Friday, July 13, 2012
Writing for escape versus writing as a job.
Proposed cover for 'The Art of Murder,' to be released November 1/2012.
When I first began writing fiction it was more of an escape than a job or career. At that time, I would write a few thousand words in a day, once hitting 11,000 words. That impressed me at the time.
Back then I was perfectly aware that I knew next to nothing about literary style, or even standard manuscript style. It didn’t matter. What mattered was that I was actually writing. What mattered was that I was experimenting, and learning how to tell a story. When I moved about a year ago, I burned seven or eight incomplete manuscripts, all manually typed out or printed on some early-generation computer that I didn’t even really know much about! But I learned.
Like a lot of writers, it took some time to become a professional. At that time, I thought I was being professional, and I suppose my basic persistence, an ability to simply work, helped a lot.
Stubbornness really helps.
It’s not like I hadn’t had a job before, right?
But in so many ways it represented an escape—a dream. I dreamed of making a better future for myself. When I was writing, nothing else existed. And I escaped into the worlds I created. At the time, my life wasn’t going anywhere, and I knew it. I knew it very well. At the age of about forty-four, I looked ahead to where my life was going, and how little I had actually done with my time, which as most would agree is precious. You can’t put a price on your own life. No one knows how much time they have on this Earth.
That’s just the way it is, and I was determined not to waste another minute. Can you blame me?
And so I decided that doing something was better than doing nothing. Don’t get me wrong. Working on a construction site at a job I liked well enough, and could do well enough, was a kind of satisfaction. It paid the bills. I was the best writer on that construction site. No one else cared, no one else dreamed of it in the same way. It was only when I got out into the world, the world where real writers live and work, that I was confronted with my own limited skill as a writer.
That’s when the professional attitude really began. There was no way in hell that I was going to give up on the rest of my life. It’s too precious to me. I’m too good a man to waste. Laugh if you want. And this was my dream, so I began to read everything I could on writing. I read about the industry. I read about self-publishing, and blogging, and promotion, and social networking, and economics, and science, and nature…the list goes on. I read comic stuff, odd-ball news stories, everything.
My writing improved. I don’t write quite as much. It’s not so much about escaping present circumstances. It’s about creating another world, one that is finely detailed, and into which some other reader might escape and find pleasure, knowledge, or adventure. It might be a place for them to have some fun, or even just to escape their present existence for any number of reasons which are personal to any reader. At some point I realized that I had a little bit of the teacher in me. What kind of a scary discovery was that? Pretty scary.
And now I am no longer a construction worker. Now I am a writer. From the time I first really began banging out the crap-fiction, to the point where I am at now, has been a long journey. It’s not over yet. It’s about the money for some, and the dream of glamour or adulation, or even just a nice luxurious life where you can do what you want and go where you want.
For me, it really is about writing a good book. I want to do it well, and I want to compete with the best writers this world has to offer. It’s a professional attitude. But this is the only attitude for me, and I’ll tell you why: I would rather a long and painful climb to the top, one where there is every chance I will struggle and fail, and in some ways become exalted in my human status, thereby becoming a much better person than I was before, than engage in some race to the bottom, into the primeval muck and murk of writerly depravity, in some ultimately futile quest for riches and praise, and hedonistic gratification of the senses…and no chance of failure. No, this is not about the money.
I would rather give my blood, my sweat, my tears and my toil, suffering and sacrificing in obscurity, on just the off chance that some reader a hundred years from now will read a book and enjoy my book and who knows? They might even get something out of it.
To say that you can’t do that with pulp or genre fiction would be a mistake. Authors long-dead are still read, and remembered, and loved for all kinds of works that at the time, and long since then, people have disparaged for one reason or another. Some of those critics are even right. Some of them aren’t even particularly good books. But still, lots of people still enjoy those books and get something out of them.
That’s my job, now. I've trained myself, and worked very hard to be in this position, just so that I could do this thing. In a way, I have already succeeded in my dream to escape. For surely I have escaped.
My life is completely different now.
Comments are always welcome.