In Which I Emit A Lot Of Grr-Talk About Your Writing Career

Here, have this.

It’s a Storify where I, for little to no reason, put on my ranty-trousers and danced around Twitter, grumping about Your Writing Career. (I’m embedding it below, as well, but embed efforts from some sites can be iffy here at the blog. So, assuming it does not embed correctly, you can use that link above. Feel free to embrace, ignore, or abuse accordingly.)

57 responses to “In Which I Emit A Lot Of Grr-Talk About Your Writing Career”

  1. “Being a white dude doesn’t hurt…”

    Seriously? Play that card? I’m still waiting for that “advantage” and until that blessed time where I can kick back and smoke a stogie in celebration of my skin tone helping my career along, I’ll be in the trenches working my ass off.

    • Said on FB, and I might as well repeat here:

      …I understand the question, though it seems a question meant to be more provocative than meaningful. And it doesn’t invalidate anything I said — yes, it’s harder for some people to do this thing than others. That can be true whether or not you have two kids or depression or a different skin color. The truth of the rant remains that you gotta work the work.

      Reality is rarely kind. It’s kinder to some people than to others. Wishing it to be different doesn’t make it different. The core truths (as I see them) remain.

  2. That last comment just rubs me the wrong way. No matter how hard you work someone else is going to come up with an excuse as to why you are successful that tries to invalidate it or prove that you don’t deserve the success. Fuck that noise. I’m tired of the damn “crabs in a barrel” mentality that saturates a large portion of society. Shit, now I’m ranting.

  3. Thanks for the reality check. Seriously. Also, skin tone doesn’t have anything to do with it. It’s just another excuse used by closeted racists.

  4. Gabriel, Tee — you guys are kinda missing the point. The advantage doesn’t mean you automatically win. You still have to work. The advantage means that ALL you have to do is work — you don’t have to overcome additional systemic obstacles. That doesn’t make the work easy — it’s just as hard as it is for everybody else… but other folks who aren’t white guys also have a bunch of other shit they have to deal with IN ADDITION to the work.

    • Gareth, I see where you are coming from, but also disagree. Being white doesn’t mean ALL you have to do is work. That’s a blanket statement fueled by lazy thinking. Is privilege real, definitely. No one is disputing it. Does it have to be thrown at the “white dudes” every chance you can get… no. Trying to invalidate or diminish other people’s work, for any reason, is bullshit.

      For the record, I’m not a white dude wearing cranky pants. I’m a Cuban-American who believes in the virtues of hard work because my parents and grandparents did exactly that when they fled Cuba and started from scratch in the US. I’m just not a fan of beating other people up with labels, whoever they may be or whatever tribe they belong to,

      • I don’t think it’s about beating people up for being white, but I do think there’s value in seeing an uneven playing field. We start the game with the bases loaded — it doesn’t guarantee a win, but it’s a meaningful realization. I don’t think it invalidates what I’m saying, because work is still work and you still gotta do it. That’s no small feat, either. Work is hard. Committing to this thing takes a lot of time and energy and frustration.

        • Both make very good points, but I have to say, for such a well-made point as the one you made above, I find it… disappointing that you decided snark and dismissal were the appropriate responses to Gabriel’s reply.

          • When faced with a rude dismissal (because honestly, that’s exactly what a charge of “lazy thinking” is), I kinda learn that it’s not worth my time to put any more effort into a conversation.

            Not sure why that merits me getting the lecture on manners, rather than the guy being rude in the first place, but hey — the internet’s a marvelous place.

          • I wasn’t giving you a lecture on manners, I was hoping for a response as good as the original comment, because you made an excellent point and made it well.

          • Thank you Matt. I appreciate you seeing the point I was trying to make.

            Gareth, my aim wasn’t to be rude or dismissive. I firmly believe that blanket statements are lazy thinking because one-size does not fit all.

            “White dude = Privilege” is not a law of nature. Read Scalzi’s post on being poor and tell me he had privilege. Or that King had privilege when he lived in a double-wide trailer and had to endure endless crap jobs to make ends meet for his family.

            Privilege does exist. It does need to be discussed, recognized, and battled, but it is not a constant like gravity.

          • Cuttydarke, his comments on white privilege are 100% spot on. That’s not the debate or even the point I was making. I’m saying that it is NOT a blanket rule that covers all white males unconditionally.

