The Most Beautifully Awful Writing Advice Ever

Recently I was introduced to a gorgeous poem by the late Charles Bukowski called “so you want to be a writer?”

Here’s a small exert:

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter
searching for words,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or
fame,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.
if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
don’t do it.

You can read the poem in it’s entirety here of you could listen to a reading of it here.

It’s beautiful, right? Inspiring, powerful—something you would want to make a wall decal out of to impress your friends at dinner parties.

It’s also very, very, very, very, very, very wrong.

In fact, it’s difficult to recall anything that I’ve read that has been so astronomically wrong about writing.

Don’t misunderstand me, when he’s talking about writing for fame and fortune and sex he’s totally on the mark. Precious few writers reach the level of world-wide recognition and if you only want to write for accolades then you clearly don’t have what it takes to succeed in this craft. However, he also says–

“if you have to sit there and rewrite it again and again/don’t do it”

and

“if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it/don’t do it.

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Uhhhh….I don’t know a single solitary person, good writer or bad, who does not struggle with sitting down and writing.

I also do not know a single solitary person who has never had to suffer through a rewrite.

You know, because first drafts are dumpster fires of confusion and poor grammar.

For those of you who are fans of Charles Bukowski , did he not rewrite any of his poetry? My education on the man is lacking so that’s entirely possible. Nevertheless, if it’s true that he didn’t then he is an anomaly.

His poem goes on to say that a person should wait until the fires of passion are so hot  they have no choice but to let them out before writing something.

“if you have to wait for it to roar out of you, then wait patiently/ if it never does roar out of you, do something else.”

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I have had moments where the desire to write something was so powerful that I felt like the story was literally trying to push its way out of me, but I’ll be the first to admit that these moments are few and far between.

If you wait until you feel as if you physically have no choice but to write something, odds are you will never finish anything.

The Inspiration Fairy is a very fickle creature and will oftentimes screw off at random, leaving you with no will to go on.

My favorite quote about inspiration goes as follows “I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”

Courting inspiration is a lot like trying to find a significant other. You can’t just sit around and wait for someone to notice you.

I have found that the best way to attract inspiration is to have a set amount of time each day to write. Believe it or not, the more you write the more inspiration is likely to show up. There have been months where I have struggled to produce anything; however, once I made the decision to write for at least an hour every day, writing started to become less of a drag.

I found myself feeling more and more motivated and my writing began to suck a little bit less.

Better yet I actually started to finish things I started.

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Did that mean I never struggle? Hell no. I’m struggling right now, to be honest. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do it.

Same goes for you.

Struggling isn’t a sign you should quit, it’s simply a byproduct of trying.

And if you aren’t interested in trying then, and only then, would I say–

Don’t do it.

Letting My Friend Break My Kneecaps, or Getting Constructive Criticism

I am happy there is someone who is willing to give me their honest opinion of my work. It can be difficult to a) find someone who is willing to read anything, let alone something I wrote and b) find someone who will not pull punches when it comes to problems with plot, story, characters, etc.

I gave one such friend a manuscript for a short-story/novella I am writing and the response I received went a bit like this:

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My characters:

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Me:

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My friend:

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Okay, in all seriousness, it was for the best. Sure, she wrote a diss track on my story, but none of her critiques stemmed from hatred or toxicity. She even told me she liked the story in spite of its many, many problems. Most of the issues she commented on I had seen for myself and agreed with.

I don’t get writers that won’t take any type of criticism. I’ve had many writing classes and in each there is at least that one person who insists they are the next J.K. Rowling and refuse to believe that anything negative said about their work is be true.

The teacher is just jealous or that editor didn’t “get” the story, etc.

This may be condescending of me, but I have a nagging suspicion most of these writers aren’t going anywhere.

How do you expect to get any better if you don’t even know if you’re doing something wrong? Would it be better if your sky diving instructor didn’t tell you how to properly jump out of a plane?

