Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Real Writers

Found on deborahb's blog:

...there is still that element in society (let's call them 'jerks') who insist a writer is someone -- and only someone -- who writes every day...

Read the whole thing, and the links, if you're of a mind to. The thing is, I've had the same experience, sitting in some panel discussion with a few pro writers about "How to Become a Pro." And eventually one of them would say something like, "the biggest thing I've learned is that you have to write every day. I write every day. I have to; it's as necessary to me as breathing. And if you don't have that level of compulsive need, to write every day, all the time, you'll never make it as a writer."

And here I am, Young Mister Nobody sitting in the audience, hoping to learn something of value. I've got a way with words, I enjoy putting them on paper sometimes, I've got some stories I'd like to tell. And I'm told, basically, that because I have a life off the page, I can never truly write.

And a part of me wants to jump up and yell, "Bullshit, sez I!" But I don't, partly because at that tender age I don't cuss yet, and partly because she's the pro writer and I'm just the wanna-be kid in the audience, so between the two of us, her words carry the more weight.

And I'd like to say that I held strong and true to my own principles and didn't let such discouragements stand in my way but the fact is, between my own insecurities and blanket statements like the one above, I didn't try to submit anything I wrote until well after I'd dropped out of college. And when I didn't experience instant success, I took that as validation of what the Panel Pros had said, and didn't try to submit again for the better part of ten years. I was told in my sophomore year of high school, at age 15, that I had the potential to become a writer. I didn't get the courage to submit on a regular basis until I was 40. That's 25 years I wasted, wondering whether my lack of obsession/compulsion would disqualify me from ever being a "real" writer.

Not that I didn't write during those years. I did. I just didn't share what I wrote with others, except very rarely. And even when I got good positive feedback from friends, and from professionals like Mike McQuay, I still didn't believe, still didn't submit, still didn't push forward.

And now here I am, with my first story on the verge of official publication (although it's been online in an advance reader's copy for months), and now, NOW FINALLY, somebody else steps forward and says, "You know what? It's okay not to write everyday. It's not required."

Thanks a lot.

On the other hand, I haven't touched Hero Go Home at all in a couple of days, and the deadline is looming, so writing every day is exactly what is required right now, for at least two weeks.

And then I rest.

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