Why You Should Be A Writer

I read Susannah Breslin’s blog posts at Forbes religiously and most of the time I agree with her.  Occasionally I agree with her but “I’ll be cursed if I know what to do about it” such as her article on selling yourself.  (Yeah, I know I should, but for my circumstances and the circumstances of the field, the good question is “how?” beyond this blog which I enjoy.)

However, having read her article on why you should not be a writer, I was seized with a need to write… not quite a counterpoint.  This is more of the flip side.

In most circumstances, and for most people, she’s probably right.  She might be particularly right for non-fiction.  (Though I do wonder if it has occurred to her the only people who’ll heed her are the deeply diffident born-writers who will delay a couple years in their struggle.  People who don’t know that they don’t know the craft will just go “oh, yes I should.”)

Despite her mention of “a novel and self-publish” ninety percent of the people she’s talking to aspire to be non-fiction writers.  Now, my non-fiction writing friends tell me it’s a bug as bad as fiction, but I don’t know that of my own accord.  I do know the fiction bug.

I know an article like Ms. Breslin’s would have stopped me on point one, when I was a newby – and while that might have been a great deliverance for the world (and perhaps for me) – I do have twenty one books and an award to my credit.  Also, knowing me, it would only have stopped me for a year, which means in the long run it would only have cost me a year of practice and submission.

If you’re as I was then, here is why you SHOULD be a writer.

My rebuttal starts with conditions: this writing thing is not a harebrained idea you just had because you’re unemployed and living in your friend’s spare room.  You don’t think you’re going to be a millionaire within a year.  You’re not doing this based on the fact that you wrote cool essays in first grade.  And you don’t think that writing is way easier than your day job.

None of those disqualifies you from “perhaps you SHOULD be a writer.”  However, if those are the only reasons, and that’s the first time the idea of writing for a living has occurred to you, let it sit.  Turn it over in your mind.  Consider Ms. Breslin’s post.  She’s probably right.

In fact she’s probably right if you’re past thirty and this is the first time it has occurred to you that maybe what you want to do is write.  She’s not NECESSARILY right.  All of us can point out exceptions.  If you think you’re an exception, read on.  But consider that she might be right and think it over a bit.

For everyone else — for those to whom writing is something that has to be done, consider the following:

1 – Perhaps you’re good enough.

Look, I fully take Ms. Breslin’s point one, that most people who think they’re good at it really aren’t and that few people can make words sing.

Do you words need to sing?

Oh, h*ll.  I’ve had to learn to tone down the word singing thing.  In the Shakespeare series, the biggest complaint is that the beautiful language distracted from the story.  Which wouldn’t annoy me nearly as much if it weren’t true.

Some books – some very rare books – you can get words that sing and meld beautifully with the story.  But Giovanni Guareschi said he wrote his Don Camilo books using a vocabulary of 200 words (I think.)  Sounds about right.  The world still comes to life and moves readers to tears or laughter and sometimes both.

And besides, it’s a skill.  It can be learned.  If you write long enough, if you try hard enough, you will learn it.  Look at me.  I’m an English-as-a-second-language speaker.  My first book (unpublished) read like it was written for a classroom.  I’ve been approaching the colloquial more with every book.  In fact, books from four years ago, where no one complained about the language, feel stiff and contrived to me.

Language use is a skill.  Do you want to write badly enough?  Then write and learn.

Yeah, but what if you can’t do that?  What if you can’t bring worlds to life?  What if your worlds aren’t new enough?  What if you have nothing to say?  What if no one wants to read your stuff?

My brother, an enormously gifted poet has always dreamed of writing a book.  He’s never done it, and likely he never will do it, partly because his poetry is sporadic and often written to the occasion.  But he is also a good writer in other ways.  He was talking to me about this research he did for fun on Sixties one-hit bands and “where are they now” and I told him “you know, there’s probably a market for this.  Why don’t you write it?”  And he said “Because I’m too afraid.  Because if I wrote it, maybe it would sell only a copy, and I’d spend my remaining years searching for that one buyer to thank him, and then I’d find out he’d only bought it to prop up a shaky table.”  Kids, if it’s not obvious, the man should be writing.  Anyone who can come up with that plot at the drop of a hat was born to be a writer – even if not a Human Wave one.

What if you can’t bring worlds to life?  Well, there’s only one way to find out and that’s to write and put it out there, and see the results.  Oh, yeah, and continue writing.  That worlds to life thing?  I couldn’t either.  Not with my first book.  I had characters moving in grey goo.  By my twelfth, though, I was starting to get the hang of it.

Am I there, yet?  Oh, h*ll no.  But I want it badly enough.  So I’ll keep trying.

And kids, all you need is one strong talent to make it in this field.  As much as I despise the word thing – perhaps because it was the one thing I first “got” – there are writers who have NOTHING but pretty language.  There are writers who have nothing but interesting worlds.  There are even writers who have nothing but pacing, or nothing but violence- and- sex porn (Update: for the purposes of writing critique groups I’m also used to talking about other type of things, non sex, that have the shock-and-attention effect as porn: violence, gore, etc.  And yep, you can succeed on those too.)  One of those – ONE – is enough to get you a huge audience.

2- It’s Hard

Yep.  Ms. Breslin is right.  It’s hard as h*ll.  She knows that and I know that, because both of us have made a living from this.  Making a living from this is hard, because – traditional or indie – you have to keep on keeping on.

This is not a matter of getting up in the morning and feeling inspired.  I think I figured around the third book that if I only wrote when inspired, I’d write a book every five years, and it wouldn’t be very good.  Sure, this is an art, but it’s a craft too.  You study the craft.

Too tired?  Too sick?  Your kid is sick? Your husband is sick?  Your car just broke down?  Stove not working?  Creditors at the door?

Too bad.  If you’re under contract, you got to write and deliver.  And if you’re not under contract, and just throwing things up for sale, you won’t make much if you spend a year moaning over your fate.  You drag yourself up, you put on your big kid pants, and you go work.

Running on empty?  Burned out?  Beset on all sides?  Too bad.  You do it.  The alternative is you give up, and then you’ve proven you shouldn’t be a writer.

But how do you do that when on empty?  Well, you use craft and you paint by numbers.  You learn craft by studying how other people do it.  It’s part of being a professional, not an amateur who does this for fun.

As for “you’ll never know if you’re any good” – this is true.  Most writers will always believe the worst about their own writing.

You might think once you’re making a living from it, you’ll know you’re good enough.  Ah!  Most of the time you feel you’re a fraud they’ve just not caught up with yet.

But if you want it badly enough, you’ll keep running on the never-ending treadmill and reaching for the brass ring.

3 – It’s Hard To Monetize

Well… now, that’s getting easier.  At least if you figure out when you’re minimally competent, it’s not that hard.  You put it up, you start selling it.  Will it sell much?  Probably not.

But here’s some thing I found from both my and my friends’ experiences with self-publishing>  Some things work:

a) Write something a large group of people likes to read.  Make it something easily identifiable: romance, mystery, fantasy.  Yeah, you can write your one offs your difficult stuff, your “can’t place it” just be prepared for it to take longer to find a public.

b) Give it away free for a little while, to goose it towards finding an audience.

c) Write ten sequels.

At some point money will start coming in and keep coming in and there’s a good chance it will be enough to live on, at least if you’re minimally competent.  J. K. Rowling level, I don’t promise you.  I don’t even PROMISE enough to live on.  But there’s a good chance you’ll make enough for that doing what you want to do and for most of life, that’s as good as it gets.

But… ten sequels! You say.

Go look at point 2.  Did I promise you “easy”?  No, I didn’t.

But if you want it badly enough you’ll keep trying.

And that’s the unspoken point in the whole thing.  You should be a writer, regardless of Ms. Breslin’s points if:

You had the idea early, and it just won’t go away.  Through the years it keeps coming up.

Perhaps you really aren’t that good.  Perhaps you really would starve, but if it keeps coming back, shouldn’t you at least try?

My dad, who was an artist, but set it aside to feed the family says “eventually the urge goes away.”  The way he said it was the saddest thing ever.  He’s eighty.  Do you want to say that when you’re eighty and know you never tried?  I’m not saying let your family starve, but don’t you want to dip your toe in?  Can’t you take an hour in evening?

If it’s something you feel you want desperately, give it a try.  If you don’t want it hard enough to overcome your natural weaknesses in talent or learning, you’ll find out.

Someone told me when I started out that a writing career mostly resembled a series of kicks in the teeth.  He was wrong.  What it resembles is Andersen’s little Mermaid who, having traded her tail for two human legs, can only proceed in tiny steps each one feeling like a knife-stab.  But she wanted it badly enough, and she thought the reward worth it.

If you don’t want it badly enough, TRUST me, you’ll find out.

At least you’ll have tried.

And if you want it badly enough, who knows?  There might be money in it.  And though you can’t judge yourself, maybe the future will judge your pain worth it.

235 responses to “Why You Should Be A Writer

  1. WOOT! Glad you gave us the ‘flip side’!

  2. I think people are reading her article a little too literally. She admits as much in the comments.

    “My point is — and this is *my* technique, not necessarily *the best* technique — if you come up to me, and you metaphorically shove me, saying, ‘I want to do this,’ the first thing I’m going to do is shove you back. I’m giving people a shove because what they’re saying they want to do is hard, very, very hard, and if they *push back* in response, *especially if they’re a woman,* then I know maybe, just maybe, they have what it takes to be a writer, or a journalist, or a whatever.

    SO, you see, I like your response. Because I shoved you, and you shoved me back. That’s good. That means perseverance. That means a chance.”

    She doesn’t expect to discourage writers. When circus performers are asked why they live such difficult lives — always on the road, always rehearsing — they soon give up trying to explain the inexplicable. They answer: “It’s a disease.” For writers, it’s like that.

    No, she’s trying to discourage the ones you wrote of, those who don’t have the disease, but merely have a whim. If doubt will stop you (as opposed to nag you — it nags all of us)… If hard work will stop you… If uncertain monetary prospects will stop you… Then maybe it’s better if you stop. You won’t enjoy it, you’ll hate it.

