There are some weeks when I sit in front of the keyboard and simply stare at the monitor. That little vertical blinking line tauntingly blips in and out, hypnotizing me, erasing all inspiration I have to write.
Side note, did you know that the vertical blinking line is called an Insertion Point? I would have thought that it had a more exotic name. But sometimes simple is best.
The point of this intro is that I can’t figure out what to rant about for this column. During these times of desperation, I turn to Pinterest and look up writing quotes. For some reason, I think they’ll give me inspiration for a topic. It took some scrolling, but I actually did find something to write about. The lies people tell about writing.
Lie #1: “Someday, you’re going to be someone’s favorite author.”
Let’s face facts, okay? Just because you write, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to be someone’s favorite author. And don’t come at me saying “But Jim, my mom/aunt/uncle/nephew/(insert random relative) told me that I’m their favorite author.” Relatives don’t count.
Also, don’t tell me that “I’m my favorite author” because if relatives don’t count, then you don’t count. If I’m being totally honest, I’d rather read a Stephen King book than one of my own any day.
If you want to be an author, you have to work hard to do it. If you want to be someone’s favorite author, then you’re going to have to work ten times harder.
Does it motivate you to write? Sure, maybe, but it also conveys a falsehood about a writer’s success.
Lie #2: “You fail only if you stop writing.”
This quote by famous author Ray Bradbury is meant to motivate you to stay in front of that keyboard and keep pounding on those keys until something pops out. However, it’s also an incomplete picture of what failure truly is.
If you want to be a writer, then sure, you only fail if you stop writing. I’ll give Bradbury a pass in that it is technically accurate. But that goes the same for “You die only if you stop breathing.” You can also die when your heart stops pumping blood. You can also die when your kidneys fail. You can also die when your skin vanishes and all your internal organs go splattering to the ground.
There’s more to being an author than simply writing. You also fail if you stop editing your writing. You also fail if you stop sending out submissions. And finally, you also fail if you only listen to your critics.
In today’s world, being an author is like a jigsaw puzzle. Having one piece doesn’t solve the puzzle. You have to have all the pieces.
Lie #3: “If a story is in you, it has to come out.”
William Faulkner is completely wrong on this one. I won’t deny that we all have stories inside of us just waiting to be let out. However, not every story has to come out. Sometimes, there are stories that shouldn’t be let out of you. Imagine a prison. Every inmate has a sentence that they have to serve before they’re released. There are some inmates that have life sentences and are never released. Now imagine that you’re the prison and your stories are the prisoners.
You have to pick and choose which prisoner to release and at what time. I remember this one story idea I had that included aliens kidnapping people and training them to be pets. The main character didn’t realize what was happening until the very end. It was a terrible idea. Every now and then, that story’s lawyer apply for parole. I review the application, but ultimately I deny the request.
Lie #4: “Writing stories is addicting because it’s a world I can control.”
This one is a half-lie. It really depends on if you’re someone who plots a book and sticks to the plot (a plotter), or if you write by the seat of your pants (pantser) and let the story tell itself. If you’re a plotter, please disregard this lie. However, if you’re like me (a pantser), then you know what I’m talking about. I love it when I start a story not knowing where it’ll take me. Do you ever start a trip knowing that you’ll start at Point A and end at Point B, but you have no idea which roads you’ll take or which pit stops you’ll make? It’s far more interesting and organic to let the story drive you instead of the other way around. That’s what I’m addicted to.
Lie #5: “The worst enemy to creativity is self doubt.”
No offense to Sylvia Plath, but self doubt isn’t the worst enemy. The worst enemy to creativity isn’t internal. It exists in the external world. Every time some one says “it’s not possible” or says “that’s a terrible idea for a book”, or maybe “no one’s going to read that” it only proves my point.
As authors, we’re going to experience harsh criticism. Heck, in today’s political climate everyone is experiencing it. However, as authors, we put our ideas out there for all the public’s reviews and critiques. Sure, it’s how we handle that toxicity that matters. However, if we’d all just be nice to people and offer positive criticism then maybe we’d be better as a society.
If I had a nickel every time someone told me that my ideas and stories were bad…. well I wouldn’t have to write for a living. Hmm, maybe I should start collecting nickels. I could’ve easily retired after just the last couple of weeks.
With that being said, if self doubt is creativity’s worst enemy, it’s only because of the hatred of those around us that pushes self doubt over that tipping point.
Are these really lies? Probably not, but it was fun trying to poke holes in them. It just feels nice to poke at something that isn’t from the political realm of things. Sometimes you have to step away from reality and focus on something illogical.
*Editor’s note: All the images can be found on Pinterest*
Categories: Mastering the Craft