Why do we write when it’s so damn hard?

Exhausted

 

If you’re in this writing gig long enough you will see a lot of things. Unless you’re one of the lucky ones, being rejected by agents will become a routine. So will self-doubt, story problems and a constant whisper in the back of your mind telling you to try something new.

 

So what is it that makes us drawn to something so incredibly hard? Why did we choose a career where the odds of succeeding is difficult? Why do so many of us forfeit prime sleeping hours or skip a day of play all for the glory of being told no? Raise your hand if you’re the one who passed on a night out because of a badly written chapter. Don’t be shy. My hand is raised to.

Tired

 

Before I try to answer that question lets go over some of the things you and I face on a weekly basis:

Agents: A few weeks ago I received a nice letter from a really nice person. She is an agent from the east coast who I got a chance to meet last summer at the Portland, Oregon writer’s conference. She read my query, read my sample chapters but in the end it wasn’t for her. She could have easily sent me a form letter or nothing at all. Instead she took the time to explain why she passed and by doing so she reminded me that being rejected isn’t always a bad thing. It’s simply part of the process.

 

Speaking of Rejection: For many writers hearing that word causes mass panic. If you look quick you may notice a dozen or so running deep into the safety of their writing dens. But if you look a little harder, dig a little deeper you’ll discover that rejection is just a word.

Now look a little closer and you’ll see that this particular word is telling you something. Once the whisper grows a little louder it becomes quite clear, it’s telling you to grow a thick skin. Like it or not rejection is part of everyday life and running for cover will only make it stronger. Who needs that?

Doubt: Last year my editor and I worked on my novel. We wrote, we rewrote, we argued, we made up and in the end we created a kick-ass story. Of course I’m bias. Wouldn’t you be?  Every week I shook off doubt the way the family pet shakes off a flea.

For a while it would leave but it always returned and sometimes it brought friends. But I kept going. I knew if I stopped doubt would win and that wasn’t going to happen. By the time December rolled around my editor and I put the finishing touches on my novel Dempsey’s Grill. The hard work paid off.  

 

Story Problems: How many of you have written a first or second draft and came to the alarming conclusion that you wrote junk? Wow! That’s a lot of hands. Newsflash – We have all written junk but the stubborn ones were able to pick out the good stuff and try again. Sometimes it’s as simple as finding the story that’s screaming to get out.

 

Listening: Guys have a hard time listening and I make this claim for one reason – I’m a guy. We love the sound of our voice and we can’t wait for you to stop talking so we can hear it again. But I learned something along the way when I realized I wanted to create quality work – I had to listen.

I have always been of the opinion that women are better listeners and I do my best to follow their lead. Listening while someone trashed my work was one of the hardest things I ever did but it had to be done otherwise the only reader in my future would be me.

What does it all mean?

So I go back to my earlier question – Why are we drawn to something so incredibly hard? Why do we stay up to late or get up way to early? Most of all, why do we care?

I can only think of one word: Persistence.

Power

 

You and I are a stubborn bunch and we will stop at nothing until we get it right. So get up early or stay up late and do what needs to be done. We are a rare bunch and that makes me smile. It’s the kind of crowd I want to belong to.

 

Thanks for stopping by, everyone. Have yourself a great day.

Spontaneous Friday

Way back in 1986 a really cool movie came out about a high-school kid who decided to take the day off. He talked his girlfriend and his best friend into joining him and together the three had a wild and crazy day. Sound familiar? I sure hope so. If not than you are missing out on one of the greatest movies ever told.

Ferris

What I loved about Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is how it reminded us to put on the breaks and take a look around. In fact I believe it went something like this:

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. 

Thank you Ferris. Music to my ears.

But how many of us really do it? How many times have you had a free day? Now I’m not saying you need to steal your friend’s dad’s fancy car and race it all over town but imagine taking a day, just you and a friend or two and doing whatever you please. Tempting isn’t it? But for many, impossible.

Or is it?

The other day I was at the kitchen table writing a scene to novel number two. My eyes were getting blurry, my mind a tad frustrated and my creative juices riding on fumes. I took a thirty second break and glanced out the window.

Outside I noticed my cats trying and failing to intimidate the neighborhood squirrel. I smiled as they chased the squirrel from fence to tree and back again. In that moment it occurred to me that I hadn’t been outside for days. True, February in Western Oregon isn’t the best of days. But still…was life passing me by?

So I did the impossible – I put novel number two on hold, grabbed a jacket and stepped outside. At first a rush of guilt rushed through my veins. I could hear my characters ordering me to get back to work but I kept walking until soon their complaints were lost in the wind.

For a tiny moment I was Ferris. True, I was only gone an hour and I wasn’t ditching school, but it was spontaneous and fun and refreshing. Minus the sports car….sadly.

 I walked down the street and said hello to our 95 year old neighbor, Virginia, who walks a mile a day. I walked past an old cat sleeping on top of a rusty mail box, I said hello to the man who collects chickens and finally I spied the squirrel who was messing with my cats.

Most of all my one hour escape cleared my head and reminded me that life does move pretty fast and sometimes it’s easy to miss things.

You and I get caught up in our daily routine. We outline, we write, we delete and we start over. A writer’s mind never stops creating but that doesn’t mean it can’t create while we’re enjoying the world around us.

I plan on making a habit of this. My little sneak away was actually a lot of fun. I had no idea my neighbor’s chicken’s all had names nor did I realize Virginia walks five miles a day not one. She quickly corrected my error, by the way.

My next stop is the University of Oregon. Imagine Ferris taking a trip to that part of town. John Hughes would have had a blast with that scene.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Ben Stein.

Ben Stein

He said it best. Not only about the film but about life.

“…the most life-affirming movie possibly of the entire post-war period. This is to comedies what Gone with the Wind (1939) is to epics. It will never die, because it responds to, and calls forth such human emotions.”

“It isn’t dirty. There’s nothing mean-spirited about it. There’s nothing sneering or sniggering about it. It’s just wholesome. We want to be free. We want to have a good time. We know we’re not going to be able to all our lives.”

“We know we’re going to have to buckle down and work. We know we’re going to have to eventually become family men and women, and have responsibilities and pay our bills. But just give us a couple of good days that we can look back on.”

You’re a poet, Mister Stein.

Have a great day, everyone!