            Go down to Miami and tell me there’s white privilege. It’s the exact opposite, I encountered more Hispanic privilege than anything else.

            I apologize for going so off track from Chuck’s original intent with this article–which was to outline the harsh realities of what it takes to carve a career out of writing–but the final tweet he posted pissed me off because it was someone trying to invalidate all of Chuck’s hard work by saying he was white, so it didn’t matter.

            Chuck knows better and understands the playing field. I do as well, I just don’t believe in blanket statements. Privilege is not a law of physics. Life does not work in absolutes and I can’t stand those who view it in that way. Life is too nuanced for a “one-size fits all” approach.

  5. This. So This. I have friends who don’t even work a full time job or have kids to raise and they say they don’t have the time, yet I have a full time job and a 3 hr one way commute and I managed to publish… several times. If you want it, you’ll get it. If you don’t want it, you’ll mark it up to writer’s block and whine about it, and bother those people who are actually working on their craft with your tales of woe. As @ChuckWendig so eloquently put it, STFU and write! Or go away and don’t.

  6. How the hell is almost every comment on this article about that one last white dude line? Yea it’s important but completely not the point of this post. Well said chuck. This was honest and great and infuriating and smells like whiskey. So, you in post form, I imagine.

  7. Amen.
    LOVE all of your post! But most especially this one…

    “Writing has no time for your writer’s block or your fear or your uncertainty. Your excuses power only your inability to get it done.”

    {{looking in the mirror and saying this outloud}}

  8. Everyone is a white guy under the pseudonomic umbrella! Well if you wanna. I went with brit-sounding female but NEXT TIME I might try white guy, and then look out.

  9. I’ll be honest. This irritates the living shit out of me, for a variety of reasons. But since those reasons do not matter, I will just keep my mouth shut. If I ever meet you, Chuck, I will likely punch you for this and then hug you for its ultimate effect. I’m just saying.

  10. This says it all for me:
    Your excuses are not interesting. Your fear is not valuable. Your doubt is killing you. Hold your nose and dive the fuck in.

    I hesitate to admit this, but I was part of a writing group for several years. My hesitation is because the “leader” of this group always had a reason why she wasn’t writing, an excuse, without fail. The exhortations to all of us to get past our doubts and fears never seemed to get anywhere in the other direction.

    That sounds ok, but once I started to step away from that group and gain some confidence, I saw the symptoms. She was equally quick to hand out discouragement if any of us showed signs of wanting to write consistently or, gasp, actually publish something. Strangely enough, the further I got away from that influence, the more I wrote, enjoyed it, and started to believe I might actually have something to say. I’ll be on guard for this sort of bullshit from now on, so lesson learned.

    Well said, Chuck. Timely and MUCH appreciated!

  11. So very much fucking THIS! No one cares about WHY you can’t write. I sure as hell don’t. Half the time my internal response to people who say “I want to write but I just don’t have the TIIIIIME!” is “No you don’t. If you WANTED to write….you’d carve the time out of your day with a dull rusty butter knife if you had to. I did.”

    Giving headspace to things like “My characters just talk to me!” or “They just take over the story!” and “I can only write when I’m inspired!” or any of a hundred other glitter spangled, artsy fartsy writer myths sabotages your faith in the ONLY thing that matters: your skill as a writer. Not your talent or your God-given, genetically inherited “gift” for writing. Writing is a skill, one that you improve with PRACTICE! Believing those writerly myths gives you an excuse to NOT WRITE. No time? Bullshit. No discipline.

    Wanna succeed? Listen to Chuck. Art harder motherfucker! Still my favorite piece of advice.

  12. About 5 years ago I shifted from “I don’t have time to write” to “I don’t have my priorities in order”

    Now I write more, and when I don’t write more, at least I’m honest about the reasons (AKA Netflix addiction, it’s a thing).

  13. God, I am so damn spoiled. But I have to grin when I hear people say they don’t have time to write. I’m retired now, and while far from wealthy, I am financially comfortable. I have all the time in the world to write now, and I LOVE it! But some days, I still find excuses not to write. So, if you think a lack of time is keeping you from writing, it may be true, but when you have the time, or better yet, make the time, do you write? Or, do you find another excuse? If so, like CW said, maybe don’t be a writer.

  14. So much great wisdom here. So. Much. I worked 70 hours a week while i got my degree. I work too many hours at a more than full time job, and still find time to publish…all it takes is prioritizing and discipline. Love it, Chuck!

