Your 2016 Authorial Mandate Is Here: Be The Writer That You Are, Not The Writer Other People Want You To Be

That blog title is way too long, but fuck it.

A handful of weeks ago, some presumably well-meaning tickledick posted a comment here at the blog. It was a comment that I chose not to approve because, really, I don’t need your shit, Rando Calrissian. This blog is my digital house, and I don’t let strangers inside just so they can take a dump on my kitchen table, especially so we can all sit around, smelling it and discussing it. But the comment was a splinter under my nail, working its way up into the finger-meat. And then reading George R. R. Martin’s end-of-the-year message about not finishing the newest SOIAF also was something that crawled inside me and starting having thought-babies.

Being here on the Internet is a bit like hanging out on a clothesline — some days are sunny and warm, other days are cool and breezy. Some days it pisses rain and the wind tries to take you, and other days it’s daggers of ice or a rime of snow or smoke from a wildfire or some pervert streaking across the lawn and stropping up against you with his unwanted nasty bits.

Being on the Internet means being exposed.

You’re just out there. A squirming nerve without the tooth surrounding it.

That’s good in some ways because you’re exposed to new people, new ideas, new ways of doing things. You’re not an isolated creature here. You are an experiment being observed and are in turn an observer of countless other experiments, and that makes a subtle-not-subtle push-and-pull. But can also be erosive or corrosive — it can wear off your paint a little bit.

As a writer in particular, it has its ups and downs, too. Here, you’ll find yourself surrounded by a gaggle of ink-fingered cohorts who know what it is to do what you do. You’ll have a herd, a cult, a clan, a tribe. You’ll have smaller communities who know what it is you write or want to write, too, whether it’s young adult or epic fantasy or erotic sci-fi cookbooks. And here on the Digital Tubes, everybody is has an opinion, everybody is an expert. And that’s extra-true with writing. Other writers have their processes and their hang-ups and their wins and their losses, and they share it all. Which is, on a whole, a good thing. Information is good. Camaraderie is good.

That, though, can muddy the waters at the same time. This Person is doing This Person’s thing, and That Person is doing That Person’s thing, and Other Person is really loud about what WILL SURELY WORK FOR EVERYBODY (translation, will probably only work for people who are or are like Other Person). And advice gurgles up around your feet like rising floodwaters. Do this, do that, don’t do this, don’t say that, don’t write this, this isn’t selling, that is a no-no, publish this way, sell that way, don’t publish that other way, drink this, wear houndstooth jackets with elbow patches, drink that, snark here, snark there, with a fox, in a box, wearing socks, eating rocks, with a bear, without hair, anywhere. We have a whole lot of writers trying to figure out who they really are, and in the process, do a very good job at also telling you who you should be in order to conform to their notions of who they want to be. To confirm who they are, it’s easy for them to also confirm who you should be, too. That’s not sinister. That’s just human nature. It’s easier to become something when others are along for the ride. And it’s also the joy of confirmation bias — what worked for me confirms that I WAS RIGHT AND SO YOU ARE A HEINOUS DIPSHIT IF YOU DO NOT FOLLOW PRECISELY IN MY FOOTSTEPS. I do it. You do it. Most of us do, I think.

It then gets further complicated once you have readers. Or, Uber Readers, aka, fans. Because they, too, have opinions on you and your work. They will have opinions on your process. And it’s not that they’re wrong, it’s that they’re — no, wait, they are wrong, never mind. They’re totally wrong, because they’re not writing the stories. They’re right about what they want to read and when they want to read it, but not about how to create it. It’s hard to tell someone how to do their job. It’s extra-hard to tell them how to make their art. Because process and prose and authorial intent are all intensely personal to the creator. Personal and twisted further by the pressures of creation and the potential mental stresses that come along with it — remember, a great many writers and artists also suffer from depression or anxiety or other ghosts in the gray matter.

It’s not just one type of writer over another. This is true of new writers who are just finding their way. This is true of mid-career or mid-list writers who are out there in the wilderness surviving, not sure how to get out of the forest just yet. This is true of super-successful authors who are trapped under the magnifying lens of a massively public fanbase — the sun likely focusing into a laser-hot beam upon their foreheads. All artists of every level are exposed here.

