I’m trying to find a good narrative throughline for you writermonkeys. I dunno where you’re at in your crazy quest to become writers. You might be starting out or you might be jogging along at a nice skip. Thing is, no matter where you are on this mad little journey, you sometimes need a little kick in the sphincter to keep you pressing on.
I got a pair of shitkicker boots, so it seems like I’m the guy who’s about to get ’em dirty.
Normally, my steel-toe ass-destroyers are aimed to get you off the wrong path. This time, I’m here to punt you in the direction you’re already heading in order to keep you on the right path. Or something like that.
Writing is a hard row to hoe, I know, and you’ll have long, dark empty gaps that grow wider and deeper under the shadows of uncertainty. Let’s see if we can’t shine a light in that darkness to help you along your way. Once more, I engage Motivation Mode.
1. Know The Journey Is A Hard Slog Through Helltown
Rub your eyes and take another look.
Writing is a crap shoot of a career. Some days it feels Herculean, other days Sisyphean, but neither of those adjectives sound particularly easy, do they? Maybe you lift the boulder successfully, or maybe you crawl to the top of the hill and the boulder just tumbles back over your limp, sad body. It’s a job with no rules. It’s a job with no safety net. It’s an act of constant uncertainty.
Knowing that, however, helps put your task in perspective. So, when it gets hard, feel comforted because it’s supposed to be. Remind yourself of that once in a while, and feel emboldened by it. You ever try to do something that feels like it should be easy — surfing, sewing, making grand entreaties to Baalzebul — but you just keep dicking it up? It’s nice to hear when someone comes up and tells you, “Nobody gets it right the first time. Hell, took me six times before Baalzebul would even bother to show up. On the eighth time, he filled my mouth with flies and gave me the answer to my question by carving it onto my chest with one of his thousand fingernails.” That feels great because you find out it’s not you.
Nice to know that the journey is difficult because the journey is difficult, not because you suck at it.
2. Keep On Keepin’ On: Persist In Persisting
Stubbornness is a trait that may damage you socially, but will help you as a writer. By which I mean, you have to be stubborn and stupid enough to stick with it. If you were to ask me the top three traits that you’ll find possessed by successful writers, I’d say that one of them is persistence. No, really. The act of simply doing what you’re doing, over and over and over again, is one of the critical traits of being a successful writer.
Of course, that’s also one of the definitions of insanity, isn’t it? Doing the same act over and over again, expecting a different result each time?
Fine. So what? We’re all nuts. I shampoo with horse urine and am sexually aroused by Saran Wrap. Got a problem with that? Didn’t think so.
How does persistence help you? For one, it shows a sign of commitment. This is a long road that asks you to keep your feet upon its cracked macadam.
For two, by simply doing it over and over again, you improve. Even without meaning to. Not to say you shouldn’t make a conscious effort to renew and improve your craft — but even at the bare minimum, constantly engaging in the art of writing and the act of trying to get published (remember, that is the second half to this career) can only sharpen your skills. Or skillz, if you prefer to add a ‘z’ onto the end of plural wordz.
So, you’re trying to be a writer? You’re already a writer? Whatever. The fact that you’re out there just keepin’ on is a great sign. Those who fail to become writers have that one trait in common: they were not persistent enough.
3. You Won’t Get Hit By Lightning Hiding In The Basement
Everybody thinks its hard to get published. And in a way, it is. But your chances are improved the more often you try, thus relating us right back to the previous point (persistence — do I have to remind you again so soon? Are you brain diseased?).
Frame it like this:
“Sweet unmerciful shitrabbits, I really want to get hit my lightning. But so far, no lightning has struck me.”
Are you standing outside?
Are you in a storm?
Are you the tallest thing in the area?
If the answer to any of those is “no,” you’re quite unlikely to get struck by lightning.
Thus, you can do a few simple things to maximize your chances. Go outside. Be in a storm. Ensure that you are the tallest thing around. How does that relate to writing? It relates because maximizing your chances if in part simply the act of doing.
Are you writing?
Are you submitting?
Are you working hard on the material that you’re submitting?
Same basic idea. I’m not saying lightning — or publication and subsequent payment — is guaranteed to shock you. But you can do a lot to improve your chances. Tinfoil underwear and a kite with a key on it? Bingo.
4. Every Day Is An Opportunity To Not Suck The Pipe
Had a hard day of writing? Things didn’t go well? Words didn’t flow right? Characters acting all unruly, flipping you the bird and kicking over your coffee? Oh, settle down, Drama Queen. You’re not a unique and beautiful snowflake. You had a bad day. You think you’re the only one? C’mon. We all like to think that we’re precious specimens, but the truth is, shitty days at any job (or in any ongoing situation) are par for the course.
You’re not special.
But that also means you’re not alone.
And that should be enlivening, not enervating.
Saying to yourself, “So it’s… supposed to be this way once in a while?” might give you the testicular (or titty) tickle you need to refocus and reemerge. You sucked today. Fine. Shake it off. Tomorrow is another opportunity to not suck. And the day after, and the day after. They won’t all be winners. They can’t all be winners, because that would make you a lucky asshole, and nobody likes a lucky asshole.
5. They’re Just Words On A Page
Your story is just that. Words on a page.
We writers, we breathe such life and hope into our stories. And that’s a good thing, because it lifts them, it imbues them, but it also falsely inflates them. We give our work more meaning than it perhaps has, at least in the day-to-day. In the day-to-day, all it is is you putting down words on a page. That’s it. Nothing overly complex. Nothing born of such deep meaning it cannot be comprehended.
You’re not doing calculus. You’re not birthing children. You’re not saving the world.
Just words on a page.
That’s comforting, to me. Because… it feels lighter that way. It feels airy. Unburdened by all the bullshit I might staple to it.
Final Thought: Don’t Get Too Comfy
Tomorrow, though — or, at least, sometime this week — I’m going to pop that bubble and lance that boil.
I’m going to tell you why you shouldn’t be a writer.
See you then, suckers.
(Oh, all photos on this page, with the exception of that lightning shot, are mine.)