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Friday, October 19, 2018

9 Writerly Things No One is Going to Give You (But We All Need) [Part 1]

In the world of writers, we ask for a lot of things from other people––book deals, money, a few more minutes of WiFi and power outlet riding before the barista demands we buy another cup of coffee....  But there are are things no one can ever give us, things no one ever WILL give us, and things the world will do its very best to take away from us if we let it. We writers always and forever have to find these things, make these things, create these things from sheer force of will, forage for these things from the blistering fires of our own determination, and hunt down these things, wound them, track them until they collapse from exhaustion, pounce on them, and bury our teeth in their jugular, worrying them until they....uh.....

Um....proverbially of course.

So here are a few things that no one is ever going to give you.

Permission-

No one is going to give you permission to be a writer, to write, to declare yourself a writer, to give up your day job and go for it even if you need fifty-three side gigs to keep the electricity on. No one is ever going to say "Lo [insert your name here], thou art now a writer." There is no cabal that you will stand in the middle of and they will use force lightning to sear your flesh with The Mark of the Writer™.

No teacher. No mentor. No parent. No other writer. No Facebook page. A million people could give you encouragement, but no one will ever give you permission. You have to take it for yourself.

Yeah, you might have to check in on yourself with some brutal honesty and make sure you're not trying to fake it until you make it in a self-deceptive way if you're trying to BE a writer more than you actually write, but even that is between you and you. You are never going to find anyone else who will decide that you have done enough and usher you into the VIP lounge.

Validation- 

You can get validation, but let me let you in on a little secret: it'll never be enough.

Unless….

Unless you forge that shit One-Ring-to-Rule-Them-All-Style and just decide for yourself that you are valid enough to rock rock on like the magnificent Cheat Commando you really are.

 Most writers deal with impostor syndrome at some point and many deal with it a lot. It doesn’t matter if they scribble furiously in journals that they systematically burn when full, if they just tossed off their first anonymous fanfic, or if they are New York Times best sellers.

Even at the other end of the scale where you have those arrogant snots who strut around and say “genius can’t be taught” are really just insecure and expressing it in a different way. The truly self-confident have (perhaps temporarily) found the way to validate themselves. 

No one can do it for them.

Time- 

People will only do one thing when it comes to your time.

Take it.

No matter how much they love you. No matter how supportive they are. No matter how much they relate to your artistic eccentricities. 

Don’t worry. It’s not their fault. That’s the way the universe unfolds according to physics. You will never walk away from an encounter with another human having GAINED time. Unless they flit through your life like a shade, they can only ever take your time. Though the rare benevolent angel might find ways to free up some time commitment on a writer’s plate, all will take somehow from somewhere.


The real shit sundae of it is that most are not so kind. They take without consideration. The blunt and odious may say shitty things like “But you don’t have a real job,” as they demand your help with airport rides or call in the middle of your writing time, but even the best intentioned will likely wonder if writing can’t be moved around. They will act as if because your schedule is flexible, your time isn't important. 



It gets even shitacularer-er! The true demon here is not another person. It lives in the beating hearts writers themselves and fills their days with activities that push their writing to inconvenient or implausible times, assuring folks that it’s no big deal and they can take a few minutes (or a few hours) to do something “just this once.” Surely I can do five hours of writing from 8p.m. until 1a.m. (even though I go to bed at 11 and my brain checks out for any task more involved than watching The Walking Dead after 9p.m.).

No one will give a writer time. Writers have to take it. They have to hoard it. And they have to guard it with ferocity oft reserved for Black Friday sales.

Which is why you have to go out and look for that shit in the backwoods like the world's most motivated truffle pig, gather it into tight bundles, put on woad paint, and bare your teeth and set up Aliens-style motion sensor auto-firing machine gun turrets at anyone who comes close. Time may very well be a writer’s single most precious resource and the one most people feel most entitled to take in bits they think are no big deal. No one can give you time. It marches on no matter what you do. So fight for it.


The Advice That Will MAKE You Write-

No one can give you this because it doesn’t exist.

It. Does. Not. Exist.

Writers quest for this advice like it is The Holy Grail. Some go on great expeditions, seeking the knowledge of the writers who have come before. That somewhere, some writer, some motivational speaker, some creative will have that one gem of insight that will blow away all the excuses, all the rationales, all the distractions and the angels will sing out in an immaculate chorus, and sitting down to write will never be hard again.

They nod sagely when every single one of them says some variant of "Put your ass in a chair, and write daily." And then they go to find the next writer and ask them the secret.

There IS no advice that will make you write. You have to treat it like a job (and you may have to do this for years before it actually is a job). You get up. You write. You get better at it. You keep going.

PART 2 Coming Soon!

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