Here, now, is the comment referenced at the fore of the post:

“There is no skill floor or ceiling to being a writer. Anyone who speaks a language, who tells a story, can write. To be published is a stricter process that requires an adherence to professional guidelines and to a standard of quality that is dictated by the publishing office. That you’ve been published so many times is no small feat, and I commend you for it.

But having read Aftermath and Blackbirds, I feel that there is…a laziness to your style that you seem to be either unaware of or have come to terms with. It’s difficult to quantify, but it gives me the impression that you don’t value writing as an art. As a job, certainly. But not as a form of expression. Because otherwise you wouldn’t spend 45-90 days on a book. A soul isn’t bared in three months. Professional or no, no book you truly care for should go from start to finish that quickly.

To know an art is to break established rules in the hopes of producing a truer version of your vision. And you certainly break the rules of writing craft. In the first three paragraphs of Blackbirds you’ve disregarded flow, used inappropriate comparisons, and introduced the main character through a mirror scene. And while these things are permissible, they are not the hallmarks of someone who cherishes what he writes.

Great writing seeks subtlety. It’s the words that are unwritten, the descriptions that are inferred, the meaning that comes across through the subtext of what is explicit that writing excels at communicating. But your writing doesn’t ask me to look within myself for answers. It asks me to look no further than the page. And that, to me, is a tragedy. Because we’re all capable of greatness. But greatness comes from being dissatisfied with how things are, and with pushing the boundaries of what you believe yourself to be capable of in order to achieve your absolute best. And even then, you won’t be satisfied. You’ll push yourself further in your next pursuits, because now you’ve touched on what you’re capable of, but you won’t be satisfied.

To release your books in such a short time frame tells me that you’re satisfied, and that breaks my heart.”

I tried for the better part of a week to conjure a more cogent response than “fuck you,” and I got as far as “go fuck yourself.” Like, I tried to go through it once and conjure point-by-point rebuttals — well, no, because of course I value art and art is not beholden to any timetable and it takes the time that it takes short or long and — but eventually my rebuttal dissolves into a gargled cry of “eat a bucket of deep-fried fucks, you squawking chicken-fucker.” With an added, “HOW’S THAT FOR SUBTLETY,” and then a crotch-grab as I cackle and yell, “CHERISH THIS.”

This is someone who wants his vision to be my vision. He has very explicit ideas about how art is made — ideas that, by the way, are provably false. (For writers in particular, looking at the daily word counts of famous writers is clarifying in its sheer variation.) Great writing is not one thing any more than great paintings are, or great music, or, or, or. The variation in art is glorious. The variation in the process that puts the art into the world is equally amazing. Music can be operatic, or punk, or dub-step. A sculpture might be an alabaster goddess or a bunch of fucking cubes stuck to a bunch of other fucking cubes. Food can be subtle and airy or unctuous and heavy or whipped into a foam or shoved between two buns (tee hee buns). Comedy can be a routine that takes years to write, or an improv session that took 30 seconds to conjure.

There’s no wrong way to do it, as long as you’re doing it.

There’s no timetable, as long as you’re taking the time.

Nobody can tell you how you do it. They can only tell you how they do it or what illusions they hold about the process — illusions that often wither under actual implementation.

They can offer suggestions. And you are free to take them, hold them up in the light, and see if there is anything there of value. And if there isn’t? Then you can fling it into the trash compactor on the detention level where it will be ogled and eaten by the one-eyed Dianoga.

That’s not to say there aren’t people you should listen to — a good editor or agent, a trusted friend, a beloved author. But even there, you want to find people who will clarify and improve your process and your work — not substitute it with something that isn’t really yours.

So, in 2016, I advise you to give your middle fingers a proper workout and elevate them accordingly to any who would diminish who you are, what you make, or how you make it. You don’t need to wall yourself off from it, but you also don’t need to be a sweater hanging on the clothesline, either. Get some tooth around that nerve.

Know who you are. Learn your process. Find your way. And don’t let anyone else define who you are as a creator, as an artist, as a writing writer who motherfucking writes.

Happy 2016, writers.

You do you.

*explodes in gory human fireworks*

236 comments

  • Happy 2016 Chuck. The reason I am here is because you are unique and refreshing. I’m here because you are honest and down to earth. So thank you for being you and thank you for encouraging people to be themselves. I fought for decades to earn the ownership of myself and dare to be who I want to be. I hope this year is your most successful yet, with more to come. Much gratitude and love to you.