    I also want to push back on the “over 30” issue. I don’t think you made your case there at all. As someone who didn’t start seriously submitting work until well after 30, I may be a bit touchy on this; but I don’t see what starting age has to do with it. An older beginner may even have some advantages, such as an existing career to cover the bills, and a lot of life experience to draw upon.

    • Martin —

      I ASSUMED she thought she was talking to the subset who don’t have the bug. The problem is they won’t be touched. The whole thing about being so new they think they’re perfect. The problem HONESTLY is that someone like me twelve years ago, with years of trying and not getting anywhere under her belt, would be totally discouraged on that first one, and it would cost me years.

      I DIDN’T SAY started submitting after thirty. Go read it again. I have friends who are fifty and have never submitted — but they have written for years. And others who’ve wanted to write for years.

      I MEAN if you never THOUGHT of doing it till after thirty and suddenly wake up and are convinced you can make a living at it. Does that make sense?

      I can see having thought “there’s nothing in this field for me” till after thirty, because of indie only coming online now. I can see having thought about it, but only STARTING now. That comment was for the people who suddenly decide they’re going to do this because it looks easy. And “with indie” you can “throw random stuff up there.” You’re exempt.

      • To pile on–I was well into my forties before I discovered Baen’s Bar, and slowly absorbed the possibility that _I_ could write for publication.

        But I had a stack of spiral notebooks with handwritten outlines of books, and whole series, and file drawers full of stuff I’d started . . . not to mention the alternate lives that lived only in my head.

        Ms. Bredlin’s post will discourage the real writers and slide unnoticed from the egos of those who want to “be authors”. It’s really counter productive. Stupid boot camp “push-so-they’ll-push-back?” Fat chance that would work with most writers. Too tender. Personally, I’m passive aggressive — so she gets ignored.

        • Exactly. Real writers know the errors they’re making.

          • David Gerrold had a similar advice thing years ago. I remember thinking, “That’s one way to cut down on the competition from new writers, but it’s a bit harsh if you want anything new to read, ever again.”

            The other one I’ve seen is, “If you can do anything else, you shouldn’t be a writer.” In which case, Shakespeare should have stuck with acting and Chaucer kept his brain on government bureaucracy.

            There’s no holy writ on writing. (There is holy writ on editing nonfiction, but only if you accept 2 Maccabees as canonical.)

            • Hee. If you “can” do anything else but write… Of course I can. I have everything in the right order and no health problems that would keep me from holding a steady 9-5 job, especially if it were part time.

              Wait – what am I educated for? Sure, I could do Public Relations. It’s what I ought to have graduated from college about 5 years ago with a degree in. Only I hate It. I’m actually good at it (at least on paper) – same with journalism (I’d frequently be the one in class who would ask the ‘insightful’ questions in the mock press sessions) and, again, I hated it. I could write pretty good copy and I hated every moment of it. (No offense to those who are in either job. I’m sure there are things I love doing that you can also do, but hate to do.)

              Wait – what about talents? Well, I can draw! I have made money off of my artwork. But… HA. If there’s a career more uncertain about making money than writing, wouldn’t it be art? (Well, it’d probably really be dance or stand-up comedy or mime or something. But I’d fair bet that art is less likely than writing to be turned to making money. And I can’t see the quote admonishing someone to do “anything else but writing” if the objection weren’t primarily monetary.)

              /ramble

              • er
                Again I must ask — are we the same person?
                Okay, my “things” are translation and teaching and I’m good at both, but I HATE doing them long term. I can do them for about a year and then I feel like I’m dying and — according to my husband — I become the world’s worst b*tch and start looking for ways to make people hate me. (And yes, he’s right.) It’s kind of like doing “literary” fantasy, only there instead of my becoming testy I become quietly and sullenly depressed, until I don’t want to get up in the morning.

                My art-teacher — two years ago — said if I worked assiduously I could be “cover art” level in two years. I’ve not worked assiduously because while I love art it’s not an obsession at the level writing is. Also, I already have a career that doesn’t pay that well 😛 (Though when I have a little time I’d like to be better than I am, because I can at least do SOME of my own covers.

                The CLOSEST to being able to do something else is furniture rehabilitation and refinishing, and if I had a workshop I’d probably do a LOT more of it.

                But mostly, I just write.

                • Hey, I LOVE looking at aerial imagery, and I’ve ALWAYS been good at it, since I first learned the art. I also like software testing, and I’m a proven mid-level manager and team lead. I like those jobs, too. But MY health doesn’t let me do any of the last two, and the first is only found in a very few locations, and with only one employer to speak of (Uncle Sam). I don’t want to work for him any more.

                  I also like to write. It keeps me occupied and into less trouble than chasing teenage girls or shooting annoying people. I think I’m halfway good at it. That doesn’t really matter, because it’s what I want to do, and there’s no reason I shouldn’t. I’ll keep doing it until I don’t wake up some morning.

                  Thanks to the Internet, I can also share my writing without having to sell my firstborn child or mortgage my soul.

                  I participated in one of those “Na No Wri Mo” contests several years ago, along with something like 50,000 other people. At least 20,000 completed a novel, or the major part of one, during the month-long endeavor. Maybe 5000 people actually edited, reviewed, and completed their novel. Who knows, there may have been more. It doesn’t really matter. What does matter is, there are far more books being written than are being PUBLISHED, either in hardbound or paperback formats. In fact, there are more novels being written each month than the “legacy publishers” could handle in a decade.

                  Completing a new novel makes me happy. Posting it online and having people read it is frosting on the cake. Multiply my experience by 10,000, or 20,000, or who knows, maybe even 50,000, and you can begin to see the impact ebooks are going to have on the market in the future. Amazon has more than a million ebooks in their list. I expect that number to double in the next two or three years. That’s a HUGE slush pile. I’m sure that there’s something that would appeal to just about every reader able to get online and look through what’s available.

                  Rather than trying to discourage someone from writing, especially writing fiction novels, I think any author should be offering encouragement, and directing people to the self-publishing and ebook world. If I were a legacy publisher, I’d be looking at what sells from that huge slush pile, and offering secondary contracts for printed editions. If I were a magazine publisher hoping to expand my circulation, I’d start including 300-word book reviews of indie publications, with links to markets. Of course, I’m neither, so I’ll just keep on writing.

                  • Okay, but Mike, if you ever go shooting annoying people, call me. You can’t be that far off. I’ll help you hide the bodies.

                    • DO NOT go shooting annoying people; there are too many of them and once you start it’s almost impossible to stop.

                      OTOH, I have often and long mused over the socially beneficial possibilities of allowing every citizen one free murder. The knowledge that the person in the car you just cut off might just chooses to use their Freeby on you would certainly be an incentive to courtesy.

              • And I can’t see the quote admonishing someone to do “anything else but writing” if the objection weren’t primarily monetary.

                This has to do with the kind of lives that writers, or anyone else who is ‘driven’ to do something creative are wont to live. From what I can gather, for most writers writing is a second job, you can make money from it, but not enough to quit that other job. It is a job that requires self-motivation. You have to choose to sit down and write, instead of, say, spending more time with family and friends. You have to want to write.

                Then imagine: First you sweat blood over your creation, and, after innumerable rejections, you finally got a publisher (remember the saying was developed before indie was really viable). Then you find yourself living with the need to deal with and satisfy said publishers and the public. So you watch a copy editor gut, mangle, and augment your child, and then send it off to market — with your name on the cover. (And although critics know this is how the sausage is made, it is still reviewed as if it were entirely your own work.) The publisher expects you to turn up, smile and sign copies of the result. And then, if you are very lucky you get to watch the movie industry do the same all over again to your work.

                At least this is why I think that saying was developed.

            • I’d like to point out that this type of advice was only justified to an extent under the old model. I could tell you “if you can’t take this, you’ll never make it” about something because I’d been through the mill. I knew what it took. (And I’d be full of sh*t, because I’ve seen people who couldn’t take face to face critique in a group, but who would absorb rejection after rejection and keep submitting, eventually becoming much more successful than I. BUT I can at least see where the illusion that you KNOW who will make it comes from — this btw, has spawned a post for next week) In indie? Who the hell knows? You might break at your first bad Amazon review, but then WHY are you reading Amazon reviews? Or you might develop a perverse love for the most bone-headed hate male you get. One of the people I know who didn’t send anything out for twenty years because she was that terrified is now indie published and keeps a file of her worst reviews/comments, which she keeps sharing with me and laughing. Of course, part of this is that those comments are on a book that has made her a lot of money, so….

              • Or you might develop a perverse love for the most bone-headed hate male you get.

                Are you writing some bizarre romantic comedy, now? I’ve never heard of a “hate male”. (bows head, accepts clubbing – i got a hard head, I can take it)

                • Hate mail. Early. No food. No caffeine. Trying to finish chapter of witchfinder to go up. SHUT UP or I hurt you.

                  • That one was just too tempting to pass up. Besides, I ain’t skeered, I got a wife to protect me. Oh, wait – she would probably help you.

              • Just a thought, but I wonder how many EXCELLENT books that were rejected by the “princes of publishing” (which includes editors and agents as well) are mouldering in someone’s attic, or gathering dust in a box under the bed. I wonder if any of them will ever see the light of day in indie publishing…

                • LOADS. Look, it took me THIRTEEN YEARS to sell Darkship Thieves, and I’m not even sure Toni would have bought it, if I hadn’t started snippeting it in the diner and the flies (you know who you are) hadn’t poked and prodded till she read it. Because, you know, my fantasy sales were less than exciting and EVERYONE IN PUBLISHING KNEW that science fiction sold one tenth what fantasy did. AND to the extent SF sold it was “hard sf” not that space opera trash. THIRTEEN YEARS and FOUR AGENTS and countless publishers. Yeah

                  • Well, I’m sure Toni was aware (unlike most of the big publishers) that Baen has done very well with GOOD space opera, probably better than they have recently with ‘hard sf’

                    Personally I prefer space opera over hard sf; although some of the authors (like Kratman, or Travis Taylor’s One Day on Mars series) may not agree with me calling their work ‘space opera.’