  15. To the guys complaining about this: “Being a white dude doesn’t hurt…”

    Being a white dude doesn’t make writing or getting paid for it any easier. It does mean that your writing is the only criterion on which you are being judged. It’s unlikely that you’ll be asked who you had to blow to get published. No-one expects you to be a spokesperson for your race, culture or gender. You can look however you want and no-one will care. Nobody points out that George RR Martin is overweight and elderly and has a terrible beard but you should hear what they say about Hillary Mantell. And she doesn’t even have a terrible beard.

    People might think you’re weird if you write romance but all other genres are open to you. No-one is building walls to keep you out because you’re defiling the purity of science fiction with your ovaries or tainting it’s integrity with your dusky skin.

    The fact that you might be unaware that this happens to people who are not white dudes is one of the ways that being a white dude does not hurt you.

  16. I think it’s disingenuous to suggest that working hard will lead to lucky breaks, without acknowledging that there are few other careers that expect someone to work for years without pay. I had an editor tell me, “You can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket,” but it’s ridiculous that publishing expects the creators of content to gamble for living wages. Honestly, “just writing” doesn’t equal a “creative career,” even if you meet your deadlines and do your marketing. And time to write (for free) is absolutely a privilege.

    • I never suggested working hard will lead to lucky breaks, only that working hard helps maximize your luck.

      And nobody is saying work for free — but you do have to practice. If you want to be an artist, you have to first put paint on a canvas. And nobody will pay you for that. You have to iterate on your own and in classes and however you can. And again, nobody will pay you for that. But practice is how you get better.

      I don’t know why anyone would think otherwise.

      • Your luck is considerably reduced if you lack the required privilege; there’s particularly evidence of this in speculative fiction, considering the sexism last year with SFWA. #weneeddiversebooks also shows how certain authors and certain books will never have a “lucky break.”

  17. It’s not that you don’t have time to write. Its that your priorities are out of order. It’s true that it’s hard to write after working 60 hours a week, but you can get another job. You can choose not to have children. You can marry someone who is willing to pull the majority of the financial weight.

    Should you? Maybe, maybe not.

    There are different degrees to which you can arrange your life around writing and not the other way around. Putting writing first is not necessarily what is best for your mental health and happiness, even if it’s best for your career. But that’s also true if you’re a laywer or doctor or whatever. You are always giving up something when you focus on one pursuit.

    It’s OK to be a hobbyist and only write when you have time and inspiration as long as you’re realistic about it.

  18. You all do know white people have to deal with other white people, right? Like, we don’t spend all our free time being racist and sexist and congratulating each other on being white and blowing each other, right? Like its possible for a white dude to be a total asshole to another white dude. In fact, its possible for a white dude to be treated like shit by anyone from another race or gender. Did you know that???

      • I wish the last comment wasn’t added, it takes away from the message, which was inspirational, and changes the conversation. Now I can’t write, all I can think about is white people.

        I don’t know whats worse, the person who says “hey all white people have it easier” or the person who spouts “white privilege” as if its a forgone conclusion, patting themselves on the back for being so P.C. People on the internet jump to support any complaint and its more white to jump on the bandwagon instead of realizing every time a woman speaks about sexism, or a gay person says something about homosexuality, or a minority speaks about race, that there wasn’t a secret meeting where these people were elected to be some sort of spokesperson. sometimes an opinion just belongs to that person. Its like when people say they support immigration reform and then follow up with “they just want to do the jobs no one else wants to do.” thats worse!

  19. I feel like I should print these all off and put them around my space to remind me to write. Except without the expletives because of my son. Thanks for the really great reminders. It’s only a matter of time before these become meme’d on FB.

  20. You, sir, are kicking me out of the sorry state I’ve been for the past year. I recently bought your book “The KICK-ASS Writer,” and while I do agree with some people that say that it seems to be 85% with and 15% actual advice, it has gotten me to get back on my chair and work on finishing what I started.

  21. “While you hesitate, someone younger — not necessarily better! — is elbowing past you to finish the work that they started.”

    Not necessarily someone younger, either. Just someone putting in the time & working very hard to finish their shit. Could be some kid, could be a dad scribbling words before getting his kids up to get them ready for school, or a middle-aged woman cranking out pages on her lunch break.