  • The easiest thing to do is criticise… and breathe I suppose. I smiled broadly at the ‘got as far as go fuck yourself’ and that made me recall one of the South Park kids asking “how’s that gonna help?” Anyway, thanks for the grin and though you don’t need any agreement from me, my art is my expression, and despite my wish that others with money would fall madly in love with it and desire to own it, few do, and so it does tend to pile up in the studio…but I keep making it. One of my greatest satisfactions is humor, when I’ve managed to illustrate it and another human gets it and laughs even as they lie about having no wall space. I mean, ceiling art has been around for centuries. Art on. I enjoy your blog whenever I read it, and I fully believe I’ll get back to my rewrites soon.

  • It’s a tricky one, his opening few lines read very well, where he loses it is launching a personal attack on your style of writing. Clearly as you are published and are successful (not that these 2 things are exclusive or proof of talent) that your style is acceptable within the context of the stories you tell.

    If we all wrote the same way and in the same style books may become boring, but the key thing is that the style is not the fundamental driving force behind a book being written. Its the desire from the author to tell that story that drives it. If you have the drive to bang out stories then that doesn’t mean you don’t care rather it tells people that you want to share what you have written and have a real passion for it.

    As you say all your followers here write different genres and we all have our own approaches, its sad that some people seem to think that there is one way, one rule and anyone who doesn’t follow needs to be “set straight” so that they will rectify their ways.

    Kudos to you for not tell him to go away but rather to go away in your unique style. 🙂

    • What’s different about this comment is that, in contrast to a number of others, Ed manages to keep both his dignity and a level head while still getting his point across. Here’s to more reasoned abstainers from the lynch mob.

  • Can I hear an Amen?

    Thank you for expressing so well a writer’s rage against critics who insist they know what is worthy of being read and enjoyed. All those readers must be wrong if said critic does not agree …

    • I don’t have rage against critics, really, to be clear — they fulfill a necessary role. Art exists over there, and then critical and cultural discourse exists over here, and the two intertwine in a conversation — though most times, the author doesn’t really belong in that conversation. The problem is when that conversation includes the author on behalf of the audience — meaning, addressing the author directly, then it becomes a whole other bag of chimichangas.

      This isn’t about countering proper criticism but about countering other people telling you who you should be as a writer. (And in fact, ignoring criticism is sometimes the best way forward, unless it comes from a source you trust.) Probably a whole other post about that!

  • I read and lurk, and read some more, but this is quite possibly the best thing I have read, and as someone else stated, came at the most perfect time. All I can say is thank you for doing you, and helping the rest of us realize we can do us at the same time. Cheers and Happy 2016.

  • Thanks. A very appropriate and helpful post for a morning where I woke to comments on my novel-in-progress that say: I see what you’re doing, but it’s weird and I don’t like it.

    And then the doubt termites start gnawing away at every one of the 99,000 words on the page.

  • Thought-provoking article, as always.

    I think one of the more difficult things for me as a writer is figuring out what comments are useful and valid, and which should be considered and rejected.

  • You just made my day. Thank you so much. As I write this comment, my middle finger–maybe both fingers, but the right hand middle finger for sure–has come to live and wants to exercise. It jumps away from the keyboard. It can’t wait to speak to the people who have made my creative life a bit of a hell on earth. 2016 is going to be a blast. Thank you for keeping it real.

  • I couldn’t help but ready the quote with snooty James Mason accent.

    I’m totally in awe of how prolific Chuck is. Prolific, talented, and generous.

    • Snooty JM may have acted but he was great in THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL (1978) and entirely memorable in a way that Brendan Fraser could never be in the original JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH (1959).

  • What you have there, whether intentional or not, is a concern troll. You see, you just don’t understand how much better you could be and that makes them sad. If only you cared more or followed their idea of what “better” is.

    Yeah, bullshit.

    As a reader, your reaction is 100% valid. “This confused me.” “I didn’t care about that.” “I didn’t believe the other thing.” “This bit was really cool!” But the prescription for how to make that better for you, how to *fix* it, that is much less likely to be valid.

  • I applaud your ability to control your fuckoffidness.

    This feel of laziness or “lack of style”? It’s called “voice” asshat, and everyone’s is distinctly different. If they were all the same, we’d all write like fucking Hemingway and wouldn’t that be boring as hell?!