  3. Martin L. Shoemaker

    I should add that her point 1 — “You’re not good enough” — can be seen as a necessary puncturing of the ego. Writing circles are full of people so convinced of their own brilliance that they think they’re entitled to accolades and success. They’re the ones who don’t hesitate to tell you how good they are. With an ego like that, they expect success to be easy (hence point 2, it’s hard work), and they expect to be showered with riches (hence point 3, it won’t make you rich right away). I’ve learned to laugh at these people; but some of them should read this article. They MIGHT have writing success in their futures IF they deflate their egos enough to do the hard work; but as long as they feel entitled, it’s never going to happen.

    • But those people either won’t read it, or won’t care. This is why I wrote this. The egos-of-steel won’t feel threatened by point one. Or three. It’s the earnest hard workers who will wonder “maybe I should give up” and will TRY TO. For a year. And after that will still wonder “do I suck that badly.” Look, this IS her coming from non fic. In our field (perhaps less now) there used to be ten to fifteen years of selling NOTHING no matter how hard you try or how good you are because you don’t know the mechanics of submitting. It’s those people who are vulnerable to this and they are — IMO — the ones who don’t need it.

      • See the Dunning-Kruger effect, whereby the incompetent consistently think they’re much more competent than they really are because they don’t see their errors; meanwhile, the competent underestimate themselves because they can see theirs.

        (I hope the n-dash doesn’t mess up this link)
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning–Kruger_effect

        • Funny thing is, I’d written about this purely from observation in writers groups — what I said about talent and self confidence often exhibiting inverse correlation — then I found out it was an observed phenomenon when I talked to older son about it and he went ‘Oh, yeah.”

        • I never saw the link between incompetence and not seeing the flaws, but I have certainly witnessed the effect.

    • Martin,
      Unfortunately writing is one of those areas where the people who do have the drive and the ability are usually totally insecure. Advice like Ms Breslin’s would probably have kept me from showing anyone what I wrote for years, because how could I possibly think I could meet those standards?

      Meanwhile those who don’t need anyone’s good opinion because they have more than enough of their own will bull on regardless and presume it doesn’t have anything to do with them.

      Artists, composers… anyone who creates in a field that’s not easily held to an objective standard once you move past basic competence… the same dynamic is there.

  4. ppaulshoward

    Very good.

  5. I think she is right that it is work … and that you have to have a certain bent for it, but not an over-inflated opinion about your own skilz, but one can – when properly focused – make at least a bit of a living at it. (My own writing is partially supported by a military pension which pays the mortgage and a couple of utility bills, but anything else is paid for by writing.)
    The most amusing thing to me about it, though – is that I make enough, but I can never predict where most of it will come from. Job offers show up out of the clear blue, sometimes. So, I can’t qualify for a new car loan … but I do rather nicely, on a month to month basis.
    I still have a dream about being the Margaret Mitchell of the Texas Hill Country, though.

    • Um, Celia, Margaret Mitchell only published one book in her lifetime, sure it was a doozy. (The same could be said about Harper Lee, only one book, but what a book.) Are you sure this is the goal you wish to set for yourself?

      • Not so much the one book (since I already have six HF out there) but in the sense of defining the image of a people and a time in specific and readable way.
        Oh, and also having a smashingly successful movie made from one of them. (My daughter and some of the fans insist that a mini-series of the Trilogy would totally clean up.)

        • To so thoroughly capture that public’s imagination that you define the popular understanding of a time and place? That is an awesome (word chosen with deliberation) goal. Please make sure the prevailing message is Human Wave.

          • Well, I got there first with the epic Hill Country material, and like Nathaniel Bedford Forrest, with the mostest – so I certainly will have a chance at capturing the wider popular understanding! What gets me – is that there was shelf-full after shelf-full of non-fiction about the Germans in Texas … but practically nothing, fiction-wise – and non-fiction was as gripping and dramatic as anything you could imagine. I don’t know why other wordsmiths passed it up – too busy writing another HF doorstop about the Tudors, I guess…

            • Hey! There is nothing wrong with the Tudors! 😛

              • But everybody writes about the Tudors! Isn’t it time to give those old tired Tudor bones a rest?

                • I kind of lived in Tudor England part time for a while — over Shakespeare. BEFORE all of them did. So… dibs?

                • You know that some of the Cherokees and other NAs who could pass would live in the German settlements… right? Some of those on the trail of tears were comforted that some of their family were actually surviving. These stories are starting to come out because of the DNA genealogy. It is starting to come out. 😉

                  • You see – there are all these fantastic, dramatic stories that no one has ever done before!
                    It wouldn’t surprise me that there were native Americans ‘passing’ by living in the German settlements in Texas. According to one local historian, there were quite a few free Blacks who chose to live there also, because they would escape the suspicion and harrassment. The frontier was a surprisingly complicated place. In one case that I know of, the richest man in one particular frontier county was a free man of color who owned a ranch and a mercantile. Around the time of the Civil War, to protect his person, property and investments, he voluntarily became the property of his white daughter-in-law, Elizabeth Carter Fitzgerald.

                    Wrap your mind around that one. Texas. Frontier. Mid 19th century. Wealthy free Black man with a white daughter-in-law.

                    • Celia, although it is not directly related to Texas history, I expect that if you don’t know about the Melungeon DNA Project you might be interested. The Melungeon live in the mountain regions of south east. They claimed Portuguese heritage in court in the late 1800. Their present day ancestors generally believed this to be the case. It turns out they are mulatto. The claims of European ancestry was probably started to protect property rights – to their person and their holdings.

                    • Hi, CACS – Yes, I knew about the Melugeons, and the DNA mapping thing, and of course it would be to the best interests of mixed-race people in the 18th-19th century south to put about an origin story that would protect themselves; I think Sharyn McCrumb touched on this in one of her mysteries. There are sometimes unexpected and potentially embarrassing things that turn up in geneological research. Anyone who thinks that sex and interracial marriage was a purely 20th century invention would be in for a hell of a surprise.

                  • Cyn – and a lot of the Creeks disappeared into the backwoods of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas before they got to Oklahoma. Especially those that could lay legitimate claim to European surnames.

                    • The interesting thing about a lot of these tribes in North America – they come from a different maternal line than the South and Central American peoples (and some of the California and Alaskan). According to the mtDNA they split off from some of the peoples who went to Northern Europe and came to Northern American (U5b2). The reason I learned this is because I was exploring my own mtDNA (maternal DNA). It seems that I am related to Cherokee and Iroquois nation tribes through that connection about 10 to 20,000 years ago, which gives me the idea why they could slip into the settlements so well. And, how many of the Germans spoke English well? I know Germans today who have lived in America for most of their adult lives and they still have a heavy accent.

                    • Oh yea – the other tribe with the U5b2 mt line is the Mohawks. 😉

                    • You know, these stories about Indians moving into and becoming part of the community makes my family history more believable to me. My grandfather maintained that he was 1/4 Cherokee, but his grandfather’s wife was as Caucasian as they come. However, census data indicates that he had a female Indian as a slave, and his children’s birth dates come awfully close together, possibly indicating one or more was offspring of the slave woman. I’ve been trying to track this down, but not having much luck.

                  • CACS, they could very possibly have Portuguese heritage, Portugal had a lot of Moors in it, and interbreeding back in Portugal before they ever came over could be the source of the Mulattoes. Or possibly some of the blacks could have come from Portugal, and claimed that as their birth country (technically true). Of course they would have claimed European instead of African descent at that time, if at all possible.

                    • Or they could have been on a boat from Portugal — to the Azores? — with slaves which at the time of the discoveries was about one per Portuguese and the same thing could have happened that happened in Portugal — until the hasty removal from African colonies, there was no black population in the continent. The slaves never went back. Portuguese just got a little darker.

                      The moors, though were NOT black but Arab. You’re being misled by the English expression Black-a-moor. In the South of Portugal it’s very obvious there is strong Arab ancestry. Weirdly in the North, where conversion to Islam was… er…. never very thorough and where the post of supervising the native population could be dangerous, the supervisors were often Berbers. So there might be fractional Berber blood in the North — but African blood is more likely to be post discoveries.

                    • Boy, do I have to thank you all for inspiring a most interesting time on the web. 🙂 This site also has an interesting discussion of the state of DNA research… From: http://melungeonstudies.blogspot.com/2009/08/melungeon-frequently-asked-questions.html

                      Are the Melungeons Portuguese?

                      At least some of the families indicated on the 1880 census that they were Portuguese. Some also have an oral history that they carry Portuguese heritage. We know that Juan Pardo’s men were abandoned at various forts in western North Carolina (Morgantown), one perhaps as far north and west as eastern Tennessee. Some of the men may have been Portuguese. These men, if they survived, would have had to have assimilated into the Native population and take Native wives, as there were no European women available in 1566. There is also other oral heritage that indicates that the Portuguese ancestry may have come from a shipwreck. To date, there has been nothing to confirm their Portuguese heritage or to eliminate it as a possibility.

                    • Okay, let me throw another grain of sand in the way of your spending your morning more productively, instead of researching crazy stuff…

                      Portugal has its equivalent of Roanoke. One of the first colonies in Azores was forcibly converted Jewish children (I can’t for the life of me find the history book to give you the dates and circumstances, or even how many. This is dimly remembered stuff from reading Portuguese history.) MIGHT have been the first colony in Azores, and I think it was at most a couple hundred. The older kids were nineteen or so. They were dumped in the Azores to colonize. When the next party of colonists landed, years later, they were gone and the only sign of them was the goats they’d taken which were now feral.

                      I’ve often wondered, given the families these kids would have come from, if a boat weren’t waiting to bring them back or take them somewhere safe. Given that, there is just the chance a boat went off course/shipwrecked on the coast of North America…

                      Mind you this is second hand, from an history book read long ago — I don’t remember the author’s agenda, and it’s possible the entire story is poppycock. Save for the “lost colony” which has happened in every effort at colonization everywhere, like a recurring theme, which sometimes leads me to believe we live in a novel.

