Will You Survive Writing?

The quick answer: probably not.

Let me elaborate. Somewhere along the line writers are taught or somehow absorb the fallacy that writing is a black and white area. You either do or you don’t. You are or you aren’t. Everyone and their uncle regularly throws out the ultimate paraphrase of catagorical thinking: you write or you want to have written. The doers and the wannabes. It separates the diaper wearers from those capable of pulling up their own underpants, thank you very much.

Writing is a spectrum.  Or maybe more like a dogpile where every mutt thinks it’s going after a single bone. Who gets the bone, who gets smothered? Some get hold of the bone in their clenched jaws for one brief glorious moment before it drops back into the pile for someone else to nab. For the rest: broken bones and collapsed lungs, starvation and plaquey teeth.

From blogs and rinky dink home-made websites to e-publishing, all the way to the top dogs earning awards and reviews and fortunes, it’s all writing.

Writers who can’t see the spectrum will gauge their career as a make-or-break scenario. As such even the most dedicated writer will be broken after butting up against the paper ceiling for so long. Reality sets in. You’ll probably want to date, get used to sunlight, maybe move out on your own. That takes money. Writing is the anti-earnings career choice. You might get tired of making bookshelves out of found planks and bricks. After a while pensions start sounding really appealing.

But you haven’t been published so you give up. What remains is a bitter or whiney manifesto about The System and Corprate Lackeys, the Old Boys’ Network, and how your morals are too high to get anywhere, or that you couldn’t compromise your masterpiece for their crass commercial interests.

All that for having ignored the dog chews and kibble while believing you had to go after the bone.

There’s a reason the other options are invisible to the writerly eye. Maybe it’s too hard for writers to recognise and accept their limits, to face the plane of their own talent and capabilities and finally admit that they are meant to be bloggers or NANOWRIMO contestants but never the prize winner. Never the big time published author. That’s extremely hard to face. It’s natural to avoid that reality for as long as possible.

It’s a waste to do so until there’s no hope left.

I’ve read some stinky, stinky fiction – unpublished, online, and published as well. Recently an award-winning novel made me physically launch the book across the room. And I’ve read some of the most beautiful storytelling online where the writer just expressed what was authentic and real, without all the narrative bells and whistles, who in a million years wouldn’t even have identified themselves as writers. There are a lot of ways to tell a story, and a lot of places to do it. Publishers don’t always get it right.

There are a lot of criticisms about online writing and that’s as it should be. But it’s also okay that it’s a possibility. So is writing a journal or printing off stories for your friends’ children. It’s all practice and audience.

Writing is brutal. The act, the career choice, all of it. Facing the spectrum and making peace with the range of possibilities will make surviving the act of writing much easier.

Who knows? Possibilities might even lead to possibility.


Filed under Business Writing, Creative Writing, Fiction, Publishing, Sandra Chmara, Writing

4 responses to “Will You Survive Writing?

  1. Great post.
    With the possibility of self-publishing a lot of doors have been opened. For some people I wish those doors had stayed closed, but that is another story. I think it is up to all readers to make sure to prop up those self-publised writers that actually have quality work.

    • Thank you for commenting, and for being my first comment. I hope as the site develops you’ll find more interesting topics that get right to the heart of what all writers struggle with.
      The writing world is Darwinian. Yes, the strong survive but adapting to change means arming ourselves with the writing/publishing tools and characteristics that will allow us to wait ahead for the future to arrive.
      And yes, this new frontier will mean that gatekeeping measures are almost non-existent until we all figure out how to neatly measure, weigh, grade, and sort the kinds of writing we want to look for out there and where to find it in what will become a universe of possibility.
      The ebook has been getting a lot of mixed reviews – mostly fatalistic – but it’s a technology and format that will mean great things for writers. Think about a thousand readers (if you’re lucky) paying $30 for a physical book and millions willing to take a chance on a $5 or $10 ebook. Real booklovers will happily pay again to also have the hard edition on their shelves, so the physical book will never die. Writers can now publish – not post, actually publish – a single short story and get money for it.
      Great writing will always have a place. Now readers can cast the first vote rather than the last.
      Keep writing. It’s all about practice and audience. It always has been.

      • If you could choose between being rich and famous –
        and having real talent – what would be the better choice? If it all had been handed to me – to any of us – would we be so skilled? It’s the struggle to engage
        a reader that improves your work faster then any editor, many young writers
        with connections luck out on a first book and make lots of money – become satisfied, and continue to plague us with Erogons and Twilights, not that anything wroung with those books – If you like them read RUST – it’s under
        rastelly for those of you who are still new at this. I’d like to think I’m much
        better but we all have huge egos.

    • taureanw. throw me a bone and read RUST, under – rastelly. I am new and looking for feedback. There is a lot of oysters out there, It may not be a pearl
      but you’ll never know till it’s open. If you find the time. I’ll be much obliged.

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