    But for him to say there is no skill to writing, well then I again say “If that were true, everyone would be a writer.” Everyone. Nothing gets under my skin more than someone, friend or not, coming up to me after reading my books and saying, with a huge smile “I’ve always wanted to write a book”. Don’t tell me. If that’s your calling, do it, but don’t tell me this, thinking I’m going to laud your ability to spew a masterpiece without ever having done it before.

    Which brings me to your real message here and it’s one I actually discussed in depth just last night while I sat across the table with a fellow writer as we were both *gasp* writing. This whole idea of rules and guidelines. Even with a background in English and Journalism, I say “fuck ‘em”. As above, I feel the more strictly you hold to rules and guidelines, the less voice you have. Your work becomes a parable of Strunk and White and not a work of art.

    Granted, there are some standards we all follow with formatting, but when it comes to words, they should be our own, however we wish to express them. The indie publishing phenomenon has proven that this is true. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read that are so far from the norm that they smack of borderline rebellion of sentence structure, but you know what? I’ve become fans of those writers because the words they pour onto the pages capture me. My eyes don’t see missing commas or poor form. They see entertainment, and that’s what I’m there for.

  • I spent almost ten years miserably trying to be the writer I thought everyone wanted to be. I’ve spent the past year learning to be the writer I want to be, and owe a lot to your blog, you coaching, even your CAPSLOCK banter on twitter. So thanks. You’re awesome.

  • Literary. Versus. The Rest of All Writing Everywhere. It’s an old and tired argument that will never have a winner, only asshats arguing for an art form they will never be able to define; writers made popular by the lowest common denominator because that’s all they need to write for that audience; and in the middle the rest. Part of that rest being you and every other writer who writes well, finds and audience and huzzah! Because they/you write something or in the way the audience wants to hear. Like why people read your ($*&&#*& blog! Because it strikes a chord. So it’s worth reading.

    I bought your book. Its on my list and I’ll leave a review too when I read it ( because that’s what good readers do to support authors.) I know you don’t have an fucking MFA. I’m not rating you the same way I would an erotic thriller, nor a children’s book, nor the same way I would The Empathy Exams (speaking of MFAs). All stars are not created equal (something that really sucks about a rating system that doesn’t take genre into account).

    All that matters is what you said. Are you and we the writers we choose to be. Period.

    I’m not yet. And let me tell you, that totally sucks. You are very lucky.

  • Happy 2016. And yes, I will “There’s no wrong way to do it, as long as you’re doing it. There’s no timetable, as long as you’re taking the time.” Sounds like a great way to start things off for me.

    I don’t know how many times I’ve heard other authors say that ‘everyone has their own process’ to writing. But there will always be those who are going to sit back and say that we’re doing it wrong. Everyone writes different ways. Stop trying to pigeon hole everyone into one box.

  • “A soul isn’t bared in three months.”

    Who’s to say? The imposition of a standard based on your own prejudices on someone else is the height of arrogance. Disregarding this sort of blather is wisdom. Good post.

  • Chuck, your advice came at a great time. I’ve been dithering about writing a book that has been itching at me for over a year. I’ve already written two conservative ones, knowing that I didn’t really freely express myself. I’ve been to afraid. This new story will piss of the religious right. It will be a difficult one to sell to conservative publishing houses but it is BEGGING to get out. I hesitated because I worried about what people would think about the book and about me. Well, (majestic bird flipping to the world) it’s now time to write it no matter what.

  • Remind me to never piss you off. That said, reading that persons post made me do that “Oh my god” laugh of joyful disbelief, followed by a little giggle. A strange reaction I’m sure, but then I tend to crack up when I watch scary parts of horror movies, too. Anyway, I hope you feel better after having vented about this, and I sincerely hope this guy gets a dose or ten of this same bitter, judgmental, classless, arrogant medicine. Kudos to you for not losing your shit. Now let me give you some advice about your blog…

      • That’s awesome! I think I giggle because some part of me knows it’s really DUMB to be scared of something like that, but that’s just how it is. The part in The Ring with the girl and the t.v.? I was so scared I laughed til I almost cried. Otherwise I think I’m fairly normal… 😀 Seems like the date story would be amusing. Let’s hear it…

  • People like that guy (the one who has the audacity to tell YOU how to write) are why it took me so long to even try to be a writer. I thought I HAD to do it “their way”. And I knew I didn’t want to. It bored me to tears. Reading the “classics” also bored me. So I figured I wasn’t worthy and went off to a dead end day job for half my life. After they’d sucked out my soul, I figured out doing things “their way” never pays off well in the end. Now I’ve also learned to use that middle finger. I write what I love to read. Hopefully others will love reading it too. If not? At least I did it MY way.