Having a beta reader is undeniably crucial in my opinion. It’s so much easier to see what elements require further explanation, or which characters need more development.

Everything I type comes from my own head so I have the benefit of all that background information. The reader does not.

That doesn’t mean I’m immune to saltiness when it comes to remarks made against my babies, but I have learned that most thought-out criticisms have merit.

In the end, it’s worth all of the blows to the ego in order for my story to become the best that it can be.

The Third Draft of Redemption

It’s not perfect, but it’s done.

After several long weeks, I finally finished that pesky third draft that has been plaguing my every thought.

Remember how a few posts ago I wrote about how a second draft was like a forest fire? Well, this draft was like trying to put the forest back together after the flames and then attempting to make it look better than it did before getting torched.

I kept rereading my previous draft, wondering how I could possibly repair the damage I had wrought without overdoing.

In some cases, I have been able to fix certain errors in my work, however, the result is that it becomes completely sapped of all personality. Personally, I’d rather have a project that’s zanny and nonsensical than boring.

Luckily, I think this draft is neither A nor B.

It’s adventurous!

It’s full of action!

It’s 68 pages long….!

Crap.

Oh, well. I’ll worry about that later. For now, I will relish in the fact that I have stuck with this project for so long and am planning to see it through to the end. Whatever the fate of my story will be, I will not stop giving it the love and affection it deserves!

The Return of Doubt: a Writer’s Buzzkill

Over the last few weeks, I’ve experienced the most inspiration I’ve had in ages.

There was no climactic moment in my life that ignited this outpouring of expression. For whatever reason the spark just came like a surprise visit from your favorite uncle that you haven’t seen in years.

I resurrected a story I laid to rest several months ago and my blog postings were at record high.

I still have several ideas tucked away in notebooks and my white board. Nonetheless, the sudden burst of urgency to write has vanished.

I have all of these thoughts just waiting to be explored. But when I try to write them, I feel as though I have rushed onto stage without memorizing my lines. There’s a pervasive sense of not belonging in my own head.

I’m waiting for the gun to fire before I make a dash for it. Problem is there is no cue. I’m just waiting at the starting line in my running gear.

It’s safe to assume that it’s back to business as usual. Muse isn’t going to rouse me out of bed or pass along the right words in a pretty wicker basket any longer. It’s back to mulling over paragraphs, habitually cutting and rearranging dialogue. Then, there is the return of my sloven roommate, Doubt.

Doubt gripes about plot holes and leaves crumbs all over my keyboard. He also opens Youtube when I’m trying to work and distracts me with pictures of kittens on Facebook.

I knew that the surge of inspiration wouldn’t last, although I had hoped it would. However, I did enjoy it. I tied many knots with loose threads I had previously left dangling. I wrote down my ideas so I have something to go on now that I’m experiencing a period of post creative binge.

Muse will return to me one day once she grows bored of her other creative lovers. Then we’ll go out, ignoring all other responsibilities and create. Until then, I will attempt to beat away my inhibitions with my laptop and sexy writing utensils.

What’s the Point of Critiquing Published Books?

Recently, a friend of mine posed the question: What’s the point of critiquing published works? It’s already published so it’s not like the author can rewrite it for a better review or something.

Personally, I don’t critique books that often unless the author is dead, or I have something positive to say about the novel.

I  hope to publish a book one day and I don’t believe in making enemies unnecessarily (let’s pretend for my ego’s sake that some important publishing house reads my blog and gives a crap what I think). However, I enjoy reading the critiques of others because I believe they are beneficial to everyone, including the writer.

As my friend pointed out, the writer can’t recall the books that have already been distributed to the masses in order to make rewrites, so it would seem that telling them they screwed up after the fact is a bit pointless.

I would, nevertheless, argue that, while it can’t help the writer with their past work, it could provide some input into what they should avoid doing in future projects.