                    • Quick and dirty research, checked a few sites: They were called Conversos and Marranos (who secretly continued to practice Judaism). They are Spanish terms, and many of these fled Spain to live in Portugal when the Spanish began persecution of the Jews following the expulsion of the Moors. In Portugal, as you noted, they had done well, and many held high position in the government. Unfortunately the anti-Semitic attitudes of the Spaniards tipped over into Portugal. In the first decade of the 1500s the population arose and proceeded to massacre anyone suspected of being Jewish or defending the Jews. In the Azores and on the Island of Madeira almost the entire populations of Conversos were wiped out. (I knew about the Marranos already, some turned up in the Spanish settled areas of the American southwest.)

                      Now, having finished that, and having completed Small Gods this morning, I am going to get lunch and start to explore the career of some young lady who gave up on pursuing a career in the performing arts as a child after attempting to teach her cat to jump thought a firey quilt laden hoop. The first page does set a tone. 😉

                    • Oh, heavens. Dyce. I like Dyce, but being in her head is like going insane.

                    • So far I like reading her, but that is not at all the same. I can imagine writing her might be more difficult than simply having to live with her — which seems as if it would be none to easy.

            • BobtheRegisterredFool

              Just going off what little family history I’ve picked up from that side of the family, I can certainly imagine that there is a lot of fodder for great Texas German historical fiction.

            • Louis L’amour mentioned the German settlements in Texas in quite a few books, and Chick Bowdrie (one of his main characters in two books of short stories) came from one of them. But he never actually wrote about them except in passing.

              • Well, then you see – I have staked out my claim on all that great Texas-German historical fodder – it’s mine, all mine!
                *insert evil-overlord chuckle here*.
                Well, anyway, I saw the possibilities and got there first: survival against the odds, cultural clashes all the way around, European immigrants staking their claim on the frontier, Texas Rangers, cattle drives, Comanche raids, stolen children, lynch mobs, bloody war, hate, love, passion, tragedy … and cows. Lots of cows. What could make a more riveting read?

                • It wouldn’t hurt to investigate the La Bahia Schutzen Verein — yes, the languages are mixed, and it’s on purpose.

                  • Making a note on that – Texas has this wierd and wonderful mix of cultures … look at the origins of conjunto music, for pete’s sake.
                    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conjunto

                    • Conjunto? The bastard offspring of German & Czech engineers with Mexican farmers? Beloved Spouse & I were finally forced to admit, contemplating the vast array of Conjunto, Tejano, Norteno, Texas Swing, Zydeco, Cajun, Klezmer and Celtic music we were playing in the car that we had become fans of accordion music and tuba bands. Ah does love me a polka! Ahhhh-ha!

                • *insert evil-overlord chuckle here*

                  Oh. And here I was, imagining it to sound like Mandark or Dexter. (Running!)

      • CACS, Margaret Mitchell wrote one book and stepped out in front of a car she didn’t see coming. I assure you no one is recommending Celia step out in front of a car.

        • As long as it wasn’t a book about being observant all the time, It might increase sales…

        • Yeah, about ten years passed from publication till her death, but it was taken up with making the movie, dealing with the craziness, and protecting her international copyright, which was a 24/7 business. She left instructions to burn a novella and a ghost story set in a Southern house abandoned during the Civil War. Damn damn damn, I wanna read that!

          • There is a story in circulation that Harper Lee wrote a second book, whose manuscript was stolen in a burglary. Some have their doubts.

        • Mitchell was killed in 1949 by a drunk driver, who had over thirty prior citations. And no, I certainly would not suggest Celia write a great American novel and then step out to cross a street only to be killed by a serial inebriate.

  6. My problem isn’t the ideas or bending the language to my will in order to get an idea across. As a former radio personality, I had to do the whole “wordsmithing” thing on the fly on a daily basis. MY problem is work ethic. When I actually force myself to sit down and spend a couple hours writing, my productivity startles me. That doesn’t mean it’s good or even close to being ready for someone to read, but it will convey the idea of the scene, set piece, beat, whatever.

    It’s getting that oomph to sit down when there are so many other distractions available.

    I blame Big Sugar.

    • Scott — you, me and half the writers in the world. Part of this is setting a schedule, or a goal. Mine is “Five thousand words and I can get up.” Set your own.

      • I’ll tell you something very real that I’ve noticed. If I’m going about my usual daily routine, with smartphone, Kindle, high-speed internet at work and at home, etc, I have to force myself.

        If for some reason I find myself in a situation where I’m electronically cut off, or, such out at my folks with no internet, but with a computer, I get somewhat restless until I can get a pad an paper out and start jotting things down. It’s almost like there’s a part of my brain that’s getting whatever nourishment it craves throughout the course of a standard day between blogging, tweeting, gaming, etc, but the second I’m cut off…it’s almost like a physical pressure, a brain balloon that keeps getting intangibly tighter and tighter and needs release or else.

        • Tons of us have figured that out. A lot of us go to hotels/cabins and/or use net limiting devices to force ourselves to write. My office has no net access, for instance.

          • Hey…I’m a newbie. Cut me some slack for figuring out that dogs bite men 🙂 I had a weekend in a no-net access cottage all set up a couple months back. Pure productive bliss was in the offing. It took an hour and a half to get there and JUST as I was pulling on to the road leading to it, my phone rang. It was my wife crying because she had thrown her back out picking up the two-year-old.

            tanj

        • I’m actually more the opposite — I use the net for researching quick stuff (how do warehouse doors work, anyway? what would hinges look like at this tech level? ugh, I need a name for this mook; behindthename.com, to my side!), and occasionally to give my head a short break while my backbrain chews on things.

          I’ve been writing at a time when I know I have time and will not get random interrupts by the kid, but there’s no net connection there, and it’s actually about as “distracting.” At least I got an app from Behind the Name that will come up with random names of whatever ethnicity I wish to mangle from.

          Sometimes it’s a distraction, but it’s got nothing on the kid, who has a telepathic ability to spot when I’m focusing on writing, and ask me for something (such that I mostly… don’t write when she’s awake, unless the muse is riding me; yeah, yeah, I know, I’m not a Real Writer. Shaddup and come babysit so I can write, then. I’ve had twelve years of being trained to expect, when I try to write anything from my headworld, that there will be that insistent voice going, “Mommy–?”).

          Writing With Net vs. Writing Without Net, I’d call a wash, for me. If the words are grinding, they will grind. If the scene needs a floorplan and I can’t search for one, coming up with one from scratch is little faster and makes me much more twitchy. If the words and scene click, then the lure of teh Intertoobs shall not tempt.

          • I feel for you – even in my normal job, when I need to try to work from home (which I have had to do fairly often in the past two years since the wife had the breast cancer diagnosis – all gone now, but left with neuropathy), I have a hard time getting anything done, even though my youngest is 16 now.

            • My youngest is seventeen and summer is proving to be hell. Part of me wants to go to the office and get stuff done, and part is aware this is probably the last summer with both boys in residence, and … I LIKE them. (This is not a given. You almost always love your kids. You don’t always LIKE them though.) At most I’m managing two-three hours away. It’s maddening. And to add to the guilt I’m paying for the office… Just shoot me. NOW.

              • This is not a given. You almost always love your kids. You don’t always LIKE them though.

                YES!

    • I wrote a post on getting past the disatrctions of things like reading Facebook or looking at the pics I just received of cats that look like Hitler. That’s why I write better when I’m out of the country with a stand alone laptop.

      I think it’s also vital to not disrupt your flow. Having a minimum word count goal is great, but it shoudn’t be a maximum goal. I know a lot of people who stop once they hit the threshold, regardless of how well they’re doing. I say that when you’re doing well, you keep moving until you hit a natural wall. It’s okay to come back later with fresh eyes, but too many folks I know stop when they have momentum, and it crushes their productivity.

      • I have a friend who’s writing a novel who’s never done anything like that before. He’s one of Those (everyone knows one or two) People. Never had a zit, always in great shape, advanced degree in a field that pays extremely well for little time away from family and personal pursuits. Good hair.

        You know…one of THOSE People.

        His personal approach was to simply let it flow when it was working for him, but in rough patches where the muse is catatonic or otherwise distracted, he forced himself to work at a minimum of 45 minutes, taking fifteen minutes to do a bio, grab a bite, check the news, etc, but at that 15:01 mark, he was back at it.

        Don’t you just hate Those People?

        • Don’t you just hate Those People?
          Actually, I envy them. I write to distract myself from my chronic pain problem from a bad back. I commiserate with your wife, Scott. I do that often. Picking up a piece of paper from the floor can trigger more pain than I care to think about.

          I either write six or seven chapters in two days, or a paragraph two or three times a day. It makes for some pretty disjointed writing at times, and I have to spend a lot of time cleaning it up.

          I read the article, and it totally turned me off. How DARE someone tell the rest of us what to do? If you have the urge to write, then WRITE! The world will let you know quite soon enough whether what you’re writing is “good enough”, and it won’t be polite. The “non-writer” authors will get discouraged and drop the idea soon enough. It’s just us poor obsessed, demon-ridden few that won’t take “no” for an answer.

          As for writing being hard, of course it is. Nothing worth doing comes easy. It takes hard work, dedication, and practice, practice, practice. You either eventually get to the point where you’re at least middle-list good, or you quit. (I like that comment, ‘middle-list’. Excellent concept! It gives me encouragement.)

          I’ve been a “writer” all my life. Most of what I “wrote” was only in my head, but there was a constant flow of ideas, many of which faded with the next dawn. My military career interested me, satisfied much of my longing to write, and kept the bills paid. Now that I’m a “man of leisure”, I write — whenever I can, whatever I can.

          I wrote my first complete novel when I was 57. I’m now 65, and working on my 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th. The principle concept of one of my novels was born some 30 years ago, and gradually refined until I put it on paper about seven years ago.

          I want to thank you, Sarah, not only for the article above, but for this site. It’s been an immense “pick-me-up” for me the last few weeks that I’ve been here. It’s also helped me get back on task, something I have a hard time doing from time to time.

          • Free-range Oyster

            “It’s just us poor obsessed, demon-ridden few that won’t take “no” for an answer.”

