Sunday, March 25, 2012

REPOST with Edits: This Writer's Life

This post, which I originally ran on Daventry Blue last year, was the basis for the character "Logan Brandish" in my book Galley Proof:

Things I have learned (and wish to impart) from being a slave to the art of writing:

-You will occasionally read a writer who is so good, whose words and style speak to you with such force and eloquence, that you will wonder if anything as great and marvelous will ever come from you. This will either a) make you try harder, or b) make you throw your hands in the air in resignation and never write again. The first is preferable as you don't want to be perceived as the raging drama queen you secretly are.

-At least five times a year, you will vow to never write again. You will go through such moments of melancholy self-pity as to make a violin sound chipper in comparison. This will last about an hour before a new idea forces you back to the laptop. You will drool on the keyboard from the excitement this new idea causes, because you JUST KNOW this is going to be the story that sails you into the literary stratosphere. You might even get a Lammy nomination! But if you do, don't go to the ceremony. That'll show 'em for not nominating you all those previous times. Yeah. That'll show 'em!

-Every now and then, you will get a wonderful letter or email from a reader telling you how much they enjoy your writing. You will print this out, hold it to your chest for a moment, and put it in a box to look at on rainy days... Do NOT masturbate to it. That's just wrong.

-Or read that letter or email for comfort when a publisher rejects something on which you've worked your ass off. Trust me. It WILL happen. But remember, somewhere in the world there is someone who wants to read exactly what you've written. Always. You just have to find a way to connect with them. Submit to another publisher. You must. It is what you do. Beg, holler, and whore. There are a million publishers out there. Someone wants you.

-You will nearly be destroyed when a project that held such promise falls apart and is relegated to the "Never to be published" pile in your cedar chest (more about that later). You will most likely pick its bones for years to come for other tales. In this way, it still lives. It is Frankenscript, and it will haunt your dreams.

-Writing is lonely. Writing has no social life. It makes up its own and its imaginary friends are very, very pretty. But not as pretty as you.

-You experience a high after finishing a well-executed project that is better than any drug. It's akin to the high after a great workout, if that workout ended with an orgasm and a chocolate muffin.

-Not everything you write will find a home. When you die there will be unpublished stories and outlines found as your relatives are rummaging through your things. They will be in slightly messed stacks because you slightly messed them on purpose to give them a Romantic air. Leave these to your favorite relative. With any luck, they will then be published. If J.R.R. Tolkien's family can exploit his work after he died, so can yours.

-Inspiration comes whenever it wants. This can be at three in the morning in a dream. It will wake you. You will fight the urge to get up and write the idea down, but you will lose. Sometimes inspiration doesn't come for weeks, so you must take it when you can. Accept that you are the vessel and this is your purpose. If you refuse, the gods will be angry and chop off your weiner. You wouldn't want that to happen. If you don't have a wiener, they will give you one and then chop it off.

-The day after the release of a new project is a little depressing. You've spent months, sometimes years, with a group of characters who seem very real to you. In some ways, they're better friends than your friends. (Embrace the crazy.)You've spent weeks promoting the book as best you can with your meager, MEAGER budget. And then, the day comes and goes. Nothing. Suddenly, all you hear are crickets. It's as if what you've written, this great comet of such imagination and fire, hardly made a dent in the atmosphere. Have a muffin. You'll feel better. Soon reviews will start trickling in and all will be well.

-Allow yourself an hour to sulk after a bad review, then get on with your life. It's only one opinion, and screw those festering bung holes for not seeing how brilliant you are. Don't be like director David Lean. It was said that the reason there was 14 years between his films Ryan's Daughter and A Passage To India was because of a review a single critic gave to the first film. That's too much power for someone else's words to have over your own fabulosity.

-You are your own personal shrink. While writing you will have epiphanies and realizations that would freaking blow the world's collective mind. You will solve personal conflicts on your own, and you will most likely THINK.WAY.TOO.MUCH. about everything. So learn to meditate. Tell those muses, "Hey, Muuses! Shut the hell up! I'm trying to watch Ancient Aliens here. Jeez!"

-When someone says to you "you're so lucky to be a writer" avoid the urge to slap them with a raw turkey breast. They mean well, but they don't understand the hard work that goes into it. Nor do they live on the salary you have to survive on, which brings me to...

-You WILL be poor.

-The success of others - including your close friends - will make you occasionally jealous. This does not make you a bad person. Maybe mediocre, but not bad. This feeling does not mean that you wish your friend didn't have such great success. But that you wish YOU did as well. You could be successful together and strut around town flaunting your super coolness to everyone you see. Envy is an ugly color on you. But it looks just fine on others. Strange that.

-Promotion is the Devil. Some writers are naturals in the art of promo. Some are not. You will try, but you just won't get it. The guest blogging, the Facebook ads, the book signings...they all look and sound great, but you have never been Mr. Popular and socializing is a bit of a struggle. There is the constant knowledge that, while you are definitely dateable, you may not be particularly relate-able.

-A good editor will save your butt from looking very stupid. When you get the first edits back for a new manuscript there may be so much red you may question whether you even attended school at all. And while the public will thankfully never see your atrocious guffaws, you can't help but wonder if there is an Editor's Club somewhere in the world - possibly a seedy basement or a seedier library - whereat your name is a punchline.

-Finally, be grateful. You're a writer. And your friend was right. That's pretty damn cool.


  1. What a thoroughly enjoyable read, Eric. Thanks for posting. The part about promotion speaks more true than I would like. It's an uphill climb...

  2. Thanks! It is indeed. I hates it!

  3. I enjoyed this last year and I am loving the reminder.

    Thank you.

  4. Your thoughts on being a writer, Eric, are my thoughts as well. Thank you for this post.

  5. As a newly published author, I just went through a couple of these phases and experiences. I really appreciated your insights to put them in perspective. Now, I'm going to get a chocolate muffin.