On being a writer

Hey, kids. I’m a huge fan of author Chuck Wendig for his spot-on blogs about writing and the life of a writer.

His latest is no exception: “What It’s Like Being a Writer

It’s true. Every last bit of it. That’s what it’s like.

I get a lot of questions about “work.” That is, what writers “do” when they “work.”

There’s no real mystery to it. I sit down (or stand — I alternate, because the bane of backs everywhere is sitting for long stretches), I open a file onscreen, I go through a couple of chapters to pick up the mood and flavor, and start writing where I left off. I also go back and tweak, edit, obsess, re-do, tighten, and check. I have the interwebs open so I can fact-check (when I’m working on a mystery), and sometimes I stop everything and contact an expert to make sure that I have details right. For me, thus, writing is like putting together a research paper. There’s an internal organization and structure, a way that things unfold, and I have to do some research for a lot of my work.

Having said that, I don’t ever really know how my stories or novels are going to play out or end until I’m practically there. I’m one of those “organic” kinds of writers. I’ll have an idea and I’ll mull it for a while and then sit down and just start writing. I don’t do outlines (unless I’m working on a nonfiction piece), though I do keep notes.

Most writers will tell you that to keep fresh as a writer, you need to do at least a thousand a words a day. And not Tweeting or interwebbing or Facebooking. A thousand words on your project(s) each and every day. Every writer has a different approach to doing those thousand words. I tend to hammer out 2,000-3,000 in a session, which can be an hour or two. On weekends, I might get in 5,000-7,000 words, if I don’t have anything else going on. And yes, I have a day job. I treat my writing like a workout. I do it almost every day. And when I’m not doing that, I’m dealing with publishers, cover designers, and marketing/promotion. Writing is not just about the act of writing. It’s about the entire business that surrounds it. And when I’m not doing that, I’m trying to figure out how to make my writing better, which involves workshops, reading other writers, and engaging in discussions about craft.

But I also have a day here and there where I don’t write. That’s fine. It works for me, because I’ve found that for me, if I force myself to write too much all the time, I stop liking the story, and that’s when I know I have to take a break. But I don’t ever stop thinking about stories. And everything I do during a day has the potential to turn into a story or to be part of a story.

So yes, writing is work. Is it brutally physical labor? Hell, no and I would never presume to compare it to things like, say, firefighting or law enforcement. But it requires a level of engagement with a subject sustained over long periods of time. It can be a lonely, frustrating pursuit with little monetary reward. And no, I don’t know why writers write. Everybody’s got their own reasons. I do it because I love it and it provides an outlet for me that I think (for unknown reasons), keeps me grounded and sane, in a weird way, though I know that lots of writers are rumored to be other than that.

Oh, and writers constantly tell wannabe writers things like this. Because it’s a crazy freakin’ life, and honestly, not everyone should be a writer, just as not everybody should be a firefighter or a police officer. For those of us who are writers, it’s obviously because some strange alien creature invaded our brain fogs like the Borg and now we’re doomed.

So there you go.

Happy reading, happy writing!

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