  • Thank you for being so honest in your blog posts, Chuck. For a long time I thought if I could just get an agent, sign a book deal, win a contest, whatever, then I could tra la la my way into the sunset, insecurity-free. So then I won a contest, got an agent, and signed a three-book deal, and, yeah no, things didn’t work out that way. So I took a peek around the internet to check out what other authors were saying about this, and at first all I could find were pretty, manicured messages of gratitude and bliss about all the joy and crap. (Okay, there is some of that, but there’s a lot of other stuff too…and it’s scary.) Thankfully, I came across your blog. The honesty in your posts has made all the difference for this barely “surviving” author. Happy New Year.

  • What an unbelievably, staggeringly ignorant comment!! Just because some authors are capable of writing books within a matter of months does mean they worked any less hard or cherish their work any less than someone that takes several years to produce a book.

    I truly care for every single book I write, but it usually only takes me about 3 weeks to write each book. That is the speed at which I work and I wouldn’t slow that down just because some douchepants thinks writing a book in a short amount of time means you don’t care about it. The same goes for any author that is capable of writing several books a year.

    Stay awesome, Chuck!!

  • Thanks for sharing that post Chuck. My daughter is a librarian so naturally I read A LOT of books….. you are one of my favourite authors, including your blog so thank you for all that you write.

  • THANK. YOU. The past couple years my career has gone BACKWARDS because a few people felt the need to tell me what I should be doing. The problem is, it was THEIR idea and what worked in their universe, not mine. So instead of progressing on work that I wanted to do, I made like, 6 false starts on projects they approved of (they being a marketing person and an agent). Thank glob I have a good friend who basically smacked me one when I expressed frustration with what was going on. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of doing what will get the approval of other people, be they readers, fans, agents, etc. Now, I’m almost done with MY novel, and I’m so glad–it’s MY book, a piece of me, rather than things written to appease someone else. I wish I had those two years back, but it was a valuable learning experience, I guess. It is nice to see an article that affirms this.

  • Thank you for this timely post.
    These past few days (months, if I’m being honest) have been tough on the whole be-myself front.
    Partially because I’m still trying to figure out what the flying fuck that means.

    If I had received that comment above… I would have probably taken it to heart. Because I haven’t grown that enamel around the exposed nerve yet.
    I would have thought wow, maybe he’s right. Maybe I need to rethink how I work, what I’m doing, what I’m producing. AND THAT’S FUCKING BULLSHIT!

    I have opinions about your books, too. I liked some of them more than others. And hey, that’s dandy. Not every story can be everything to all people all the time.
    That certainly doesn’t mean that your process is lazy, or wrong, or not-artsy-enough. Hell, my process deviates from yours in some very real ways, but I’m learning that it neither means I’m wrong, nor does it mean that you’re wrong. How presumptions to even suggest that!

    Happy 2016, you glorious motherfucker!

  • This was utter perfection. In reading what the f*ck nut said, he deserved the exact response your in tints wanted to give him. I write fast because I am invested in the story I’m sharing. I enjoy it, so why wouldn’t I want to spend more time doing it? Others write slow because things happen in life and maybe they just want to think it over. Who is that guy to sit there and say YOU don’t care because you wrote fast. Sounds kinda like one of those guys who thinks everything should be high brow literature.
    You entertain me, and you know what? That’s all I ask of an author. Really and truly, entertain me. So you, good Sir, are doing your job and art right in my opinion.
    Going to share the sh*t out of this post now.
    Thank you for writing it.

  • The true definition of laziness is neglecting the post-Christmas housework to finish Aftermath, after starting it on December 30th.

    I have a feeling I am not alone.

    As for that comment, it remind me of what I went through in university. I had a great time learning about literature and getting exposure to different ideas, even ones I thought disappeared off the face of the earth. My writing voice at the time paid a price. I had a prof in my first year with this attitude. On one hand parts of my writing did need work, but it left me thinking I had to be a certain way to be a writer. For the past decade I had to dig out my voice and recover my courage. It’s no irony the people I got to know offline, and blogs like this one came at the right time. It’s true what they say:

    When a padawan is ready, a Jedi master appears.

