Wednesday, November 3, 2010

So you wanna be a writer

I'm a writer. I want to write.
Easy enough to say? Right? I mean, dude, I've got a blog dedicated to it. Obviously I want to write. I do it a lot, more than anything else except maybe reading and incessantly jabbering at my friends/family. But despite that, admitting that I write?
No. Just . . . No.
Nuh uh.
Doesn't happen.
When a debate friend asks what I'm going to be in ten years, I don't hesitate before saying what they'd esxpect. I don't tell people I write. When someone compliments my essays, I just kind of smile. I have at least a dozen notebooks filled with random scribblings, but I don't share that. The thing is, writing is dear to me, and it's something that is -- weirdly enough -- kind of personal. Not as in 'Oh, god, no one must read this' but more of a 'I'm not going to share this with you just to get mocked.' The only time I've ever told my friends about writing was last March, during Inkpop. The reaction I got was a good one, but still, I don't like 'bragging' about my stories. It's too personal, and I don't have any degree of success to measure that I'm not wasting my time.
(I don't think I am. But still, I don't want to be all Dude, I'm Ninja Writer.)
Anyway. Maybe it's because I'm so weird about my own writing, but when someone else my age starts talking about how they ARE an author, especially at school, I'm always -- perhaps unjustly -- skeptical.
See, it seems to me that  there are two types of people who want to write.
There are the ones who write. Who sweat and cry and laugh at their own jokes and stay up till two in the morning to write something that might never meet the air.
And the ones who don't, but like to say they do.
For instance, the kid in English class that gets good grades and understands a metaphor. (This is hypothetical. I don't have a kid like this in my English class, but I know of several.) This kid wants to be a writer. They say it loudly, daily, and often with waggling eyebrows that dare you to contradict them.
And then they get a bad grade and they are PISSED. Righteously furious. Possibly on the verge of tears.
And I'm just sitting there, thinking . . . . Honey, that's not what a writer does.
Writing is the easiest part. The tears, the deep emo depression, the freaky highs and the awful lows -- that is the best part of writing. But it's the easiest. The hard part comes later. It comes when you send in a story to an agent and are told you just aren't good enough.
So you rewrite. You don't sleep. You don't do your math homework, or you slack a little at your job, and for some poor parents, they stay awake all night so not to neglect their kids. You end up cranky and falling asleep at random intervals.

But you do it. You write, because if you want to be a writer, then there is no other choice.
And you send it again.
And you still aren't good enough. The characters are wrong. The opening scene is flimsy. You're funny, and you have talent, but you don't understand how to plot. Slowly, things improve. Slowly. Very slowly. But it doesn't sparkle and grow wings without work. That is what makes someone a writer, I think. The ability to cut, abuse, smash, take a machete against and possibly someday even throw away a manuscript.
Yeppers. Your baby might end up in there. Any other world, that would be considered sick.

Nano is interesting to me. However, it annoys me greatly when people start talking about how it makes them a writer. It's a tool, it's a step, and it's a way in the right direction. I was listening to some friends talk about it -- they were introduced for the first time this year -- and tried not to smile at the assumption that writing 50k is easy. Only 1600 words a day.
Right. That's an essay. A long essay.
But I didn't say anything. That lesson is one someone has to learn on their own. And learning that lesson is key to becoming a writer.
Writing takes a backbone. People don't understand just how much until they get into it. Seriously, it can suck. But I entered querying a stupid 14 year old with an ego I didn't even realize I had and not nearly as much talent as I though I possessed. I entered it at a time when things were going south for my social life -- complications with a guy, best friends changing and turning out not to be so hot, a dislike for looking in the mirror too long -- and through the bashing, the building, the machete-ing (dude, you know it's a word) I may have lost some that dumb inflated ego I had. But I've grown. And that is just one reason I love writing. Why I keep doing it, keep hacking and cutting and writing, because at the end, I've got something I love.