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Criticism is how people grow as writers. Contrary to popular belief, very few debut novels become best-sellers. Most authors have to learn by seeing what an audience of strangers respond to positively as well as negatively. A friend’s view of a story may be colored by their perspective of the writer, whereas a critic usually has no idea what the author is like as a person and is more likely to judge the book solely on its performance. 

Reading critiques on published works help unpublished authors as well. It’s beneficial to look at the mistakes or successes of predecessors and learn from them. In Stephen King’s memoir On Writing, he mentions an author of a book he read as a young adult that always used the word “zestfully.” Sometimes seeing that even professionals mess up can be encouraging to fledgling writers.

I don’t think I would be half the writer I am today if it weren’t for the millions of critics I’ve watched/read online as well as off. At least the ones that explain why something does or doesn’t work. There’s a difference between crapping on -or giving blind praise to-something and giving an actual critique over it.

There are good critics and bad critics, but I believe there’s something to be learned from them all. Regardless of your stance on a piece of literature, critiques make you think about a story more in depth than you might have otherwise.

Writing Withdrawal

The professionals encourage amateur authors to write at least a little bit everyday. However, some days this is not possible.

Unless you don’t need sleep and operate solely on the power of hopes and dreams.

If I’ve had an idea marinating in my head for a long time, not being able to write it down can make me go stir crazy.

Sometimes I’m tempted to grab a receipt out of my wallet, or take a napkin from my glove compartment to jot down ideas in between red lights.

If I’m truly desperate, I’ll talk to myself in the car.

I’m not crazy.

I’m just fabricating an argument between two people that don’t exist.

If I figure it all out while I’m on the way to my 11:00 o’clock class, maybe it’ll all come together by the time I’m able to sit down at my desk and work.

© Copyright 2011 CorbisCorporation

I’ve constructed a fantasy world for myself wherein I am sponsored by a wealthy aristocrat who lives in an actual medieval castle. He wears a blood red robe complete with pope hat and pays me to live in a fancy loft and write all day. I type on a pristine typewriter and everything I create is amazing.

In reality, I have to go to work and obtain a college degree like everybody else.

Not to mention, I’m lucky if the hour worth of work I’m able to squeeze out of every other day is even going to be in the finished product.

The best advice I can give is to take advantage of whatever you have at your disposal.

Jot down a few words on your note app on your phone while you’re waiting in line.

Use your voice memos app to dictate as you’re driving. It’ll be a pain transcribing (unless you also have an app for that), but at least you’ll have more of an idea of what you want to do.

© Copyright 2015 Corbis Corporation

Always carry a pen and notepad.

Above all else, if you have free time, don’t procrastinate.

You don’t appreciate free time until you don’t have it anymore.

Dear First Draft: a Breakup Letter

Dear First Draft,

Remember how I said I needed some time away to think about our relationship? Well, I’ve given myself some breathing room and I’ve finally come to the conclusion that we should see other people.

I know this must be heartbreaking for you. It’s difficult for me as well. In the beginning, our love burned so brightly. I was completely beguiled by you. I thought you were the most unique snowflake in a snow storm of literature. You were so strong, so smart. I’d even go so far as to call you sexy. But now that I’ve allowed our little fling to cool off, I realize that we can’t maintain this relationship any longer.

Souvenirs of the Wounded by Hugh Shurley

For one thing, you’re more gabby than I remember. In the past I was absorbed by your every word. Each sentence was tailored like a tapestry. You were beautiful and intricate. Now that I’ve reread you, you just dither on pointlessly about scenery and give a bunch of exposition nobody cares about. I don’t know why you thought giving the custodian five pages of backstory was good idea. Considering he only does one thing that has any bearing on the plot, this seems more than a little pointless.

Secondly, you’re unstructured. You don’t know who you are or what you’re doing. You’re like a goldfish with Alzheimer’s. You can’t seem to remember what the main character’s motivations are. Sometimes you’re lucky to remember what day of the week it is. You said it was Friday one day, and then the next day too.