            The problem here, and I believe the reason for Sarah’s response, is that some of us *will* take no for an answer. Or at least try to. For a while. And then we’ll come back for a while, because we cannot help it, until we are convinced again (by ourselves or someone else) that we can’t, shouldn’t, musn’t waste our time on that, and so the cycle repeats. That kind of doubt/desire dichotomy has kept me captive and stagnant for many years now, though I am in the process of trying once again to break out of it and into productivity.

  7. Good flip-siding, Sarah. Thanks.

    I mainly wanted to comment to say that I laughed out loud at the phrase ‘sex porn’. Are there other kinds that I’m missing out on?

    • Yes. Violence-porn and gore-porn. Sorry, I thought I’d made it clear. D*mn writing pre-coffee. In writing violence or just pure gore (TX chainsaw massacre) can function like porn, and some people read it for THAT.

    • Gun Porn (arguably the manga Gunsmith Cats has that), Car Porn (Gunsmith Cats to some extent and You’re Under Arrest (anime) and Oh My Goddess (manga) to a larger one, as I recall)… Food Porn: Modisett.

  8. You have to have the bug for non-fiction too, if you are going to do it right. Celia probably put more research into her Adelsverein books than I’ve seen in some history dissertations, (have not had the privilege of reading your books yet, sorry), and that is the non-fiction key: butt time. The amount of time your hindmost point of contact spends in a chair at an archive or research library, county courthouse or in someone’s kitchen as you record oral histories is directly proportional to the quality of the contents your non-fiction. If you do not have the curiosity and willingness to put rump in seat for however long it takes to get the information that you need and then some, if you don’t have the itch and the love, then I really don’t recommend doing it. Just like writing fiction. (Except history is stranger, because fiction has to make sense!)

    • And Celia and I are weird, because we write historical fiction. (Well, I do, half the time.) And yes, my friend Pat tells me non-fic is a bug too. And since he does investigative journalism…

  9. Is it now passe to speak of Professionalism in one’s trade? Most of the advice I am seeing here comes down to “Be professional or be gone.”

    I agree that wordsmithing, story-telling and the like are acquirable skills — any reasonably intelligent person can learn to do them well enough — and that things like “making words sing” are over-rated (most of your readers are tone-deaf) and neither necessary nor sufficient. But professionalism is the sine qua non of a trade which relies so much on individual initiative and self-discipline.

    I leave the defining of professionalism undone for now because it ain’t my blog and I ain’t professional.

    • No, it’s not passe to speak of professionalism. My issue with Ms. Breslin’s blog was the “you can’t enter this profession because you’re probably not good enough.”

      Professionalism in writing is weird anyway, because you spend years working and have to BE a professional before you can get paid. Or you used to. Er… gah. I’m a dinosaur.

      • In writing I would think the operational standard for professionalism is pretty much the same as accounting or any trade. Most people these days are unwilling (or ignorant of) what it takes to truly be professional at anything: acquire at least a minimal level of skill with the tools of your craft, perform to a certain minimal standard of competence, get it done on time, do it every day. The rules are fundamentally the same for a writer, house-painter, accountant, baseball player.

  10. Sarah – I have a personal experience that kept me from writing for almost twenty years. I was talking a college course on writing (the background – my parents took me out of school after the 7th grade. I did writing, but not the formal academic writing). Anyway, we did the first paper for the class about something we liked. She used my paper (this is NOT an urban legend … it did happen to me) and every sentence she showed the class what was wrong with this paper.

    In my defense I had never written a formal paper before. Plus she hadn’t taught us anything yet. At the end of the day I did get a B in her class, but I was so embarrassed that I never spoke to her again and I never wrote anything else except a few poems that spurted out of me. I have those moments when I am not writing that poetry has to be written.

    When I went to college at 38, I still believed that I couldn’t write. Can you imagine having thirty people in a class laughing at your essay. That teacher really mocked me. I had one friend in the class who glared at the teacher btw.

    It turned out that that teacher had put a barrier to my success. My English professors were amazed at my turn of phrases, at my arguments, and at my abilities which outshone anyone else. And I thought that I couldn’t write. It saddened me that as I am writing now at 50, I could have been writing at 20 in between my adventures.

    • I watched a professional writer in a writers’ group I belonged to, do this to a newby showing his work in public for the first time. She did it to me too — and I was unpublished at the time — but I HAD read her stuff and didn’t like her style, and since what she was critiquing was style, I tuned her out. This poor man, she went after with both barrels though and questioned everything including telling him his characters weren’t manly enough. I don’t know if he came back to the group. I never did. People who treat others that way in public are not people I want to be around. I could take her treating me that way — to an extent. It’s hard to tell if your stuff sucks or not. BUT that newby was good. He was publishable. There was nothing wrong with what he’d done. And I believe there’s a hell for people like that pro writer.

      • Yes it was meant to tear down and make you never want to write again. I do believe that there is a HELL for people like that. If she had gone over it with me in private, it would have been one thing. I was a shy introverted 19 year old at the time. But it was pure humiliation and she enjoyed it.

        I hope your newby didn’t let that evil “beeatch” stop him from publishing.

        • I don’t know. This is around the time I got pneumonia and went into ICU for 11 days (fifteen? years ago) and I lost touch with that set of writers. BUT I hope he’s out there, and I hope he’s putting stuff out. He wrote small town mysteries, and seemed like a wonderful man.

          • When you went through all of that and came out, did you secretly rue that you hadn’t receive the ability for precognition or clairvoyance?

            • You mean, when I ended up published?

              I’m of two minds on that. Being an SF geek, I used to wish my future self, if she ever got published, would come back and tell me because I wasted so much of my time unable to write through sheer paralyzing doubt (not helped by things like the day I got sixty rejections.) Now, I don’t know. If I’d known, would I have worked as hard as I did? Would I be published now?
              Not only is the past another country, your past selves are other people too.

            • Scott – I do have a mild ability for ‘precognition or clairvoyance’, but it only applies to me and those close to me, and it’s darned hard to interpret at times. It’s kept me alive a half-dozen times, but it’s NOT comfortable to live with. As far as I can tell, I was born with mine. Don’t think it happens all that much after being sick, but what do I know?

              • Scott – I have the danger “precog” which has saved me a few times. Then there are the dreams. But the problem with dreams is that it is hard to decipher until you are in the middle of your dream reality. My grandfather was precog towards his family. He saved my dad’s life once because he had a dream of a car accident involving my dad. He woke up and found him.

      • BTW I have four novels and several short story collections on Amazon.com now. Woo-hoo for the indie lifestyle lol

      • There’s a difference between helping through constructive criticism and criticism designed to kill. That person sounds like she was boosting herself by tearing down another. Maybe she figured that if she smashed someone else, no one would notice her own inadequacies, or they’d be too afraid to tell her about them.

        • It took me many years to realize that she was a crusher. Plus I learned about constructive criticism from one of my English professors. She was great.

  11. Anyone dissuaded by Breslin’s article isn’t likely strong enough to succeed anyway. Writing is for those who don’t get discouraged easily, because there is a lot of discouragement out there. However, the peaks are just as high as the valleys are low.

    Don’t know where the last cheesy line came from. Maybe someone left a John Parr album lying out. 😀

    • It’s a nice theory, RD, but I WOULD have got discouraged. Not enough to stop writing, because writing is an illness and there aren’t enough antibiotics, but enough to make me more diffident and block me for a few months.

    • RD – if you have lived a life where everyone in your family discouraged you from your talents – writing, singing, and dancing. Then the one person that you thought would give you good advice tells you that you are not good at it – that is NOT slight discouragement… it is time to go find another career.

      And then, what if your whole life is put in perspective and you find out that it was all a lie. That the reason your parents and family didn’t want you to do something was because they knew you would not make enough money to life on— Wouldn’t that just hoist your petard?

      Not everyone who gets discouraged has been discouraged easily. Sometimes it has been going on for years– Even then it is a disease because it slips out in another form–whether dreams or words or something else.

      • I should mention that I really enjoy this site. It is a pick-me-up. Demon-ridden… yes!!!!

      • I know there are people who discourage others with malice, and people who are strong who get discouraged. We’ve all been discouraged about our writing at some point – maybe it was after the 25th rejection letter, maybe it was after we couldn’t get any more story to flow after page three, or maybe it was when someone we love told us it was time to stop daydreaming and find a real job. However, the part that separates some folks is pushing through that. As Thomas Wayne said, “Why do we fall? So that we can learn to pick ourselves back up.” 😀

        I never meant to imply that none of the “successful” writers get discouraged, because we all do sometimes. However, anyone who will get discouraged by one Internet article is someone without the chops to slog through those tough time. They’d be happier doing something else.

        • Depends on when the article hits. No, it’s not THE article. It’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back. I once stopped writing for six months because a friend told me my verbs were to vague. I’d hit a verb and stop. Yes, it only had that effect because I was already on the down spiral. Someone did a study and most creatives are apparently also depressive. Plus add the whole rejection thing. And btw, I used to get 100 rejections by March EVERY year. I could see this hitting someone at the wrong moment and, while not discouraging them forever, kill their writing for months. The killer for me is that “You’re probably not any good.” People can’t EVALUATE their own writing and good — working, progressing — writers see their every flaw in sharp relief. That point is insidious because all the evaluations are subjective. What’s language that sings? My definition isn’t yours, I bet. What is a world that lives? Ditto — we might have overlaps, but not 100%. THAT’s what makes that dangerous. It’s not like saying “You probably can’t do math” because that you can disprove one way or another. That one though, can get under your skin and FESTER.

          • That element of my persona which argues fro dropping the RES thing and opting for Til Eulenspiegel insists I point out that articles such as the one derided do, by their provoking such response as yours, serve as encouragement to aspiring writers. Sure, hers probably had more initial readers, but I very much doubt yours is the only rebuttal.

            • Probably.. Also, I’m not even against Breslin’s pov, as long as what she’s writing is her field. She writes mostly for blogs, and has to get jobs and well… I can see someone in that position can’t afford diffidence. I object to extending it to ALL writers.

