Monday, September 22, 2008

Why do you want to be a writer?


This is what I think of as a trick question. When this question is presented to a group of people in environments only writers or wannabe writers will be found in, the question can be profoundly difficult to grasp and answer.

My first response is Why do you ask? Why do you want to know why I want to be a writer? Maybe a better question for the presenter is What do you think a writer is? Do you believe that a writer is a person who writes with the singular goal of building a career? Is it a person who desires to convey ideas to others? Is it person who wants to entertain others with fiction? Is it a person who believes himself or herself superior knowledge-wise, and qualified to dictate directions for other people to follow?

In other words, must a writer have a goal? A destination he can verbalize into a capitalist gain?

Why do you want to be a writer? Why take on a craft, and writing is a craft, that is solitary and fraught with disappointment and rejection?

Each of us has a unique reason. Those that do not, those of us who respond with a stock answer such as "I want to be like Stephen King," do not understand writing.

Writing is, to me, different from being a writer. I write because I want to, have wanted to since I was a young teenager. Writing lets me go places in my mind I cannot go outside my mind. Writing lets me meet people I'd like to meet and know, and some I'd rather not meet and know, that I won’t have the opportunity to meet out in the "real" world.

Writing lets me work out and express frustration, joy, loneliness, sorrow, anger, and love. My characters walk paths I put them on to accomplish goals I set that should prove too difficult for the average man or woman.

My characters meet villains, heroes, and average people from all walks of life, males, and females, young and old. Writing is about life, about interacting and coexisting on a planet where there is no escape from life except through death, as far as we know.

No, the question to be asked is not why do you want to be a writer. The question that should be asked is why do you write?

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

More about Writer's Block

More about writer's block.

This is my third entry regarding writer's block. Now, I find it is time to grind away at the supercilious among us. You see, I do not really believe that writer's block, as an affliction, exists.

I wrote about cause and effect as a way of reaching this point. If you truly love writing, then nothing on Earth will stop you, not critics, not editors, not the lack of publication. Only you can create an atmosphere within your mind and life that causes you to stumble.

If you love writing, then write for God's sake! If you say to yourself I want to write a best selling novel and become rich and famous, you DO NOT love writing! You love the idea that you could become rich and famous.

During a writers conference, a participant asked the mystery author Mickey Spillane how to become a successful writer. Mickey's reply was eloquently simple. He smiled and said quietly, "Become a brain surgeon, it is easier."

In some ways, writers are brain surgeons, which I believe was Mickey's point. A writer needs to peel away the layers of thought that hide, or camouflage plot and characterization. Occasionally, a writer must do so at the most inopportune moments. The key here is that it must be done.

I have deviated slightly from writer's block, but indirectly. A writer is always writing even when no keyboard or pen, is present. A writer who loves the craft for the sake of the craft, has part of his mind tuned into his surroundings and thereby allowing observation to hone the skill.

There is no excuse for not doing this. Train your mind. Pay attention to the way strangers express themselves verbally and physically. Pay attention to the sounds in nature, birdcalls, and the wind blowing through a cluster of pine trees. Engage all five senses and think about what you see, touch, hear, smell, and taste. At the next opportunity, write about what you recall regarding all you have learned regarding the environment in which you co-exist.

Now, you see, writer's block is gone! If you do not believe me, comment regarding this entry. Tell me how it made you feel. Tell me what it feels like to tap the keys as you write. What are you smelling now? Describe what you see, what you hear.

The most important advice to a person, who loves writing, is write about any damn thing! It is okay if you only jot down twenty words. It is NOT okay if you quit for even one day longer than circumstances demand.

Sorry, no more plot freebees. It's your turn.

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