© Copyright 2014 CorbisCorporation

Also, as much as it pains me to say this, your grammar sucks. Seriously, it’s bad. Maybe it was the wine that made me see a comma where a period should have been. Who knows? Perhaps it was my love for you that blinded me to your faults. In the past, I wanted to show you off to everyone. Scream my love for you from the rooftops. Now I want to keep you in a closet where you can’t embarrass me anymore.

This is hard for me to admit, but I’ve been seeing another draft behind your back. I feel horrible about it. Nonetheless, I can’t deny there is more chemistry between he and I than there was with us.

Sure, he has his flaws too. He isn’t quite sure what he wants either, but he doesn’t write “your” instead of “you’re” and he doesn’t talk forever about birds or how much the sun is shining.

I feel like he understands my train of thought more. We’ll be seeing a lot more of each other in the future.

In fact, I think he might be the one.

I know this is difficult for you. But we had fun, didn’t we? It was chaos. It was messy. Nothing made sense. But it was fun.

Though our love has come to an end, I will always remember you. And you will always have a place in my heart…..

And in a desk drawer where you’ll never been seen by another living person again.

Sincerely,

Writer

Why I Love Typewriters

A few weeks ago, I bought an Underwood typewriter at a garage sale for $20.

The S and A keys are almost entirely rubbed out, the keys stick sometimes, and the space bar doesn’t work.

I love it.

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I’m hoping I’ll be able to get it working somehow, but I’m just content to punch the keys and watch as the letters appear on the page in front of me for now

Typewriters have been increasing in popularity among creatives, and it’s easy for me to see why.

“Why would you want to use a typewriter?” you might say. “They’re noisy, heavy, and you can’t delete anything. If you mess up you have to start all over again. Only a dumb hipster would want a typewriter.”

Here’s why you’re wrong:

Typing Is More Enjoyable 

It’s fun for me to type on my Macbook and listen to the click clack noise the keyboard makes. But I can’t deny there’s something infinitely more exhilarating about punching the keys of a typewriter. The ching ching ching sound it produces while you’re keying as well as the inner mechanisms working in tandem with you makes you feel like you and the machine are connected.

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I enjoy using my laptop and it’s many functions, but when they replaced the typewriter with a computer, they left out one key ingredient: intimacy. When you’re working on a typewriter, you can see the process being carried out right before your eyes.

You feel just as vital to the process as the ink and paper indicator.

No Distractions

Some people would say that one of the typewriter’s weaknesses is that it can only type. However, I would argue this is to a creator’s benefit.

In an age where people are constantly bombarded with distractions, it’s never been easier for people to procrastinate. When a character isn’t doing what you want them to do, or plot threads isn’t coming together, it’s so tempting to check your email.

And if you check your email you have to check Facebook.

And if you have to check Facebook then you have to click on a funny Youtube video a friend shared, and etc, etc, etc.

Using a typewriter is like being on a first date with the person you’ve had a crush on for months. Your entire focus is on what is directly in front of you, and what you’re doing. Nothing else matters but the task at hand. 

Brain Exercise

I used to be a good speller, then everything changed when the Word Processing Nation attacked.

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Suddenly, I didn’t have to be a good speller anymore. All our essays were suppose to be typed on a word processor that knew how to spell the word for me. Since my brain found no use in learning proper spelling, I stopped internalizing.

A typewriter actually depends on your own spelling abilities, forcing you to exercise your brain. I’ve noticed this when I’ve written stories out long-hand and it’s definitely applicable to the typewriter. When I spell a word out without the help of spellcheck, it’s strangely liberating.

At least when the robots overlords take over, I’ll know how to spell “acquiesce.”

Low Maintenance

It took me a while to get the typewriter tape I ordered off Amazon to load up into my Underwood, but when I finally hooked it on correctly I felt accomplished.