            • RES – just remember, today’s Til Eulenspiegel would be shot – on sight! 8^)

          • I think it only festers if we let it. I understand, believe me, about rejection, but I use it as motivation, although that gets tough at times. It’s just my opinion that there’s a difference between getting discouraged, as we all do, and quittingt forever based on someone else telling us we suck because, as you point out, all evaluations are subjective. It’s great to always go back and re-evaluate where we’re headed and if we have a reasonable chance for success, but Breslin basically saying, “Writing is hard,” isn’t a revalation to me.

            My references aren’t to most people on this site because they’ll slog through, even if they really really really want to quit(and may even do so for a perios of time). However, it’s a whole other thing to let someone’s words keep me from doing what I love. Just my two cents.

            • There is a serious difference, though, between taking and accepting and learning from a rejection from someone who might buy your stuff, and absorbing and learning from a casual cut-down from A PRO WHO HAS MADE IT.

              What you probably don’t know — and it’s weird, guys, okay — is that every pro gets emails asking for “permission” and asking “Do I have what it takes?” I suspect Breslin’s article is an ARGH in response to those and is fully justified that way — and also justified because people are implicitly asking “a writer like you”. To be a writer like she is, you ABSOLUTELY need that push-back thing. To be a writer like I am, not so much. You need a passive sort of courage that goes “Okay, I probably suck, but I can’t not keep doing it.”

              BUT there is out there among newbies this idea that ANY pro can tell them if they have what it takes. Which means a pro’s casual comment can cost a newbie like my months of silence or “stuttering”. Same thing with bad reviews.

              Don’t tell me — you can’t — that I’m a wimp. I used to get 100 rejections by March every year. I kept doing it. BUT I can’t read bad reviews. Yep, if Joe Blow thinks Thena is stupid (yep, there’s at least one floating review that thinks that) or that Nat is a “pretty boy dumb bimbo” I will not write for a week obsessing on how they got that. And if you think that’s a sign of weakness, I’d like to point out Dave Drake has the same issue, and invite you to tell him it’s a sign of weakness.

              Look, psychologically we’re very odd animals. And NO ONE can say “if you’re this way you’ll never make it.” NOT for every type of writing. Hell, not even for the type of writing you, yourself, do. I’ve mentored people I thought would go far, who then proceed to rewrite the same novel for ten years, until it’s unreadable. And I’ve mentored people who had no visible talent and seemed to be fragile flowers who’d quit to go do macrame at the first disappointment, and who, instead, have gone on to be pros. THERE IS NO MAGIC quality: courage, or non-fragility, or even luck. There’s just those who get there, and those who don’t. (Which is why you totally shouldn’t run around asking pros if you have what it takes. Like teaching a pig to dance, it annoys the pro and does nothing for you.)

              • I’d agree with that. There’s a normal human yearning for validation, but in doing so, you risk the other side of that.

                I also understand the “I’ll keep doing it even if no one reads it” part. It’s in our nature to tell stories, and they usually come forth whether we want them to or not.

          • People can’t EVALUATE their own writing and good — working, progressing — writers see their every flaw in sharp relief.

            I have a nephew that I respect and trust. I sent him three of my novels, and asked him for an honest opinion of them. His comments (paraphrased) were that there were some problems he found with them, and I probably needed to give them another edit, but he thought they were every bit as good as stuff he’d paid money to read. I’ve also gotten some pretty NASTY comments about a few of my books, including a couple of “you should be locked up, thinking like that” remarks.

            Coming here and learning the concept of the “mid-list” has been one of the most inspiring turns in my writing career. I have never dared consider myself as good as most of the “pros” that I read over the past 50 years or so, but I didn’t have a concept of where I should aim for. Now I do. I would be HONORED to be considered a “good, solid, mid-list writer”.

            I’ve learned to ignore depression. I think that’s partly because I’ve had enough solid successes in various fields that I CAN ignore temporary failures — and most failures ARE temporary if you work at making them that. “Temporary”, of course, has many definitions. It took me ten years and almost dying to get over flunking out of the Air Force Academy. The thing that kept me going was religion, and my family. What keeps other people going is whatever is inside them.

            • at the risk of being considered insane, I’m fairly sure the two or three times I tried to quit in earnest, I got the divine kick in the butt. No other way to put it, but like, when I said “no one will buy me, I’m walking away” and I get a phone call out of the blue, and it’s J Baen wanting to give me money to write a novel. And, oh, yeah, the mortgage is due, and we have maybe two months to bridge before our finances straighten out. That is the one I remember, but it has happened AT LEAST three times, possibly more in less dramatic ways.

              • oh wow – very nice… I get the other thing… when I am in the middle of my degree or book or something, it just gets harder. (or illness)… I power through and then wonder if I am on the right track. It feels like I have a machete on an over-grown jungle path sometimes. But, I have to say that when I finished my degree, I was at the top of my class… Maybe my problem is actually perfectionism… ouch

              • Nice. Definitely someone telling you you’ve found your calling.

                And don’t worry about being considered insane. We’re writers – we’re already insane! 😀

        • RD would you please rent the movie “An Officer and a Gentleman” and spend an hour or so watching the same scene over and over again till you understand:
          Foley: You can forget it! You’re out!
          Mayo: Don’t you do it! Don’t! You… I got nowhere else to go! I got nowhere else to g… I got nothin’ else.

          • Charles, I’ve seen the movie and honestly don’t see the comparison. Those that won’t quit aren’t, in my opinion, getting discouraged. If your response to Breslin’s article was to shout back “Fuck you!’, like mine was, then I see that as a good thing. What I was talking about was if someone will quit writing due to one random article on the Internet, even if it’s but one in a long line saying the same, they don’t have the stomach for it in the first place.

            I understand that most writers, myself included, have egos like chrystal, but we can’t let someone who tells us we MIGHT suck drive us away. Those that can be driven away by such general and obvious criticism would never make it anyway.

            I feel odd defending what, to me, is self-obvious. Do people really feel that people who’ll quit based on this will ever make it big?

            • If you make the romantic assumption that the drive to write is utterly overpowering, that good writers will necessarily be driven to write and to pursue publication, so that we’ll have the benefit of their talents no matter how badly we treat them, then constant undercutting can only delay them. It won’t prevent us absolutely from reading good books that will never be written.

              If you don’t, though — if you think that someone with the ability to tell good stories might have the ability to do something else profitably too — then you’ll be hesitant to demand that writers swim through sewers of negation before they are allowed to present their works to us. Because some of them might say, “To hell with this!” and go off to do something else.

              If you spent the last two decades buying a lot less fiction than you wanted to buy, because you couldn’t readily find the stuff you really liked anymore — when before, reading fiction had been your major hobby — you might suspect that the people who could write stuff you really wanted to read *had* said, “To hell with this!” and gone off to do something else.

              That’s what happened to me, as a reader.

              As a writer, I said, “To hell with this!” and went off to do something else when I heard about the new writer whose book got stripped without ever being shelved, to make room for a bestseller whose stuff wasn’t moving as fast as usual. I’m not a masochist. I’m not going to put up with rubbish like that.

              Maybe the writers who might have written the fiction I couldn’t find to buy over the last two decades weren’t masochists either.

              • THIS. The assumption that talent and confidence in that talent correlate is a fallacy from movies, I think. I’ve seen timid mice who would write very well, and I know — yeh gods, a lot of them are darlings of the industry — a lot of braggarts I wouldn’t read if it were the only thing I had to read on a deserted island.

                Also, while I AM one of the deformed souls who will come back to writing no matter what — it doesn’t mean it has to be for-money writing or even writing most people want to read. For two years I wrote almost nothing but Jane Austen fan fic. And while I don’t like what I was trained to do for a living, I probably could make a living off the furniture thing. Pros have thought I could. And at least twice I would have walked away from writing and rented a workshop, if my husband hadn’t asked me to give it one more year.

                How many writers have I not been able to read because of the stupid movie cliche that “if you’re stubborn enough, you have what it takes?”

                Well… it’s better with indie now. I have more stuff to read and can even find it. And maybe, just maybe, this whole ethos will change.

            • RD

              It’s different types of courage. I didn’t — even now — shout back “fuck you” — and even now I had a moment of “Yeah, I probably can’t write.”

              Look, I totally agree with Breslin that for what she does — it requires selling herself to sites and, let’s face it, get paid for things like blogging that tons of people do for free — you NEED to have the “fuck you” attitude. You have to sell yourself HARD.

              But you’re confusing two completely different types of courage, and you’re confusing the reactions to two completely different types of “rejection”.

              I used to get 100 rejections every year by March — I kept them in one of the big plastic storage bins for a year, in case I had to prove I was trying to make a living off writing. I had 800 rejections before I sold a novel. I kept DOING it.

              But what stuff like that “you can’t write” does is insidious. I won’t stop writing — except for a few months, maybe — but … look, it’s like if you have a kid who stutters. I had one with a speech impediment who policed every word he said and got over it in a year. If halfway through the year you tell him “you just can’t get over it yourself.” You’re at the very least going to delay it. (And it’s justified. Most people DON’T get over it themselves.) They’re going to go “Am I getting over it, or am I imagining it” and next thing you know the stutter is back. THIS is part of the issue because VOICE is so important for writing, and part of the “voice” is confidence. Undermine a fiction writers’ confidence and you can cost him years.

              Also, what you say about if you won’t be discouraged by this, you’ll probably make it type of thing is bullshit. SERIOUSLY. I’ve mentored since BEFORE I was published. Again, two different types of courage. Some people can’t take the casual insidious thing like “You can’t write. This is statistically likely.” BUT can send stuff out, learn from the rejection, carry on. Others do fine with it because they’ll NEVER LEARN. Their iron-plated confidence admits of no mistakes in their writing. Which by itself means they don’t grow. (Yes, there will be an article about this too.) From what I’ve seen in twenty years in the field, there is no hard and fast correlation between self confidence and good writing. What there is, in fact, is almost inverse… except that below a level of self-confidence no one ever sees your stuff.

              • I agree with you that those with too much confidence – call it arrogance if you like – are just as lost as some others. Taking true criticism is hard, but if a person can do it, they’ll grow as a writer. There are a lot of self-confident people out there who couldn’t write their name in the snow.