    Thanks for everything. This blog is a joy and a lifesaver.

    Take care.

  • I agree Chuck, there are far too many people out there, more than happy to tell you how to be you. This particular critic made me think of a some tortured writer who wouldn’t give himself permission to be anything other than perfect. So naturally if he has to be perfect (which of course is an arbitrary) so do the rest of us.

    What I find interesting is that there are people out there so concerned about what you are doing rather than what they are doing. They somehow have to give you guidance whether you want it or not. And I think too they actually believe you will thank them for it.

    Personally, my attitude is, ‘if you don’t like what you’re looking at then look away.’ Nobody has to read my stuff, or your stuff or anybody’s stuff. If they choose to then can decide if they like it and want to read more or find somebody else to read. And leave all the ‘helpful tips’ out of it.

    Happy New Year.

    Annie

  • I’m a huge fan of your writing. I don’t know that in reading your books I’ve ever really thought about your style, because I’m really busy processing all the images the words evoke. Also, you’re creepy as fuck, with really unexpected redemptive things happening. I dig it. I’m grateful that you can do you.

  • Dear sweet jumping Jesus Christ on a rubber crutch thank you for this post. I am practically weeping here. Yes, yes, to all of it. Just had a conversation not long ago with a writer who has made writing and publishing his “business” and told me that he believes the idea of “writing what you love” is bullshit. That you look at the bestseller list on Kindle and just write whatever genre is there. I told him I cannot do that and perhaps that means I am doomed to wallow in obscurity while holding down a day job for the rest of my life – but that there’s no absolute way of doing it.

    I needed this. I needed this so much.

    Thank you.
    Bryan

  • It’s taken me ten years to shake off the need to write what I think other people want me to write and to begin writing what the writer living in my mind palace actually wants to write.

    So thanks for this post. It makes so much sense.

    I’m thinking of Jackson Pollack. And reggae music. Both of which don’t go down well with the sort of people I was trying to please before.

    Happy New Mindshift!!!

  • You know, I think this post was just about perfect, except you should have….
    Totally kidding. It was perfect. First because this person was acting like what I would call when I am less in tune with the Tao a pretentious asshole, and what I would call when I am more in tune with the Tao someone who is far too captive to running around in circles naming “yes this” and “no that.” Second, the post is perfect because it displays *you* when you do that voodoo that you do so well. For me writing is like climbing into one of those wetsuits where I have to squirm and twist and wiggle and pull to get inside, but once inside I realize it isn’t a wetsuit at all; it’s really just my own skin. I have no idea how you get there, but your writing reads like you’re in your skin. Cool.

  • “A soul isn’t bared in three months.”

    Regardless of whether that’s true (maybe it is for that guy, maybe it isn’t for somebody else), it ignores the issue of SO WHAT? Every piece of writing doesn’t have to be “soul-baring.” That’s the thing that annoys me about some subset of the overly pretentious literary crowd: they don’t think something’s worth writing about if it doesn’t reveal some deep unplumbed truth about the human condition, or dither on for three hundred pages about the contents of the tortured protagonist’s navel. Hey, that’s what floats your boat, knock yourself out. Me, I want to write (and read) books that are fun, that have cool characters, and that make me feel something without having to dig it out of six feet of subtext. And judging by the sales of things like the Harry Potter series, a lot of people feel like I do.

    • Yes!! That’s what I find so frustrating about book-snobs. They simply don’t understand that some books can just be fun. They don’t always have to be rich in subtext and meaning. Sometimes people just want to be read about wizards and vampires and dragons, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

  • This may not mean anything to you, Chuck, but I read that entire post waiting for three magic words: you do you. And you didn’t disappoint. I associate those words with you, and I have drawn on them many days when my neck was killing me for leaning over my tablet trying to do me.

    Back to this rude brotha: I’m baffled by his argument that we should all fit into a kind of pattern or use a sort of standardized approach to reach…what? I don’t see how we achieve all the wonderful versions of art that there are out there, or can be, if we all do HIM. Doesn’t he contradict himself right inside of his own argument? “Be very, very creative by adopting one philosophy.” How much art can this brotha have been exposed to if he presumes a basic kind of approach was used by all? I know he has a larger point about process, but he doesn’t make it very well. He presumes great artists all had some upper-case Fundamentals chip implanted at some point, when the whole point of art is individualism.