It could be a pain at times just because I’ve never had to learn to operate this type of machine before. But looking back on it, it’s a lot easier (and less expensive) to try fixing up an old typewriter than an old laptop.

In fact, after a certain point, laptops inevitably crap out and you’re forced to shell out hundred or thousands of dollars to replace it

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Typewriters don’t really have this issue.

All you need are a few parts and it should be good to go.

There are plenty of videos on Youtube that can help you along the way if you’re stuck.

I’m happy with how technology has progressed over the last few decades. I love my laptop and my iPod, and couldn’t operate the same way if I didn’t have my cellphone.

Nonetheless, when you want to unplug from the rest of the world and just create, sometimes the old ways are the best.

10 Things Your Non-Writer Friend Doesn’t Understand

While you are able to enjoy happy and long-lasting relationships with people who have no interest in writing, there are a few aspects involved with your lifestyle that a third party, however beloved, may have trouble wrapping their head around.

1. Why You Can’t Go Out Tonight

It is Friday night and your friend wants to go to dinner or catch a movie. However, you have been mentally mapping out your story in your head while at work and you’re itching to get started on that project, or continue where you left off.

“Why are you being so anti social?” your friend may ask. “It’s not healthy to be cooped up in your room all night when you could be out with your friends.”

You love your friend. You love spending time with your friend. But the writer’s life requires you to make sacrifices. You may want to kick back and just relax, nevertheless, the more you put off writing, the harder it is to get back into the rhythm.

This doesn’t mean you never want to have fun with your friend, it just means sometimes you have to say no if you ever want to get anything done.

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2. Why You Overanalyze Everything

“Why can’t you just turn off your brain and enjoy the movie/TV show/book? Who cares if the villain’s motivation doesn’t make sense, or the romance came out of nowhere? Movies/TV shows/books are suppose to be fun. You’re thinking too much.”

What your friend doesn’t realize is a writer’s mind doesn’t just “turn off.” Asking a writer to stop considering integral story elements is like asking a colorblind person to just see green. You obtain new stories ideas through all your senses, and you study all the different forms of storytelling in the hopes of developing your own style.

You know from experience how hard a creator must toil in order for a story to be told well, so when a writer tries to get away with doing the bare minimum it is frustrating.

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3. Most Writers Aren’t Rich

With superstar authors like J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, and George R. R. Martin raking in the big bucks, your friend would be forgiven for assuming that most successful writers are makin’ dat money. However, you know that even writers who have published many articles and books are usually lucky to make a living wage, let alone get rich. Writing is not a job you should take if you are hoping to afford a condo in Miami. It’s something you should do because you feel like you’d go crazy if you didn’t.

Making a lot of coin would be nice, and money is a necessary evil for survival. However, if you are truly serious about being a writer, it’s not your aim to get rich.

20 Feb 1961, Elizabeth, New Jersey, USA --- Marie Reed of the Federal Savings and Loan Association sits next to a million dollars in cash. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

4. Nothing Is Sacred

Your friend knows you’re a writer, right? So of course they realize if they tell you about the time their uncle paraded around naked in his trailer park with a loaded shotgun singing “I’m A Yankee Doodle Dandy,” it’s going in a story someday, correct? Sadly no. Your friend will not understand. In fact, they will likely be very upset. Writers are like pack rats, continuously searching for interesting nuggets of information to place in their stories to help give them flavor. Truth is usually stranger than fiction, so true-life events are typically the most inspiring. You aren’t sharing your friends intimate moments in an attempt to shame them, you’re doing it to bring your story to life. You can explain this to your friend all day, but it’s unlikely they will see it your way.