                It’s just a difference in personalities, I guess. I don’t look at Breslin’s article and see her telling me I stink(were she to direct it at me personally, it might have more impact). I see it as saying that most people aren’t very good, and I take it as a challenge to prove her wrong. Maybe I’m just vindictive that way. 😀

                • Honestly RD, I think it’s the years I spent slogging in the dark with NOT one word of encouragement. And the years of midlisterdom. It doesn’t HELP, let’s put it that way. Even if DST did quite well and there’s hope of the next few doing that, it left me with a soft spot, like… like when a floorboard is rotted in an otherwise sound floor. And that, I think, is the difference. How many other writers have that? I don’t know.
                  And now, Witchfinder is up. I shall shower (yay) and clean house. I’ll try to answer/send back your questions by the evening.

                  • I have that rotten spot too, which I cover with some varnish ;-)…
                    Why does writing have to be hard? Also, I didn’t receive a single good word for years about my writings and now when I do receive some good words, I am uneasy about it. I can’t just say “thank you.” I want to find the motive behind the compliment.

                    I think it is because everything in my life (except for that great hubby) has been too hard for me. It gets tiring after awhile. (Well to be honest I didn’t even meet the hubby until I was 27 so that was hard too…)

                    I have a brother who was given accolades for his writing, but decided to go into banking instead after he saw the mess writers are put through in the publishing industry. I couldn’t believe how easily good writing was for him. But, he is not writing now–

                • I see it as saying that most people aren’t very good, and I take it as a challenge to prove her wrong.

                  Are you “most people”? I’m not.

                  “People”? I ain’t “people.” I am a – “a shimmering, glowing star in the cinema firmament.”
                  [picks up newspaper]
                  It says so – right here.

                • I see it as saying that most people aren’t very good, and I take it as a challenge to prove her wrong.

                  It’s worse than that — much worse. She is saying, ‘Most people aren’t very good, and therefore I can tell sight unseen that YOU aren’t good ENOUGH.’

                  • At the risk of sounding like a complete jerk, why are you listening to her? She didn’t address her post to you by name. I understand discouragement when directed at you personally, even by some overworked slushpile intern who never meant it personally, but Breslin put this on the web and directed it at the public at large.

                    I’m having real difficulty in understanding the level of anger at something that isn’t even specifically addressed to someone.

                    • It was addressed to EVERYONE. That specifically includes each person.

                      Look, when someone says that women can’t do X, or black people can’t do Y, every single member of those groups is entitled to be up in arms about it. It’s bigotry and bullying, and it needs to stop. It does NOT need to be encouraged or justified, and it does NOT need people like you to deflect blame onto the recipients of the abuse.

                    • I’m having real difficulty in understanding the level of anger at something that isn’t even specifically addressed to someone.

                      I think it started as honest frustration, and a certain sadness when you think of the discouraged authors who will loose time in their development and the good reads that might be lost. What creates the anger is having people dismiss your honestly expressed feelings of frustration.

                    • Maybe just differing personalities. I don’t see anything she said as directed at me. Plus, directing comments like that at a group at large, be it writer, ethnic, or gender related, makes it easier for me to ignore it. Her opinions have nothing to do with my self worth.

              • A friend of mine, who thinks he is a writer (and has gotten a short story or two into the type of magazine he wrote them for, but it’s a low bar for that), is of the “never learn” group. He has asked for feedback from me and others, but because we all told him DIFFERENT things that were wrong with his stories, decided that we were probably the ones who were wrong, and went ahead with what he was doing.

    • I was actually kind of amazed at how easily I handled rejection letters, after a bit. I was always secretly afraid that I would just be totally crushed by agent/editor/publisher rejections of my various scribbles, which is why I left it so late in life to start pitching to all the usual suspects. Eventually I got quite insouciant – pitch them into the file while shrugging and saying “Your loss, cupcake!” while organizing the next round of letters.
      I really believe the reason that I could be so cheerful about it was that I had come into writting long-form material from blogging. I had readers and serious fans from that, enough that I had confidence about writing … and I had been in broadcasting long enough to be able to handle constructive criticism from people who truly wanted to see that my message (in a thirty-second spot, or in a news feature story) really got across to the audience.

      • I had readers and serious fans
        You sure did, Sgt. Mom! (waving hands in the air)

      • Yeah. I have a similar reaction, I think. It’s hard to say for sure because I’ve only officially had two: One a rejection for a proposal for an illustrated book series and the other in regards to a short story I submitted for an anthology.

        The first had me unsurprised, since it had taken so long for them to reply to me I thought the answer was “silent no” in any case. Besides, I was in my…. Oh, I don’t know… early-to-mid 20s, I think, and I wasn’t really ready anyway (and knew it). I got the letter, was mildly disappointed, and then shrugged and tucked the letter away somewhere. It wasn’t really how I wanted to tell that story, anyway. The medium was wrong for it.

        The second was early this year (January) and by that time I realized I wanted to self-publish and I wanted to have at least a few self-published works for people to find if they hit upon my story in an anthology and wanted more. And to keep that short story under 5k, I had to yank meat off its bones anyway, so I wasn’t unhappy (though, again, mildly disappointed) that it was a polite and crisp, “Thank you for your submission, but no thank you.”

        I don’t think it’s any sign of me being “totally mature” or anything either. I think both times it’s hit me when I’d already accepted the possibility of failure and was kinda cool with that. (In fact, in the more recent case, I kind of hoped for it, since it would allow me to put the meat back on the bones.)

        I assume that part of my ability to casually accept the rejections with a shrug comes from my time in the online art communities – some of which required applications to get into their more exclusive clubs. I may have burned through most of my, “But why??? My work is as good as person X, Y, and Z! I’m better than X at this, Y at that, and Z at pretty much everything but [thing]!” by the time I got that first rejection letter. xD

        • Again, the ability to take rejection is a badger-courage. You back up and then you take it. It’s not the same as the sort of active “push back” Breslin is looking for. Then again, our path is not her path. (Yes, I am sitting in lotus. SHUT UP.)

        • I only accepted about a dozen rejections before I decided to go the indie route. Half of those rejections WERE from indie sites, so I put them on my weblog for sale. What stopped me from submitting to regular publishers was a reply from one of them. He said that the publishing industry was in turmoil, that the expenses were going up faster than income, and they JUST WEREN’T BUYING unless it was from Terry Pratchett. He emphasized that what he meant wasn’t “just as good as”, but the real thing. He also said that I had a good story, that it needed work, but that it would probably sell online. It was enough encouragement that I’ve kept at it. My book has sold, but not great. Again, the lack of promotion on my part is a big part of that. I’m not a salesman, and don’t do well trying. I know that – it’s a character flaw in my personality, but I just don’t care enough to work at changing it.

    • “If you can be stopped from writing, you should be.” I’ve heard that one before.

      See how it plays with any other subject.

      “If you can be stopped from learning to draw, you should be.”

      “If you can be stopped from becoming a doctor, you should be.”

      “If you can be stopped from becoming a pilot, you should be.”

      “If you can be stopped from learning to dance, you should be.”

      “If you can be stopped from learning to sail, you should be.”

      “If your dream *can* be beat out of you, it should be.”

      And the corollary:
      “If you can beat kids’ dreams out of them, you should do it.”

  12. One of the things I’m noticing about myself is that I get a particular sense of how a scene should go, a certain origin or background for a character, or simply why something is happening, and I tend to get married to it in the sense of not being able to see completely different alternatives. I have thought I could put the breaks on, take a deep breath, and take another look at the tea leaves once and a while, but I find that really breaks the flow.

    Anyone run into that and, if so, how frequently?

    • Scott — you’re completely normal. 🙂 For a writer.

      • Thank Heavens…cuz I worry…a bit…

        • you’re completely normal. 🙂 For a writer

          Sheesh!! Talk about praising with faint damns!

          What next:
          You’re handsome … for a toad.
          You smell nice … for a stable.
          You dance well … for a middle-aged white guy.
          You sing wonderfully … for a cat.
          You have excellent table manners … for a bear.

          To continue this is just too easy, so I leave it as an exercise for others in the commentariat.

          • My Siamese and her son know they sing wonderfully, and they’ve taught the Maine Coon to do a little opera as well.

            (They really are resonant and impressive!)

          • Let’s see what others we can come up with…
            You’re smart…for a five year old.
            You write well…for someone who can barely read.
            You’re skinny…for an elephant.
            You’re pretty civilized…for a Visigoth.

            Weeeeeee!

    • Sometimes when I get a block about where a character is going, I brainstorm with my hubby. He is more humorous than I am so I can see different angles. Then, the character picks what comes next *snort

      • THAT would be awesome. The blushing bride isn’t a reader and never has been. I can talk things out with her, but once I’m off into the weeds of either writing jargon or sci-fi, she get’s that “Gee, I wonder what’s on Lifetime right now” look.

        • Well – the hubby has been involved with all angles of electronics for 40 plus years so it is NOT a problem. When I need to know something science-related, I talk to him. Now he can make my eyes glaze even though I was an electronic tech for ten years. 😉

    • I run into that mental corner about twice a year, and I’ll send the piece to my alpha reader friend. He spots things I missed, and in one case his comments added a whole layer of depth and ended up changing a later story arc. I saw a character as being derived from something very harmless, and he was saying “oh, I smell brimstone,” and “nice people do not gather that much information about other people.”

      I read for him in return, usually for technical aviation or medical stuff, sometimes to say, “um, you’re making John Ringo look like Sweet Valley High. Tone it down, please?”

    • Oh yeah. You get emotionally invested and can’t understand how people could see it turning out any other way.

      Totally normal and has happened to me. A lot.

      • (Moans) Now RES will make fun of writer normal again… 😉

        • Nyaah – not today. I let the Continuity Geek out to play and must now do penance. One observation that writer normal is, like jumbo shrimp or honest politician or legal ethics, oxymoronic (Now! From the makers of Oxyclean and Oxycontin: Oxymoron!!! Get yours today!) was sufficient unto the day.

        • That’s fine – I can give back as good or better than what I get. ;-D

  13. My wife doesn’t like science fiction, and won’t read it — not even mine… 8^( She wasn’t much of a reader when we first got married (that dyslexic stuff), but since I don’t criticize, she’s done a lot more. Currently, she’s hooked on audiobooks. I bought her a Kindle Fire for Mother’s Day, and she’s beginning to enjoy it. She’s downloading free books and things she can check out from the library – mostly mysteries, romances, and thrillers.

