one damn word after another and learning as a writer.” Being creative at anything is a process of learning, and the more you learn, the better you get.
Like it or not, if you want to learn these truths, you need to take the freakin’ time to do so. That often means finding a way to fit some time into your schedule, and while it’s not always an easy thing, it can be done. Talk last night for me: I get home from the Job, return to The Undisclosed Location, packed up the computer, drove for about two hours and forty minutes back to the Real Home, had something to eat, unpacked the computer, unwound a little, watched Real Time on HBO–then, at 10:00 PM, I started editing the last chapter of Couples Dance. I was tired, because I was up at 4:15 AM CST yesterday, and nine hours at work followed by a one hundred and fifty mile drive does very little to help you get on top of your game.
But that last chapter wasn’t going to edit itself, so I slipped on my big girl boy shorts and got to work. It wasn’t a long chapter–about 1,500 words, but when I was finished I’d cleaned it up nicely, and even added another 315 words to the story. And I was done, finished, fin. Then I saved the story, then saved all that off to an external drive, then posted my status on Facebook–because I am all about promoting myself when it comes to writing–and then I went to bed, just a little past 11:00 PM.
And I was up once more at 5:30 AM today, once more here at the computer, ready to go again. Writing, as I am now, a few hours later.
You wanna learn, you gotta take the time. Time equals you gotta sit at the goddamn computer and tap away at keys in order to get those pretty words to appear on the screen in a way that makes sense, and that means you gotta do it every day if you want to get better at the craft.
Oh, sure: take time off on your birthday and Christmas like Stephen King does, while remembering that he spends the rest of the year in his office writing a few thousand words every day–and at one time his office was a furnace/laundry room in a trailer, and his desk was a board he laid across his knees so he’d have a place to set his manual typewriter. Yeah, good times. But you gotta tap those keys, or put a writing tool to paper. You gotta do it.
You have to teach yourself to sit and write. You have to develop the discipline to do this every day. You have to, you have to, you freakin’ have to! And it’s not just teaching yourself to write. You want to teach yourself character development; you want to teach yourself how to plot a story; you want to each yourself how to edit; you want to teach yourself the fine art of taking your story and format it correctly so when you turn it into an ebook someone with a Nook or Kindle will be able to read it when they buy it off the Internet.
You wanna call yourself a writer? Anyone can do that. There’s hundreds of people all over the ‘net that are saying, “Oh, I’m a writer. I did something . . . well, that was thirty years ago, and I’ve been working on my last novel for fifteen years now–yeah, I’m a writer.” That was me last year. I wuz uh rightur. I’d done a few things, and I’d posted them to the Internet, and I’d been working on my novel for twenty years–
Then I started writing.
I started writing in little spurts, but I did it every day. I set goals. I gave myself daily word counts to meet. I got encouragement from people I knew. I let others read what I was producing. I got tools to help with my craft. I learned. I started blogging every day because it gave me a chance to work my imagination in a way that would help me develop my writing chops–hey, trying coming up with a new title every day. Don’t think that’s hard? Give it a try.
When it came time to self publish, I read up on how to format an ebook so it’ll can be accepted for distribution to Nook and Kindle. That took a little work, but I figured out how to do it. I didn’t go, “I CAN’T DO THIS, IT’S TOO HARD!” I got in there and spent a couple of days playing and working. First time in, the Smashwords meatgrinder ate my 24,000 word book–and accepted it two minutes later. A few days later I was in Premium acceptance, no errors.
It can be done.
I know it’s easy to say, “I don’t do that very well.” Hell, I’ve done it a great deal myself. And it very easy to do with writing. But there’s one thing you should always keep in mind when you’re writing:
Are you write for the hell of it? Or are you writing because this is what you want to do for the rest of your life?
Because if you’re doing it for the rest of your life, then it becomes your job. And jobs are not always easy. I’ve programmed computers for 25 years, and I understand how hard that can be, and how intimidating it seems to others. But anyone can do it.
You just have to learn.
So what is my ultimate goal? It’s the title.
One day–maybe next year, maybe the year after–I’m gonna be filling out my 1040. I’m going to put down all the pertinent information about who I am and what I do. And when it comes to that section of the tax form that says, “Occupation,” I want to enter the following word:
Nothing else, just that. I want to be able to say, “Ya see that number down there, the one that say how much I made this last year? I did all that writing.”
I shouldn’t say it’s my only goal, but ultimately, it’s one of the things I want to do. Correction: it’s one of the things I will do.
How about you?
I’ve said plenty: about 2,125 words so far. I hope it’s helped and not pissed off too many people. Writers tend to do both, you know.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I need to spend some time looking for publishers.
These stories won’t publish themselves.