Friends Talking While Boy Listens --- Image by © Buero Monaco/Corbis

5. Your Internet History

Writers need to know most things. Not for their own sake, but for their characters’. If their  protagonist is a sociopath with a proficiency in murder, an author must familiarize themselves with common methods used to end a person’s life. They must know the best way to dispose of a body, how long it takes to drown someone, or the various stages a corpse goes through during decomposition. If you’re fantasy writer, it’s prudent to know about various weapons and poisons or herbs that would be used in an age with no technology.  A thriller writer may need to research some of the key components of a bomb. A fellow writer would understand. You’re friend (and possibly Homeland Security), however…well…don’t give them your password.

01 Jan 1976, London, England, UK --- Inspector Jacques Clouseau (Peter Sellers) hides in a trash can in The Pink Panther Strikes Again. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

6. Writer’s Block

Writer’s block is a reality most creatives face. Some symptoms include self-doubt, frustration, and unwillingness to do anything except stare at a blank page and wonder why you couldn’t have become an accountant instead.

You will likely try to explain the depths of your frustration to your friend and they will say something in the vein of “uh huh” like you have spoken in a foreign language they took in high school, but have since forgotten.

To most non-writers, authors are filled with an infinite well of creative juice that squirts on the page with no problem. It’s easy, right? All you have to do is create.

While your friend may not understand, at least they can distract you with stories about their horrible boss or flakey co-workers.

Young businessman constructing a building of blocks of wood --- Image by © Holger Scheibe/Corbis

7. Your Characters Aren’t You

Well, they are versions of you; tiny flakes of your personality. Nonetheless, your character’s thoughts and feelings aren’t necessarily a reflection of your own. If you write a story about someone beaten by their alcoholic mother, you might find your friend staring at you with watery-eyes asking if you’re okay. If you write a story in which someone contemplates suicide, you may discover a 1-800 number in your coat pocket.

A writer has to wear many masks in order to depict someone other than themselves. This is difficult to explain to someone who is so close to the original face.

Don’t judge your friend too harshly. After all, they are trying to looking out for you.

12 Jun 2007, Venice, Italy --- Traditional Masks For Sale in Venice --- Image by © Atlantide Phototravel/Corbis

8. Rewrites

Some writers rewrite 3 times. Some writers rewrite 30 times. Regardless of how many times you must do it, rewriting is a teeth-pulling endeavor. All your previous problems are thrown back in your face. You must write a beloved character out of existence for the sake of the plot. You have to cut a scene you worked literally hours on because it no longer fits the new direction your story is taking.

It’s like Groundhog Day, only you feel like Bill Murray’s character during the suicide scene all the time. “Why are you writing it again?” your friend may ask. “Why don’t you just publish it the way it is?”

They mean well. They simply don’t understand that writing means rewriting. The first draft is usually a disaster, as is the second, or even the third. Books don’t just happen. They are cultivated through months, perhaps even years, of intense labor. Writing isn’t always a walk in the park, in spite of the fact you can do it from home in your pjs. It requires discipline and rewriting is one of the necessary steps to make towards completion.

Books burning in fire --- Image by © Ghislain & Marie David de Lossy/cultura/Corbis

9. You Need Feedback

Tell me if this sounds familiar: You give your friend a chapter, either through email or in person, and you’re left to wait.  You check your phone religiously, you browse your emails, you watch TV,  but you can’t pay attention to anything. Will your friend laugh at that joke? Will they internalize that bit of foreshadow? Ooh. You should have edited out that scene. It didn’t end up going anywhere in the long run. At long last, your friend texts you.

“It was good,” they say.

You pause for a moment, wondering if they will explain.

“Great,” you type, “What’d you like about it?”

“I don’t know. I just thought it was good.”

You press them for more information, but they refuse to divulge anymore insight into what they thought. Your non-writer friend doesn’t realize that you aren’t fishing for complements. You are asking because you genuinely want to improve your writing. Literary agents won’t hesitate to criticize, so you need your manuscript to be in top form before you start sending it out. Call us needy, but feedback (positive or negative) is as critical to the writing process as ink and paper.

You know your characters backwards and forwards and, as a result, you may unconsciously withhold important information that the reader needs to know in order to make them more relatable.