    I am very disgusted with our local library. There are more than 60 writers in the Colorado Springs area, and there are virtually NONE of their books in the local library. You can’t even GIVE them to them. Yet they complain about not having enough audiobooks or ebooks they can offer.

    • Yep. Our library system sucks. I hadn’t used it in years, but I went in to do preliminary research for a book and I got the triple threat: computer card system that kept dropping me mid-search; employees who did not want to show me where these books might be until I told them WHY I wanted them; sparse books on the shelves.

      BUT man, they have movies and music to lend out. Because… because… that’s what libraries are for, right?

      • You described our library system. At least I live in the State capitol and can go there if I really have to look something up and can’t find it on the internet.

      • I used to go to the library where I grew up, and it was a great library (no idea what it is like now). Where I live now the library is open one day a week all day, and two or three days a week for about three hours after school is out. And in the summer it isn’t open those days.

      • Ours library better, although the DVDs and computers are slowly ooching out more and more books. We’ve got a very active, if not hyperactive, home school community, along with a bunch of retirees, and that may help push the library towards books. That said, I’ve been waging a polite running battle with an overly-enthusiastic de-accession specialist. At least now the older books are not automatically trashed – the non-dangerous non-fiction gets put on the Friends Sale pile or is listed on through Amazon/Flea-bay/Alibris. Pointing out that some of the books they garbaged could have brought in $35 (less shipping) got their attention.

        • Can you believe they trashed the books? Philistines!!!!

        • I’ve built a very nice library at $1 a book from the local book sales. Pretty interesting titles, too. I even picked up a couple of older Heinlein hardbound volumes. Definitely worth checking out their sales, if you can.

          • I did, when I moved to town. Now I need to get rid of books… or reinforce the house.

            • Free-range Oyster

              Can’t help with the reinforcing from here, but I’ll gladly take the books off your hands… 🙂

              • We’re probably going to have a MASSIVE yard sale, at all hard backs $1, all pbacks 50c. Should get us five or six thousand dollars. And yes, we’re still keeping fourteen oversized bookcases.

                • Free-range Oyster

                  “Should get us five or six thousand dollars.” Well, that rules out asking you for a list of what you have… it’s a bit of a drive from north-central Utah, even at those kind of bargains. 😦 Good luck with that sale though!

                • Just let me know when and where! The last thing we need is more books, but I’m an addict in need of a fix…

                  Free-range Oyster… It’s just a nice three-day weekend. Take I-70 east, turn south somewhere around Denver, and when you get to the AF Academy, give me a call. I’ll meet you.

        • A librarian? Just trashing books instead of selling them at $1 each?

          *Shakes head*. What is the world coming to?

          • I picked up a couple boxes one time for free, I stopped by just as the Friends of the Library sale was getting finished and they were packing up. I found a book I wanted, and they informed me they were done selling, but if I wanted to take the whole boxes I could have them for free, that way they didn’t have to haul them to the recycling center.

            Which is how I found out the recycling center has a free book bin. People toss books in it and you are welcome to pick through and take what you want, whenever the bin gets full they recycle them. I have got a lot of books out of there, including a couple I had been unable to find for sale anywhere.

            • It was a library sale a — printer paper box — for $5 that I first found Dwight Swain Techniques Of The Selling writer. Honestly, I don’t think I’d be published today without it. So, yay library sales. 🙂

          • If they were over 15 years old and not literature-type books, many of them got sent to the dumpster. I ended up buying one via the ‘Net because the copy at the local had gone bye-bye. Cost me $40. I was a “wee bit” steamed. Apparently, no one had thought about selling them on the ‘Net, and the chief weeder is not a history type. *shrugs*

  14. I’m not easily discouraged…. I’m easily *distracted*.

    Not the same thing.

    But being told “you can’t” is more likely to get a response from me along the lines of, “well, okay, there is an incredible world out there of compelling and interesting things to do, ta!” than get me all angry and determined to prove to someone I don’t care a fig for that they’re wrong.

    In any case, I really appreciated your post, Sarah. No, I’m quite happy to go day after day without writing, mostly because the stories told in my head insist that they’re told, and I’m not all hot to prove anything to anyone, but it Always Comes Back.

    This is true. It came early and it always comes back.

    So why the h*ll not try? Is ten novel manuscripts an impossible task to take on? Not really. Particularly if I do not insist they be “finished” only “complete.” Ten first drafts, beginning to end.

    Maybe my children or grandchildren will find my stories interesting. And if that’s the only people who do, then I’ve let them know me and it’s worth the effort. So forget the fear that only one copy will sell to someone meaning to level a rickety table. All pressure is off.

  15. Does it make me a bad person that I kept stumbling over one of the bits in that first section because I think it was clumsily written? (I’m too lazy to go and copy and paste it here… But it was the one about how most people cannot write and that includes you, which she followed up with another sentence that just underscored how it wasn’t properly balanced as… an admonishment, I guess? Eh, it’s been more than 30 minutes since I read her article and I’ve been sipping on a bottle of something nice and alcoholic, so fweeh~)

    I had a much longer ramble here, but trimmed it to this since any time I tried to explain my reaction to the article being responded to, all I could write seemed to me like either hubris or bragging. (See also: mildly intoxicated as well as getting to the end of my “should be attempting to communicate” period of the evening.)

    There was a flicker of doubt – of course there was – whether or not I really was “good enough”. But I have a core of self-confidence that I’m not crazy and will be able to make my living from writing that is ultimately unshakable. And I certainly wouldn’t want to be perceived as bragging. Especially considering my results aren’t brag-worthy! I’m not even sure if they’re “remarkable” beyond the fact that they support the idea that by the end of the year I should easily be able to make as much from my writing as my (low-paying) “day job”.

    • C. R.

      Well, not as clumsy as my opening, which, yeah, doesn’t sing. But mine at least is written as a loss leader to promote my real writing and early in the morning, and I feel like cr*p (Always in the morning. Mornings should be abolished.)

      BUT for the record, no one writes “polished gems” all the time and the attempt to do it will just break you and your writing.

      And I’m right (weirdly) behind you on that “I’m going to replace my regular income from indie.” I expect/hope to do it within a year or so. Why so long? There are contracts I HAVE to finish. And also my income from writing except for last year which was a disaster, is… well… “medium pay” so it takes longer. BUT I think I can.

      • Oh, of course. xD I think the reason why I sort of smile behind my fan at it (so to speak) is just because she’s “admonishing me” from the position of being someone who “can” make a living from writing telling me I “can’t” while (somewhat inadvertently, I’m sure) suggesting she can make “words sing”. It’s sort of the same reaction I have when someone corrects someone elses’s grammar/spelling while including mistakes of their own.

        • SUCH is Karma and we all know she’s a b*tch. (Unrelated… sort of. My mom’s given name is Carmen — Carmen Augusta which she hates. But I think Imperial Song is a beautiful name. never mind — ALL the old women in the village when I was a kid seemed unable to cope with such an exotic name and so called her … Carma — pronounced Karma. They’d approach the gate and go “Karma!” (Or Dona Karma, depending on social status.)

          So… I’m Karma’s Daughter. Which I think is a totally cool name for my autobiography, should I have occasion to ever write one. Also, I love my mom dearly, but she TOTALLY justifies that name. a) Eyes in the back of her head doesn’t begin to define it. b) Revenge is mine, says the mom… and she’s GOOD at it.)

  16. HI, Sarah:
    Yes, writing is tough. And every time you find yourself NOT writing when you have a project in hand it’s even harder to get back to it. That’s the position I find myself in right now. Life really does get in the way with all of it’s trials and tribulations, and projects move little or even not at all. Then you become desperate, and angry and frustrated and that is simply another distraction piled on top of all of the other distractions.But if you write for a living you have to be tough enough to get the job done even with all of the problems life throws at you.

    • Yep. But it’s a different type of toughness from “fighting back” — it’s more a badger type of thing “I have to and I’m backed up against the wall, so now I’ll do it” as opposed to “I’ll charge back like a lion.”

      For the record, sometimes changing your surroundings helps. Several of my books — Soul of Fire — would NEVER have got finished if I hadn’t gone to a hotel for a week and JUST blocked out the rest of life and finished it already.

      • I did some of my best stuff while deployed – I had nothing else to do in my “off” time besides sleep and writing provided a great distraction from everything else. If I were ever stranded on a desert island with just a laptop, God only knows how much I could churn out.

        • eh. By the time rescue landed — laptop? You can’t charge it! — I’d have developed a process for turning coconut shells into paper. “It was… There was a whole library. She was squeezing squids for their ink. There were traumatized, inkless squid for miles around! The horror, the horror. ” 😛

        • And a solar charger and a bunch of thumb drives.

        • OK, I forgot about charging it. But if the plane crashed with ten years worth of batteries – watch out!

          • You know, I once wrote this time travel romance, where this woman is okay with living in the middle ages, provided she can take her laptop and ipod. And the whole time I’m going “ARE YOU DAFT? WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO USE FOR ELECTRICITY?” Apparently, true love and perhaps unicorn secretions.

            • The problem I would have with living in the middle ages is that most folks nowadays take filtered water and inspected food for granted. In the past, the dysentery alone would stop me from having a good time. 😀

              • How about the work load… I have lived without electricity and I was so tired all the time because of how much work I had to do to keep us well and happy. (I was 14 at the time)

              • Um. You know, you’d be amazed how much farmers do not sell people rotted food, and how much — once microbes were understood — people don’t want their well contaminated. The role of the “law” in all this is highly overstated. And for the record, Upton Sinclair made up 90% of the crap he wrote about it, and did it with the express purpose of bringing about socialism. (May Heaven have mercy on his soul.)

                • In Sinclair’s defense:
                  3 words: Fake but accurate.
                  6 words: He was speaking a higher Truth
                  9 words: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that writers lie
                  10 words: It ain’t Heaven that has charge of his soul now.

    • Isn’t this what you need to get through any task in life?

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