(I am feeling ridiculously gushy right now. Let's talk about zombies or  something.)
 Okay, I'm rambling.
The rewrites, the editing, the obsessive combing over chapter after chapter -- it's worth it. At least, I think it is. And honestly, those days when I think that no, I'm not a writer, I'll never be a writer, not until I'm published, I think about the hours and days and weeks I've poured into stories.
I'm not an author yet. But I want to write, and I do write. Maybe I write crap a lot of the time, but honestly, I don't know that it truly matters all that much. I'll get better. It's scientific fact.
And yeah. I still can't say the words out loud, but I think that maybe, just maybe, that's enough to make me a writer.
What about you? What drives you to keep doing it? Do you think that ninja penguin was cute? Seriously, I now really, really want a ninja penguin.
More later.


Colene Murphy said...

Wonderful post! Love love love it.
I'm the same way about talking about being a writer. I just don't. I can't. I feel the same way about saying it but not having anything published to back me up. I think people will roll their eyes and "ya, right, OKAY" me. But I can't think of myself as anything else anymore. I am a writer. I'm not an author. The fun thing about blogging is how many real live authors admit to writing crap. Gives me a little hope, ya know? ha.

Lyla said...

a) I feel the exact same way, especially about telling people I write, and
b) If ninja writers look like ninja penguins, I am SO going to become a ninja writer.

Abby Minard said...

I know what you mean- I don't really tell anyone that I write. I mean, everyone follows my blog now so they basically know it. But I don't talk about it (okay, so I talk my husband's ear off, but he's the only one that gets to hear me yammer on about it). What is funny, is that my friends who are not writers think that I'm going to sell my books for like, a million dollars. And when I say I write fantasy they're like, Oh, like Twilight or Harry Potter? Grr. But usually I don't elaborate and I'm just like, yeah, sorta.

Cipherqueen said...


-someone had to say it-

Yeah, quering a book about 11 year olds with bows and arrows at 12 years old probably wan't the brightest moment of my life, either. But, at the time I figured if I could lose myself in dragons described in horribly structured sentences at my (young naive overlyimaginative) age, then so could anyone else my age(middle shcool).

NaNo Day 1: walking around with a sign on my suitcase (backpack) that reads- YES. I woke up at 5 this morning to write.

But when people ask if my story's with me, it magically isn't. :)

People seem shocked that's I've won NaNo before, that I'm doing so much nowadays. They talk about writing as if it's some strenuous mental exercize that will karate-chop them in the head. by being the leader of a writing group, I'm forced to wear the "writer" label loudly and proudly.

Honestly, though? Nothing beats having your teacher ask who the journalist is in the class (knowing the local newspaper columnist for the high school is in the room, *ahem*, Alex) and having people say your name instead of his.

Scratch that, saying both your first AND last name. Take that, I-inherited-a-newspaper-position-from-my-older-better-sister man!

*cough* Apologies for the rant.

0.0 That was looong....

Sam said...

Colene: Thanks! I totally agree -- authors give me more hope than anything else. If they can do it, I can too. Someday. Hopefully. :P

Lyla: A) -grins- A lot of us do, it seems. B) -high fives- NINJA WRITERS UNITE.

Abby: I think maybe ...four?... of my friends know that I write. Maggie, of course, and then two that knew about inkpop, and then one that found out through an inkpop person. I generally don't share the news -- it isn't 'cool' in highschool, lol. Those three friends, though, that don't know about writing always do say that about the money. I always kind of wince.

Cipherqueen: Baha. I know what you mean about class. I don't share that I write, but it's well known that I'm good at English. Some of the smartest kids I know ask me for help in it -- it's a nice feeling.
...Waking ... -shudders- My god, girl. You are DEDICATED.
Starting young will make us better when we're older, hopefully. I think. Maybe? It would be nice. -grins- We can be NINJA.
(and I love long comments. :P)

Aspen said...

I have those notebooks too =) they aren't particularly private - but I'd DIE if someone read them - even though they're just random scribbles. They're good for flipping through when in need of inspiration ;)