Hanging out with writers to discuss writing is something I never do, never have done, and if I have my way, never will do. This sequestered mentality seems perfectly normal to me, but it goes against the thinking of most creative individuals. Musicians often hang out with fellow musicians. Actors with actors. Dancers with dancers. Why then, would I avoid fellow writers?
From the proliferation of writing groups, and book clubs, and Internet forums and whatnot, many scribes obviously like to commiserate with other wordsmiths.
My reasoning is simple. Why waste my time sitting around with writers, talking about writing, when I could be… writing?
Right? Writing is like sex. Like most things in life that are wonderful to experience; Doing it is far better than talking about doing it.
See, while other artistic endeavors often require collaboration, as a writer, you don’t need other writers. Actors tend to act in an ensemble. Musicians tend to play in bands or orchestras. For those people, interaction with their peers is an unavoidable and integral part of the creative process. They must hang out with their colleagues. They have no choice in the matter. For an author, not so much. We don’t need other authors. Yes, I understand we may enjoy each others company. I didn’t say there was no reason for writers to want to build a camaraderie with their equals. I said writers don’t need fellow writers in order to create. We don’t need to communicate. We don’t need to “bounce ideas” off each other. Writers create in solitude. We have the luxury of being in a vacuum and never requiring the validation or corroboration of our comrades.
My greatest inspiration for writing is reading. If I want to be inspired, or find some encouragement, I would prefer reading a great passage in a book, as opposed to discussing writing in a verbal conversation. If I’m going to get advice, I’ll watch interviews with Ray Bradbury or Harlan Ellison. Those guys know more about the craft of writing than some fellow struggling author who has written a novella and half a screenplay.
Well, if I’m completely honest and forthcoming, there is another reason too. Avoiding the company of writers isn’t something I do simply because I’d rather read than discuss writing. The other reason is, when I read the work of other authors, I end up thinking one of two things.
For 95% of them, I think, “Damn, your work is total shit.”
For 5% of them, I think, “Damn, you’re so much better than me. Why do I bother?”
This would clearly make me not-very-fun at parties. I’m going to treat everyone with condescending scorn or awestruck reverence, and who the fuck wants to be around that guy?
The downside of this self-imposed avoidance, of course, is the fact I remain completely oblivious to the trends of the writing industry. That’s kind of a bad thing (and worse still, because I’m perpetuating it). I don’t like to think of myself as self-destructive. No one wants to see themselves that way. But, the more I think about it, if I know for a fact that being an isolated hermit who never associates with fellow writers could be potentially detrimental to my success, isn’t that the very definition of self-destructive behavior? Deliberately choosing a course, despite knowing it might not be best for me?
Sadly, I’m not a realistic author at all. I’m a daydreamer. There is “what-it’s-like-to-be-an-author” in my head and then there’s “what-it’s-like-to-be-an-author” in reality. The two rarely mesh. (That sentence originally read, “The two never mesh.” But, I’m trying to be optimistic here.)
In my head, I do my own thing, and people eventually notice, and I become successful.
In reality, I should be treating publishing as a business like any other, and I need to “learn the ropes” of that business.
I’ll give you a prime example of how being clueless can work against you – this blog itself. I have never read blogs by other authors. I’m not interested. I don’t care. My favorite authors don’t even have blogs.
Who does? A bunch of chicks writing “young adult” novels about teenage girls with superpowers or falling in love with vampires? Like I give a shit about their tripe? I’m not interested in the crap they write, even when they are out there getting their 6-figure book deals for their new trilogy. (Told you I’d be quickly banned from parties.)
However, despite my utter unfamiliarity with author-centric blogs, apparently, there are many blogs by authors who write about writing. I wouldn’t know this, because I don’t give a fuck to read them. But, after I created this blog, and finally did a tad of research and checked the competition, the bothersome part became the simple fact that once I concocted the idea of writing this blog, it seems as if what I believed to be an original concept is quite the cliche.
I sincerely thought I was being rather unique and savvy by starting a blog about the love of the written word. Now, I’ve slowly come to realize, nope, blogs on writing are just a big masturbatory hunk of dung that all these aspiring young authors are doing. Established authors never do it. I was correct about that. But struggling authors? Oh, yeah. All of them. We all write these damn things.
I guess maybe I should hang out with my peers a bit more.
While on the topic of writing faux pas, permit me to apologize for a bit of poor writing in this article too. I am lazily and arbitrarily swapping the terms “writing” and “publishing” and I shouldn’t be doing that. They are clearly two very different things. Writing is the act of creating the story. Publishing is unveiling said story to the world. Hence, there is no such thing as a “writing industry” at all. No one has ever made a single dime from writing and stuffing the manuscript in a drawer. Writing never earned anyone a living. People make money from publishing. Big difference.
The distinction is important to the spirit of this article, because I still maintain that I have no desire to commiserate with fellow authors on writing. I don’t care what they are creating. I just want to focus on what I’m creating. Were I to ever have a discussion on character development or plot points, I fear I’d puke within a few seconds. Nauseating just imagining it.
Publishing? That’s a different matter. Publishing, and the marketing which it entails, are the places where I really need an education. Fellow writers are undeniably the best resource to learn such things.
I’m doing this all wrong. You only get to become “the reclusive author” after you’ve become famous and horded a huge bank account from your countless book sales. I can’t start out as the reclusive author – I gotta earn that.
“I don’t know anyone named Obi-Wan, but old Muss-Barnes lives out beyond the Dune Sea. He’s kind of a strange old hermit.”
Damnit. Gotta become a Jedi first.
If I really want to do this on my own, I need to educate myself and the most effective way to educate oneself isn’t simply by reading and doing research – it’s by augmenting that reading and research by living and interacting with fellow human beings who have already achieved what you are attempting to attain.
Drat. As the Emperor told Luke, “It is unavoidable.”
Fine. I’ll socialize with more writers. But don’t ever remind me that I’d rather be back at home, alone, writing; If anyone asks me about story motifs or what my next novel is about, I swear I’ll projectile vomit on their fucking shoes.
Party invitations, anyone?