Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Get Out of the Way

There was a question posted over on Going Into The Story (Scott Myers'  blog) that has sort of stuck in my craw.  “With the odds against breaking in so large, how do you stay motivated to write?”  I’ve seen the question before, trying on slightly different outfits, and it both frustrates and encourages me.

Why?  Because the question is, at heart, a whine by someone who doesn’t want to do the work.  I find encouragement in the fact that people who ask that question aren’t focused or committed and will never rise to a level that I have to compete with them.

I’m frustrated because I don’t like to see people wasting their lives and this question is just like, “Where do you get your ideas?  I can’t ever think of anything.” Or “I’m bored.”  I’m sorry I have to break this to you over the internet, but if you are bored, or don’t have more story ideas than time to write stories, you aren’t a writer.  You may be able to write, but you aren’t a world builder.  Ditto with bored.  A writer is not bored.  There is always something interesting going on.  Even if you are in alone in a dark room, as a writer, there are story pieces to work out that keep you from boredom.  I know this.  I have migraines.

Maybe the person who asked this question has never done anything impossible and feels overwhelmed.  I get that.  To me, the question says that his goal is too broad.  What is “Break in?”  Does he want to be rich and famous?  That’s a different goal than being a writer and there’s a more certain path to achieve that.  Does he just want to sell a script?  That’s achievable, if he puts in the work.  Does he want to write for a living?  There’s a thousand ways to do that.

But he won’t achieve anything if he doesn’t know what he wants.  Remember the Bangel’s song?  Do you know what you want?

Maybe you’re mad at me now.  “Don’t be so discouraging.”  “I love to write/paint/sculpt pumpkins but sometimes I feel like maybe I’m wasting my time, I just need a little boost.”  You are welcome to that opinion.  I suggest that you get your boost from feedback about your work and progress toward your goal.  Asking strangers to validate you smells an awfully lot like a subsidy.

If you struggle to find the motivation necessary to put words on the page you probably should not aspire to be a professional writer.  It would be your job.  You’d be very bad at it.


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1 comment:

  1. Ginnah Howard -- taught high school English for 27 years -- and then began writing -- after assigning writing to students for years -- links to some interviews --

    Ginnah Howard has written some interesting books set in upstate NY.
    WEOS: 11/28/13, WSKG: 12/01/13
    Writer and novelist
    Howard was a high school English teacher for 27 years and did not begin writing seriously until her late 40's. Her stories have appeared in Permafrost, Portland Review, Stone Canoe, and elsewhere. Her first novel, Night Navigation was a New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice. Her new novel, and the focus of our discussion is, Doing Time Outside, a stand-alone sequel to Night Navigation. Both of these novels deal with addiction and mental illness and how it affects families in small town communities.Ginnah Howard

    WEOS: 7/15/10, WSKG: 7/18/10

    Author and Teacher
    Howard talks warmly about her life and work as both a teacher, and a writer who began her career in her 40's. She also focuses on her first novel Night Navigation. This highly acclaimed and very beautifully written first novel focuses on a family dealing with addiction.