CHOOSING A CAREER / SEP. 09, 2014
version 5, draft 5

So You Want to be a Writer?

The First Step: Developing Thick Skin

Wanting to be a writer is strange. It doesn’t happen overnight. And it can be so strangely misunderstood, as most writers have been. You can pour your heart and soul into something and have it critically chopped to pieces. What you worked on for hours, weeks, months or even years can easily be regarded as toilet paper.

In the modern world, where lists and humorous essays keep the masses entertained, the writer has to pick and choose what he or she wants to come of their writing. Do you want to be known as comedic and witty? Serious? Over-zealous? Mad? Will your writing be for a specific audience, a specific purpose? Or will you write to entertain only one person as Vonnegut said?

Or maybe you are one of those that doesn’t really care about how your writing will be received. Which is exactly the kind of attitude, if you are just starting out, that will keep you blind to bad writing.

The Art of Writing

Writing is an art form which cannot be taught. Of course, that doesn’t stop countless people from attending schools ($$$) which promote the learning of the craft. But the only way to learn how to write is to write -- and if your work is not very well-received, then maybe it’s a necessary lesson for the writer to learn, in order to find out what he or she is doing wrong. Also it helps to realize if one can or can’t write.

Editors, publishers and agents will crudely assess what you have written. And if they don’t, if there is no response after you submit a certain piece or query, then you can be sure that what you wrote wasn’t good enough for their tastes.

Then it comes down to the person doing the writing. Will they scrap their rejection and turn it into something with more moxie or will they stubbornly resist what the market is telling them?

This is the first test of your skill and resiliency as a writer. Rejection could define you just as quick and sudden as success. And as you continue to write, it will be revealed to you whether you want to be a writer or not.

Writing is one of the few art forms where you have to continually ask yourself: so you want to be a writer? Sometimes the answer will be a resounding NO. Shit, no. This is hard work. Every day I have to put words together; I have to sit at this machine; I have to battle with endless distractions. And if my work isn’t being received, or if I’m terrible at self-promotion, then I could end up washing dishes for the rest of my life. My god, my parents were right, and so were my exes.

I’m going to starve!

...there will be days like this. But writing is the profession that will guide you through your trials and tribulations unlike any other trade. Once the wheels get spinning again (bad writing) your work will pull you through some of your darkest hours (good writing).

And you can branch out with different forms, writing prose, poems, haikus, novels, novellas, sonnets, limericks, screenplays, hysterical or sappy love letters, short stories, or you could write with oil pastels all over the walls: get me out of this fucking room, let me see the sun, show me what is meant by this journey when I’m no longer having any fun.

Having Fun, Not Taking Yourself Too Seriously

If you ain’t having fun with your writing, then maybe writing isn’t for you. Creation is meant to be fun and invigorating, although it has its painful moments. Just like life and being alive. But the true artist knows that creating -- bringing joy to life -- is what is meant by writing down words. (Or whatever else it is the artist cannot keep from doing.) All of the pain, too, can be released to the page.

If you can fight and strive and keep moving forward, no matter what -- and you are still getting the words out -- then you can ask yourself: do I want to be a writer? Figuratively. Respond truthfully. And you will always come back to the right answer.

This theory might apply to other areas of interest to the reader. But writing is one of the very few solitary endeavors where, if you can’t be alone with yourself, then you might as well keep washing those dishes. Maybe considering a career change might be beneficial.

However, if you can’t stop writing -- if it burns in your gut and you feel yourself aching inside to be alone, to type, to get out whatever it is that is bothering you, whatever it is you have to say, then by all means, do it with your fingers. Do it and don’t be afraid.

Keep in mind that you can’t please everybody with your words. But don’t forget to ask yourself why you write in the first place.

So you want to be a writer? (It’s okay to talk to yourself, internally. In fact, it’s a good sign that you are in possession of a narrative voice that would be better served by getting it out rather than holding it in.)

Ask yourself this question. If you are capable of acting on it, then whatever is waiting for you on the other side can begin to surface and bloom, in the here and now.

Writing is magic. The world needs more magic, and better magicians.


Image Sourced: Hank Moody

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