Coded gray (under doubt).
Pic of the day: Profession or obsession? Screenshot from The Sims. Text by me.
Two days ago I mentioned the fairly successful Canadian writer Robert J Sawyer, known as a mainstream fiction writer in his homeland and as a sci-fi writer internationally. Over time, many people have written to him asking for his help or advice. He has collected his response on his Web site. I am sure those of you who are interested in writing are perfectly able to read it by yourselves; I just want to comment on a couple points and what I perceive as the underlying attitude.
99 percent of the people who want to be writers, will fail completely. Of this Sawyer is certain. They will never get anything published. Therefore they are not writers, just people who want to write. I am not sure whether the underlying emotion is disdain or just resignation; but Sawyer makes it clear that writing is both a profession and an obsession. You cannot "want to write" and go on with your life, write a little and then suddenly you become a published writer. If you want to earn money from writing, you have to be serious about it. It is in effect a second career, and you have to take it every bit as seriously as another job; it just pays less.
I like his explanation of why a good idea is not enough: "Ideas are a dime a dozen; if I stopped having ideas today, I'd still have enough not-yet-used ones to continue writing for the rest of my life. The same thing is true for all professional writers." Now you may say that your ideas are special: They are good ideas! But I actually agree with Sawyer here. Ideas are like stray cats: Once you start to take in some of them and care for them, they will soon fill your home. I can walk along the road and the muses in my head keep presenting new ideas, from pieces of dialog to whole story arcs. Having ideas is the human condition.
I mentioned profession and obsession (that was my expression, not Sawyer's). I believe this is the heart of the matter: You have to apply yourself to the task with all your heart, as if obsessed. But once your work has taken shape, you have to be professional about it; you have to detach your heart and attach your brain. You cannot let your love for your creation cloud your mind. In a way it reminds me of being a farmer: You care for your animals from they are born; you feed them and look out for them day and night for months or years. And then you butcher them.
I was never a good farmer; and I seriously doubt I will ever be a good writer. That's OK. I have a job already. I just want to give the cuddly little ideas a good home and watch them play. And while they are sometimes playing in my journal, I intend to continue to keep the actual pieces of fiction out of here. Since I write about my life, and the creative process is at the core of my life, I won't try to hide it. But the actual stories will be stored separately, and rarely online. There have been some, and if I keep my current health there will likely be more; but they will be kept separate from reality (or what I perceive as reality; your reality may vary). I understand that to most people, writing fiction is a lot like having hemorrhoids: You will politely accept me mentioning it if I have a reason to, but there's no way come hell or high water that you'd want to look at them.
Visit the Diary Farm for the older diaries I've put out to pasture.