    So, brotha, Ima keep doin’ ME. And if you’re out there doing you, bravo. Just don’t expect us to join you. We’re all too busy doing us. And the world is better for it.

    Happy 2016, Chuck!

  • This is so fan-freaking-tastic!

    I remember the moment I realized that my idea of “art” was not the RIGHT idea of art. It was MY idea. I was reading Margaret Atwood’s “Negotiating with the Dead” and she rattled off a list of reasons people write. She also called them all equally valid. I was on a plane and I heard myself think, “Ya, right. I know better, Margaret. You write to explore and uncover truth, I feel it. And that’s why I want to write. That’s the only valid reason for true artists.”

    Well, I heard myself and I didn’t like me. Not at all! So, I changed. I read the list again with a new attitude and a desire to like myself; I tweaked my inner voice.

    That was the moment, also, that I started writing. Not wanting to write, but writing. My own idea of art had been looming large and standing in my way. Telling me who I had to be if I wanted to be valid. And I did want that. But this new idea, that art was valid, that it wasn’t about the artist or the reasons, gave me permission. By the time the plane landed I had written the outline (in my mind) to the first short story that I ever wrote. A short story that I have entered into contests it hasn’t won. But I love it and know its value.

    It’s funny, too. Because I DO write to explore and uncover truth. I read for that reason as well. That’s one of the things that attracts me to your blog, Chuck. So much fun uncovering truths! And so so so many truths!!! You consistently point us in a million valuable directions that are equally valid to explore, especially when we fill our pack with tools that are our own.

    Once again, thank-you!!

  • Excuse me for just one moment while I pick my jaw up off the floor after reading that ‘charming’ individual’s comment. I mean, WHAT THE ACTUAL EFF???!!

    And yeah, damn right I used too much punctuation at the end of that last sentence!

    Is this guy Stephen King, trolling you from behind a fake identity? Is he the CEO of a publishing company you didn’t sign up with, having a bitter rant? If he’s neither of these things (and even if he IS) he needs to shut the eff up. I seriously do not understand these people. How does that magnitude of arrogance fit in one human head, that it feels totally justified in telling an author who has already proved their chops in book sales and fans how they’re ‘doing it all wrong?’ I mean, I can’t even… I had to stop reading his comment in the end, as I was in danger of punching my screen.

    (Random Deity in the Whateversphere: if you’re listening right now, please please, I’m begging you – never ever let me turn into that person. Or at least give me a massive smack upside my head if I show signs of starting.)

    I don’t blame you for being riled, Chuck – I’m just glad it didn’t crush you (although if that was his plan, he’d need WAY bigger and more powerful ammo than THAT sorry little pontification.) To him I would say: “Maybe if you spent less time telling successful and well-loved writers how they ‘should’ be writing, you could spend MORE time figuring out how to make your own stuff good enough to be compared to it. And then you wouldn’t come across as so… y’know, bitter and twisted. Just a thought.”

    Keep on being you, Chuck. We loves you just the way you is.

  • OMG. Your posts never fail to make me laugh out loud. and seeing as I am neglecting my writing to put Xmas stuff away, I’m kinda mopey. thanks for the comic relief! You’re awesome!

  • Thank you. I really needed to read this today. After a holiday, I’m back to staring at the 15K words of my WIP and wondering about where to go with it. Do I have the characters right. I’m that new writer, reading critical reviews and taking each to heart and thinking why bother. This crisis began before Christmas but is still there. I will get through it and plough on. I have a story to tell but I’m finding excuses. Oh well, when I’ve found my way again, I’ll get on with it.

  • “Out, damn spot!” Guess you showed him, you certainly do I, and in the most delightful, nerve cringing way. Affect, effect, writey, righty Roooooooo […]

  • Well since I like you, I feel protective towards you. That means I hate the pretentious ass that sent you the referenced message and want to disembowel him taking an appropriate amount of time so it qualifies as art. Sorry. I’ll let my meds kick in. I can’t decide whether this post came from someone who has never written one word, or from someone who values their precious process so much that it takes them a decade to produce a page. I’m guessing it’s from someone who has used the word “muse” in all seriousness. You rock. Your first reaction was more than this person deserved.

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