Current project: 9SS book 1, “When the Man Comes Around”, 23%
Music: The Black Keys
Morning, badasses. Yes, you. Welcome back. I’m writing this new article from my shiny new laptop, named Tali. Say hello, everyone. She’s my new novel-writing assistant. Writers have quirks, and evidently mine is writing with more comfort on a laptop than a desktop. Go figure. At least it’s not drinking. Yet.
My last article was snark-laden, but directly poignant. That struck a chord with a lot of you would-be AND seasoned voice actors out there, for which I’m damned grateful. But this week, I wanted to turn my attention to those out there with an eye to start slinging their own narrative prowess around; i.e. those who profess to wanting to be a writer.
Buckle up, wordsmiths, because I’ve got what I hope to be a healthy dose of revelation for you. I can not promise to be gentle, but I can promise to be kind. I am a benevolent sadist.
If you’re reading this, and you’ve ever attended one of my writing panels, some of this advice is going to be old hat for you. You may let your attention span wander freely off into whatever fantastical vista you desire. Except the one with the bunnies. Don’t dare. They don’t play. To the rest of you, pay heed. This is the singularly best piece of advice I can give to anyone with writing aspirations:
“Stop writing, and be a writer.”
Pictured: A future Hemingway, just add booze. I’m totally kidding. A responsible parent NEVER lets their child use a notebook like this.
Whiskey tango foxtrot, am I right? I’m not. The phrase is “What the fuck”, and for good reason, so skip on the phonetic alphabet nonsense for a bit. You’re right to be confused, partially angry, and potentially gassy. I don’t know your diet. I’m just going to press on, explain, and pray that your gastrointestinal malady sorts itself out in the meantime.
That’s a decidedly counter-intuitive motto to try to adopt, isn’t it? But I mean it pragmatically. Let me break it down for you in base terms. One of the chief obstacles I’m told about by would-be writers is the nature of time. There’s not enough of it. Ever. If they had the time, they’d do the work. That, given how our daily lives plays out, is entirely fair. I could tell you to make time, but that’s just passing the buck. I look like an asshole when I spout that. I mean, yeah, I am, but there’s shades of asshole, and that phrase is in the “fucking unhelpful” spectrum of the wheel.
I could pull the startling averages for you, but I’m going to go simpler. You can play along at home. How many of you own a computer? Smartphone? Cool. I mean, I guess you could be reading this via holographic haptic display beamed directly into your home, but I’m assuming we’re both still in the same technological strata.
The future of Twitter. That Occulus Rift just pays for itself, doesn’t it?
On the heels of those questions, how many texts, tweets, Facebook posts, etc. do you think you send out into the digital ether on a daily basis? Five? Ten? How many comments on YouTube, or your own personal takes on the results you got on that “Which Harry Potter-Steven Universe Crossover Sandwich Are You?” quizzes? A dozen? More? On average for me, it’s more. For some of you, it’s to levels that warrant intervention, or an article on Upworthy. But I digress.
Let’s say on average your social media offerings amount to around ten to fifteen a day. Nice and conservative. Let’s say those brain droppings average two sentences a piece. I think that’s a fair estimate. Mind, again, I know it’s more just for me, but we’re operating under the idea that you are not a willing slave to the click-bait Matrix overlords.
Now, on the low end, that’s twenty (AH AH AH!) sentences. Given your vocabulary strengths, that’s anywhere from a few dozen words to something approaching triple digits. Broken up over the course of your day, that was anywhere from an hour to four spent on crafting these, not including loading pages, checking links, and general browsing. Note: clean your history. And when looked at conversely, those took no time at all.
I think you know where I’m going with this, because you’re intelligent and devilishly attractive. Stick with me, though.
Take half of what I just said. Five posts, ten sentences, a few dozen words, a lazy thirty minutes. Think about that for a moment, and consider that what I just described is easily a tasty chunk of the story-that-might-have-been from YOU. That’s a few paragraphs crafted that you didn’t have the day before. That is the first nervous step into your narrative. And what was sacrificed, time-wise? Next to nothing.
For the love of God, DON’T cue up “Can’t Touch This”.
But that’s the gag; the illusion that doggedly grips the minds of folks who tell me they want to write, but can’t find the space to do so. There’s this insane idea that you have to hit the ground running to go after your goal of being a writer. That’s complete insane bullshit. No one is expecting you to hit even modest NaNoWriMo daily wordcounts. That’s your own baggage. You start small, and build up.
Read that again. You start small, and build up. No one save for the truly masochistic starts a running regime with a marathon. Well, the masochistic, and the Cylons. You’re not a Cylon. I hope.
But with anything, the catalyst that will kick off the chain reaction of screaming awesome is you, and the choice you make to begin in the first place. There’s the base wisdom that a writer is simply someone who writes. That’s ridiculous. A writer is someone who makes the choice to use their literacy to create rather than merely communicate. You’re already halfway there, badass. You are one step away from being the beautiful fucking rockstar of prose that you’ve been aspiring to be. Exciting? I’m stoked FOR you.
So stop being stupid, stupid. (I mean that in a loving way. You’re still smart and sexy and adored.) You’ve got enough to fight with that stands in the way of your writing: your job, your daily life, your relationships. You don’t have to sacrifice any of it to move forward, so why are you hobbling yourself, ironically, by spending so much time writing other things that end up being of little consequence to what you want?
Stop writing, and be a writer.
I think that’s some damn fine advice. I should know, because that’s precisely what someone dropped upon me so many years ago. I pass it on, padawan, and look forward to what you make of it.
Until next time, Horns Up.