Writers, Go Figure…

So you wanna be a writer?

I think this is a question every would-be author should be asked before they jump into the ocean with the rest of us would-be authors, are authors, and best-selling authors. Why? Well, not to be mean for one thing, but to save some hurt feelings and manic depression if you really want to get down to it. Let’s sit back, well you sit back, and I’ll try to explain what I mean. Seeing as how this IS my blog you had to see that coming. You did stop by to read what I have to say after all. If you stopped by as an accidental Goggle search please free to continue on your way.

No hard feelings but understand you will be discussed in my next therapy session and by therapy session I mean when I talk to the guy in the parking lot of McDonald’s cleaning my windshield while I wait for my McGriddle. Like I can afford therapy. I’m an author. I can’t even afford a McGriddle.

Now, back to this Blog business.

Being a writer is totally different from being an author. An author gets paid. A writer writes because they need to write like they need to breathe. Now, before I hear an outcry of shock and rage, let me elaborate. Writing is something a person does instinctively. The need to express themselves is so overwhelming they write on anything — napkins, notebooks, their palms, literally anything in the rush to get the things out of their head and out into the world. It’s only as time goes by that this need evolves into the idea that somehow they can make money from doing something they love. Let me stop here and say this thought is great and all, but let’s be honest with ourselves. Making money is not as easy as it sounds and should never be the sole reason for doing something. When it is, you’re doomed either to failure or to becoming a heartless robot. Do it because you love it and let monetary gain be secondary in your reasoning.

Even once the concept of making money enters the picture you’re still just a writer. Writing needs a lot of things attached to it before Author enters the picture and a lot more things have to happen before Best-Selling Author is attached to your name. Luck for one thing. Don’t think I’m jaded or being negative about the process. I’m not. Luck is the fundamental element in any success whether it be in writing, or music or art. Why? Because talent and skill does not always equate to success. Most of the artists you know by name, Rembrandt and Van Gogh just to name two rarely made money from painting. They died poor and let’s face it more than a little crazy. Even fame isn’t monetary success. If fame and fortune are your sole reasons for writing, I feel sorry for you. That in no way means you won’t be famous one day. It just means I think you’ll be missing the emotional thrill of doing something that completes you on levels money and fame can’t begin to do. So the first thing you need to ask yourself is why are you doing this? Depending on the stability of your psyche in relation to your answer please continue on your chosen path.

So what does it take to become an author? I’m really not sure if I can answer that question. There are just too many variables in play to answer it. Again, I’m going with luck. Why? Surely, hard work and talent will get you where you’re going in your chosen profession. You’d think that, but I know way too many amazing writers who bowed out, not because of lack of talent, but because of lack of opportunity to get noticed. I’m not saying to fold up your laptop and quit before you even get started. Just do what you do because you love it and not for the reason of getting rich. I got sidetracked by gauging my success on sales and not readers reached. Trust me it’s not a backroad you want to go down.

Write because you love to write. Success is based on individual lives touched and not how often your checkbook is touched. The true value of being an Author is that. Over the past 10 years I have become richer not in cash earned but in lives earned. I’ve gained friends by meeting fellow writers and learning my craft from their influence, them picking me up, my failures, and from editors beating knowledge through my thick skull. I’ve become enriched by meeting fellow readers who have become family to my heart. They have guided me in both my writing and my personal life. Lastly, I have become a better man from succeeding in failing. Yeah, from failing. Because when you realize you’re not God’s gift to the world, you see the world as God’s gift to you. That world consists of His gifts to us, our talents, our family, and our friends. I, and a lot of my fellow authors, use those skills to bring joy to our friends and in the process we make more friends and for some blessed few we become family.

So, here’s to my fellow aspiring writers. May we one day become authors and call the world our family. Until then, let’s write like there’s no tomorrow, and read like the world is make believe. Me? I’ve been living in Middle Earth for so long, I have no clue what the real world even looks like.

Until next time, Happy Reading! And watch out for Orcs.

Jmo

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Looking for Me

Author is a funny old word. A bit uppity if you ask me. I’ll freely admit to referring to myself as one from time to time. Hey, a guy’s got to do what a guy’s got to do. But, author is as good a word as any to describe what an introverted person does to pretend their imagination is as interesting as the real world. It must be, otherwise so many people wouldn’t spend their time and money buying books and reading them.

