I’m reading a new series. It has dragons. Enough said. I also just read a post by John Hartness (author of some of my favorite urban fantasy novels), which talked about how to become a good writer. It involves writing. And reading. And getting better at same. How do these disparate thoughts connect? Well, I’m on the third book of Jessie Donovan’s Stonefire Dragons series, and it’s getting better. Clearly, the first two books, Sacrificed to the Dragon and Seducing the Dragon, were good enough to ensure I kept reading through to this book, Revealing the Dragons. The writing is getting better, the plotting is getting better and the series is getting better. Ditto for Mr. Hartness, so I guess he’s taking his own advice. Encouraging.
And all of this thinking is in keeping with my topic of the week—maybe of the year: how to improve myself. It’s the whole talent versus work question. Nature versus nurture. And I’m confused. And scared. And depressed. And hopeful. And did I mention confused? Today’s post is all about me (I’ll try to bring my personal angst back to a larger application by the end of the post, so bear with me, please). I’m at a crossroads: should I keep writing this blog, hoping to maybe turn it into a book, and possibly make this the prelude to writing fiction? Which I have no idea how to write. So maybe this is all an exercise in futility (clearly my pity party of last week isn’t quite over).
So here is the dilemma: I’m not a natural fiction writer, despite my teenaged attempts to write a novel (stranded island, threesome, no plot beyond they crashed, they survived, they eventually got rescued—highly episodic and predictable). Yet I yearn to write fiction. But I have neither stories nor characters rolling around in my head, clamoring to be let out. I have oodles of desire, but no discernible ability to translate that into action. Or none that has manifested itself thus far.
According to John Hartness, fuck me—till I faint, as one of my bosses used to say to me (who, while vulgar, was supportive, helpful, instructive and all-around wonderful, so I’m repeating his favorite adage with affection and respect—truly). Anyhoo, as I was saying, I think I’m screwed. I think maybe I don’t want this enough, I’m too lazy, too stupid, too disorganized, too ADD, too little, too late. I have a quote from Laurell Hamilton above my desk, “How bad do you want it? That’s the first question. Once you’ve answered it, you can get to work or give up. But you’ll know which it is.” And my deepest fear is that I’ve already answered that question. ‘Cause if I wanted it badly enough, I would have already done what it takes to do it.
On top of that, I saw a cartoon on Facebook earlier that made fun of someone who thinks people still read blogs – as in they’re passé. Which freaked me the fuck out (clearly, I’m also slipping in my commitment to keep the bad language to a minimum). All of this feels futile.
But, back to John Hartness’ counsel to, “Suck it up, buttercup.” If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. He notes that most writers write a lot of stuff that will never see the light of someone else’s Kindle. Nor should it. Most of what beginning writers write is shit not fit for human consumption. So we need to keep writing. And then keep writing some more. I was feeling pretty good about the 250,000 words I’ve already written for this blog. But John talked about writing a million words before anyone wanted to publish them. My neighbor, a best-selling author, writes more than 10,000 words a day. Every day (well, maybe she takes weekends off…).
And while John Hartness would say that work is all that is needed – which should be good news for me, as we can all control how much we work, but not how much talent we have, I still believe inspiration has a place in creative writing. As in it requires creativity, which, in turn, necessitates a visit from my Muse, who is a fickle bitch and hasn’t stopped by my place to visit in quite a while.
But I think John would say, “Fuck your Muse! We don’t need no stinking muses to get shit done! Because a good work ethic, and grit, and hard work trumps inspiration. Every. Single. Time.” Or, at least, that’s what I imagine he would say. He might ask me what I’m doing today to make my dreams a reality. Do I have an action plan? Am I willing to give up sleep and my social life (or at least some of it) and other ways I spend my time (like on Facebook)? Am I willing to put my money where my mouth is and take some fucking action? And no, not just writing this blog and occasionally reading about how to write. Just doing it already, knowing that the first several hundred thousand words are going to be dog meat?
To write or not to write? That is the question. Or, at least, it’s my question. I’m sure many of you have a similar question rattling around in your brain, although perhaps it pertains to getting married, or having kids, or changing jobs, or pursuing your own passion. I don’t have any answers, just lots of questions today. Any thoughts would be most appreciated.