Something about the the societal structure or a character’s motivation may not make a lot of sense to the reader if they’re going in blind, but you wouldn’t know because you’re too close to the material.

Washington, DC, USA --- Evelyn C. Lewis, Miss Washington 1921, listens to the radio. She tunes in by adjusting the condenser. --- Image by © Corbis

10. You Can’t Stop (And You Won’t Stop)

A writer may face years of rejection and failure. It’s an inconvenient truth. In spite of all the Instagram pics and empty platitudes plastered over the internet, when most people fail their next move is to search for the exit. Especially when they choose an unconventional career that requires self-discipline and low guarantee of financial success.

You’ll vent to your non-writer friend about the struggle. All the years of toiling over a keyboard and the closets full of rejection letters.

And then they will ask the fated question: “Why don’t you quit and find another job?”

Many writers have a second job to supplement their income. However, to just quit being a writer isn’t optional. A banker can quit being a banker. A grocery store clerk can stop being a grocery store clerk. But a writer doesn’t stop being a writer.

Even if a writer only publishes one book in their lifetime, they still write. They still have to ask themselves “what if?” and play with concepts. Being a writer is a state of mind and you can’t stop. You may want to, but the desire to create is still buried in your brain.

23 Sep 1976 --- 1970s MALE WRITER AT DESK TYPEWRITER CRUMPLED PAPERS ARMS UP IN AIR EXASPERATED EXPRESSION INDOOR LOOKING AT CAMERA --- Image by © H. ARMSTRONG ROBERTS/Corbis

Don’t Want No NaNoWriMo

To a writer, National Novel Writing Month is like the olympics of literature. It gives those who have been holding out on their creative ideas to explode in a frenzy of words and storylines. The goal is to write 50,000 words (the length of an average novel) in one month’s time. NaNoWriMo has gained more momentum over the last few years and it has created a community around it that’s goal is to keep potential authors motivated. There are websites now dedicated to shelling out prompts, forums, and supportive quotes to those that wish to participate.

My Twitter is alight with Tweets from exhausted writers, boasting their day’s word count like athletes about their increased running distance.

I thought about NaNoWriMo this year.But then after a week of it, I thought the same thing I had thought last year, and then the year before that: nah.

I agree NaNoWriMo has many positive attributes:

1. Writers need goal, and NaNoWriMo gives them something to strive for (in this case a word count).

2. It creates a community of authors that can discuss and problem-solve together.

3. It helps authors get the first draft out of the way.

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My contention is that, at times, it can grow a bit competitive. Often in the writer’s quest to “win,” they forget the point of NaNoWriMo in the first place. It’s suppose to give writers an excuse to write instead of just letting ideas fester in their heads. It isn’t about brownie points or seeking self-validation from the approval of others.

I take umbrage with the designated word count that’s required to accomplish the goal of NaNoWriMo, as well. From my perspective, a story needs to be as long as it needs to be and only the author of the story is able to effectively determine how long the story should continue.

I realize that the goal isn’t necessarily to write a ready-for-publication novel in one month, but rather to complete a single draft in one month. Still, this might be too strenuous of an undertaking for most people to embark on in a single month. Most people have jobs, spouses, children, school, and other responsibilities to attend to. While this doesn’t mean a serious writer shouldn’t set aside time to write at least a little bit a day, some people may only have a few minutes to themselves on any given day.

I believe a more effective method would be for writers to create weekly or biweekly goals for themselves. Not necessarily measured in words, but in time devoted to the project. Even if you’re just sitting at the computer, staring at the same paragraph for hours, your brain is working on it.

It takes most writers months, even several years, to write their first novel. It doesn’t make them any less successful or productive. Some people just work at different paces.

I don’t mind if other people find NaNoWriMo useful or fun. If you enjoy doing it, then by all means participate. I won’t think any less of you. However, based on the reasons I’ve given above, it’s just not for me.