But, I can’t in good conscience call myself and author. Sounds more professional than I consider myself. I’m a writer. I write. I’m simple that way. When I sit down to regurgitate what my brain whispers in my ear, I’ve dissolved any notions of being an author. Being an author brings with it certain expectations I can no longer harbor. Authors want to make money and be household names. Once upon a time– see how I can use clichéd literary terms in the right context– I wanted both those things. I wanted my name to be up there with Stephen King and Anne Rice. You can feel free to insert any famous author you want, but seven plus years of being an author has taught me expectations can be depressing. So I’ve given up thinking like an author.

Way back when–another literary term you may be familiar with–I wrote because I enjoyed the process. It was freeing. I had fun. I enjoyed visiting the places I usually only got to see when I was asleep. I loved exploring them with one simple premise in mind–What If?. Now, I don’t have as much fun. Instead of What If? I worry about deadlines, keeping continuity straight, and a few other things I don’t feel comfortable discussing in a public venue. The point is, as a result I don’t enjoy the process. It has become work. My worlds aren’t escapes anymore. They’ve become a part of something totally unsavory to my disposition. They’ve become — gasp!– reality! What creative type can cope with something like that? Creativity should never be referred to in the same context as the real world.

Creativity is and should always be an expression of your inner child. When you grow up, you forget what it means to have fun on a childlike level. Fun constitutes a day off work. A short trip to the book store, or comic book store as the case may be. Fun isn’t something that happens every day. It is a small grasp at something rarely experienced. Kids see fun as an all-consuming imperative, only interrupted by things called school and chores. Ick!

So, I’ve made up my mind not to be an author. Not to struggle with all the things that go with it. Nope, I’m going to have fun or not do it at all. Does that mean I’m quitting? Maybe, but first I want to explore myself first. Stop thinking those thoughts, you perv. No, I’m going to explore who I am. Strange as it might sound, I’ve forgotten who I am, as a person with creative bent. I’ve probably blogged about this before, but it’s true nonetheless.

Over the past few months, I’ve felt a growing dissatisfaction doing what I do. Sure, I freely admit that my life may have something to do with this feeling. I’ve hidden myself in a safe world when chances aren’t something I tend to take. I’ve kept myself chained to a job I hate to pay the bills. When you’re a father and husband, you can’t afford to take chances, because other lives revolve around every choice you make. Those choices have put a roof over our heads, and helped to put food on the table, but they’ve cut out something that is so easy to forget. Most people don’t even realize they’ve lost it. Living.

True, I’ve lived, but I don’t think I’ve LIVED. If you catch my drift. I’m in the process of following dreams, I’ve left behind in the process of being a productive member of society. Whether or not they come to fruition remains to be seen, but while I’m addressing those issues, I want to take a look at who I am as a writer. Notice, the A word was not used.

That isn’t to say I’m cutting lose my comedic brain trust. I enjoy making people laugh. It makes me smile to think I can make other people smile. But, lately I’ve begun to wonder, if making with the funny is being true to the totality of who I am.

To figure out that mental debate, I want to be true to who I was when I began writing. So, over the next year I’m going to be true to two separate mes. The me I was back when writing was new and exciting. And, the me who has learned not only how to write, but the fundamentals of writing correctly. I want to examine that duality of me on paper, or in a Word doc if I want to be politically correct about the process. Most people see me as a Star Wars fueled geek with a penchant for using pop culture to drive the plots of my books. I’d like to think those people who have read my books have seen past the façade of pop culture and comic book plot elements to see the message planted beneath the one liners and bazingas. There is more to me than a zippy funny bone.

I don’t know if this new book I plan to throw my heart and soul into will be worth the effort. We never know such things until we’re done. For me, it isn’t the finished product that counts as much as the effort of doing it.

As an artist, I once told myself if I could not be the best I could be, I would walk away. For nearly ten years I did. Recently, I went back and began painting again. I discovered two things. I hadn’t forgotten how to paint. More importantly, I still had something to say with my work. I wasn’t completely satisfied with the paintings when I was finished, but I never am. I believe that’s part of being an artist of any kind. We are never satisfied. There is ALWAYS room for better. Surprisingly, as I look back on my old life as an artist and this new adventure into it, I see that my time away gave me the perspective on being an artist. I needed that away to breathe new life into me.

So, if I decide to step back from writing to examine who I am and what I want to do, I don’t see myself never picking up a laptop again. I see myself growing into the writer–still no author–I need to be to be true to myself and true to work I produce.

If I can’t do that, what is the sense in doing anything?