Writing For Pay…

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There are some things about writing that I’ve discovered this year that would be surprising, I think, to most people who don’t spend the majority of their day either pacing, talking to themselves, or bound to a keyboard. I’ve spent this last year exactly that way. I realized at a certain point that I, in fact, didn’t really mind it at all and had, in fact, become a writer. I can say that with no arrogance because I never had any intention of becoming a writer and, although I’ve always enjoyed a good yarn and have always respected writers, I never aspired to be one. I was, at the time, (like many writers, I’m sure), a frustrated musician. I still to this day believe that I have no small talent as a musician, probably a greater amount of talent than I do as a writer. I find it rather strange that I have never been able to make a dime as a musician, and only succeeded for many years to spend money on my ambitions.


I became so broke because of music, not once or twice, but for the third time, that I finally felt compelled to write to support such an expensive habit. This realization came about more as a result of my casting about the room looking for things of little personal value that I could sell, than from any truly artistic need. I’ve always taken music quite seriously, maybe too seriously, and perhaps to my financial detriment, yet my writing career started because these items that I had written were all that I had left to sell. They were mostly remnants of lyrics or sections of libretti that I had conceived, all of which had an actual musical score designed for them. I gathered what pieces I could that seemed to have some sort of reason to them, and began to compile them into a logical form. That was my first book. The selections that didn’t make their way into that book became my first short stories. All of them were originally poems. I’d like to think that I show a lyrical style in my writing, because if I don’t, then the pieces were malformed in their original intent. This isn’t the most surprising thing about writing that I’m presenting to the current reader, but one of many that I’ve wondered about as I went over that beginner’s hump that I think all professional writers must traverse.

Another curious thing that I found was the fact that I came upon a system of writing, a sort of pathology. I realized at some point that all great writers must have had a system, a work space, ingrained habits, routines, schedules, rituals, idiosyncracies, and all of the other quasi-superstitious eccentricities that mark us as artists. I developed mine, and I found that my system was, in truth, far more valuable than any amount of talent that I may have presumed to possess. Without the system, the talent would have been worthless. Yet with the system, I was able to produce so much drivel that a small percentage of it was able to be passed off as marketable. The system was the key. Another strange thing that I found was the fact that any amount of distraction was enough to make me virtually unable to sit down and write, but that the particular form of that distraction seemed to change. One day, any small noises in the region would be enough to halt my flow. On another day, I would write in the same room as a blaring television that was successfully competing with traffic noises directly outside. On yet another day, it would be the heat that would preclude me from completing my task, and I would follow that up with banging out two thousand words in a summer swelter. I realized that things had to be just so, and in a way that I couldn’t define concretely, but that I could instantly recognize intuitively. I wouldn’t even attempt to write in an environment that spoiled that concentration. I also found out, during my self-imposed year of exile, that there are a lot of writers. I mean, a lot. This humbled me and made me see that it really wasn’t talent or intelligence that would bring your work to the public. There were so many talented people writing so many intelligent things that you could never be sure that your ramblings would be noticed in any appreciable way. So, at some point, you have to labor at it. Straight manual labor. I mean late hours, early mornings, reading (and writing) the same thing five, six, seven (or more) times. All of the things that you were writing to avoid, you have to do in the end. There is no free lunch. It sucks, but it’s true. In the end all that I can say to people who may be interested is “Learn to type”.

Posted by Jon   @   18 February 2011 0 comments
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