  22. Doing the work is about doing the work. Selling it is all luck and connection. (I run 2-3 years ahead of the trends) Do the work anyway, and sell the daylights out of it. Find the connections and make your own luck. I have written on loading docks, in rest areas, in sleeper berths of semi trucks. I have written when my daughter was hospitalized, when my mother was dying. And if *I* can do it, anyone can do it.

  23. This! So much all of this!

    For years I wanted so bad to be An Author. I wanted to be able to sit down and write reams and reams of wonderful stuff every time I felt inspired, and managed to find a nice, lazy afternoon where I didn’t have anything else I could be doing instead, so that everything that poured out of me would be so goddamn right I wouldn’t need to change a word of it…

    Mmmmyeah, I spent a lot of years being a prat, to be honest.

    So now I don’t write to Be An Author any more – I write to Get My Shizzle Written. Like a little miner at the rockface; showing up each day to clock on and chip, chip chip away at that wall until I’ve tunnelled me way through to the nuggets. It might take me a very long time (unlike Steve, I don’t seem to be in possession of a diamond pickaxe, just the much slower iron one) but now that it’s all about the story rather than the shiny fabby oh-my-god-possibly-PUBLISHED! book I can just get on with writing the thing the way it’s meant to be written. That’s the thing I had to learn – that writing a novel is SUPPOSED to be hard and grinding grunty-work a lot of the time, and when it aint rainbows and fluffy kittens it doesn’t mean you’re doing it all wrong and you should really give up on it.

  24. I’m working hard and looking forward to those pirouettes, in more ways than one, since knee surgery. Ha!

    I met a lady a week ago who said she wants to finish her book, but doesn’t have the time. I subdued my smirk, but gave her some suggestions which she promptly shot down.
    A writer finds the time, PERIOD. The end.

  25. I know that I need to work harder and your reminders are the best. I’m waiting for the day you said “Here you lazy fuckers, the audible version of me telling you to “Finish your shit” and “Why aren’t you fucking writing, right meow*?”

    * – because I think that meow would be much more entertaining than now.

  26. Glad to see you back in fine form again. Yes, the only “writer’s block” I have is the slug I see in the mirror. There is stuff behind that, but it’s my responsibility to deal with that stuff, no one else’s.

    As to the last remark. Yup, somebody has got to come in and ‘splain. No matter what the message is, there is always a “But, you don’t know how hard it is because . . . . ”

    The reality of the world is that not every car starts the race in pole position. That’s not how it works (that’s not how any of this works.) That car gets there by winning the time trials. That car usually wins the time trials because of an enormous privilege or resources.

    However, to invoke a Hallmark-channel level of cliche, it’s not where you start the race, it’s where you finish.

    Next year’s Thrillmaster for Thrillerfest is a woman. Yes, a white woman, but still progress. Please give me the names of non-white, non-male thriller writers who don’t write in experimental 2nd POV present-tense retrolinear literary metaphorical haiku and I will read them. Deliver the same action as Lee Child, John Gilstrap, and Tom Clancy and I will read them. I don’t have to alter my taste to accommodate speshul snowflakes. I’m a grown-up. I do not have to eat brussel sprouts, no matter how they are cooked if I don’t want to.

    My reading time is limited. My issue with many emerging writers is not their origin, it’s their books. I don’t like their books. My fav writers tend to be grounded in law, criminal justice, science, and the military. For at least another generation, that demographic is going to favor white guys. In a decade, that may change. I would love a real hard-hitting suspenseful thriller rich with Chollo street-life or behind the scenes of the black community written by someone who knows and can add the cultural reality, but not written in some weird experimental MFA-laden literary style.

    This week I’m blogging on by disillusionment with 3rd wave feminism and the manufactured outrage over the “John Green Effect.” One blogger was wringing her hands over the fact that John Green had more Twitter followers than a group of female writers combined. Um, he’s funny on social media and works his ass off at it. I checked out the feeds of many of those female writers. They’re not and they don’t. And several of those women are laughing all the way to the bank.

    And none of this is a dominant-culture-privilege-oppressor “punch-down” of diversity. If anything, your run of the mill white guy is just a bit more noise in a crowd of run of the mill white guys. Not easy to stand out, especially with commenters like this one. Until we address the real issues of inequalities in public education, accessibility to higher education, access to technology, media bias, Internet infrastructure, etc. then mewling about white man privilege is just another excuse, no better than the ones I’ve been using lately.


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