“Work” Writing Vs. “Fun” Writing: A Reflection (Part 3/3)

Well, I’ve been trying to shovel out a lot of what our current president might call malarkey, so I figure that I might want to try and bring it to a close.

I started my writing life harboring a small little hope that someday, my talent and great stories might end up making me rich and famous.

As I approach a half century of life, I now realize that my writing goes beyond notions of fame and fortune. I realize that I would be writing and creating even if nobody was reading it. I realize that I would be flinging my work into the electronic beyond even if I didn’t know that someone would be reading it and be interested in it.

It is nice, however, to have someone praise your work and tell you that you are a great writer. That’s the truth even if you don’t know exactly who those people are and couldn’t be relied on to pick out those people in front of you even if they were wearing name tags that bore the usernames that they went by in the electronic Wild West. None of that matters.

As a responsible writing instructor at the secondary educational level (and previously at the post-secondary educational level), this is where I would start insisting, quite annoyingly, that the author of whatever nonfiction writing piece that they are trying to create (and this is, by clear definition, a nonfiction writing piece) needs to lay out, in a single sentence, if possible, what the thesis of their writing is. If they are not able to recite this sentence for me, I often insist, then they will be lost regarding what the intent and purpose of their writing is, and more importantly, their readers will have no idea what in the bloody frozen hells of the lower levels of Hades what the purpose is of what they are writing.

So, I’m going to see if I can manage some sort of thesis statement not just for this piece of writing, but also for the previous two ones in this series. In addition, I think that by definition, it is going to end up being a working thesis statement regarding who I am as a writer.

When I was a kid, I self-identified as a writer. This was what I wanted to be when I grew up, this was how I was going to Make My Living. I also had a small little ambition to become a Famous Novelist, but like all sorts of fame and success, I didn’t know how much talent, desire, and luck1 you needed to get to that point. I had at least just enough of the first one and plenty of the second one, but the third I had no more than most typical people and I hadn’t learned yet how critical that can be when it comes to fame and success. You can almost certainly succeed if you have sufficient levels of all three qualities, but if you only have even just two or one of them, you’d have as much as a chance as most people have on the lottery.

When I was a younger man, there were many times where I did describe myself as a writer but I almost felt like a fraud doing it. Yes, I was making money off my writing skills, first as a journalist, and then as a teacher. In the former case, I certainly could say I was a published author, but it wasn’t like I was a novelist or anything. I had set aside my writing for a while, and there were years that went by where I hadn’t written a single word of fiction. Those novelist dreams of mine kept getting further and further away.

Now, I have actually gotten to be a published writer, even though I am far from A Success yet. I have been concentrating on improving my writing skills, both from a productivity and a quality standpoint. I am starting to see results. The fact that I am not supporting myself as a writer, or that I am producing some work that has no economic or marketing potential whatsoever, is totally irrelevant.

I am a writer because I want to write, I am writing, and I want to grow and improve my craft. No other definition is needed.

How’s that for a thesis statement?

So now, I don’t have any existential debates anymore about whether I’m a writer or not. Whether I’m as good or as productive of a writer as I should be, however… that is a different story.

I’ve managed to set some goals for myself this year. Maybe you heard about them. I know I will have to continue to set new goals and challenges for myself in the years to come. I’m in the process of considering what those goals should be, and I think self-publishing is going to be at the top of that list.

Keep going upward and forward, for as long as my health and faculties hold up. There’s still a ways to go, and any lifetime is never enough time to learn everything that there is to know about writing.

Footnotes:

  1. Luck I define as any other outside forces or circumstances that fall in your favor when you are trying to accomplish something.

“Work” Writing Vs. “Fun” Writing: A Reflection (Part 1/?)

I’ve probably started and stopped at writing this for a while.

I had to think about it a bit1. Anyway2-3.

When I was a kid, I was thinking the endgame of my writing would be something like this: I write some books, and then I try to get them sold to some publishers or agents. Eventually, someone is going to take a bite, things move along, and then I would become a published author. And at that point, I would have officially Made It as an author.

What did that look like to me? I can still picture them, even now. Even my kid dreams were a bit modest. I could picture myself being Successful but not A Celebrity. A Celebrity status was something for guys like Stevie King, Tommy Clancy, Anne Rice4, the older Lit Boys like Hemingway, Faulkner, Updike, and DeLillo, as well as the pulpier guys like Elmore Leonard, Micky Spillane, and the others. Even as a teen I wasn’t totally thick.

No, I pictured myself as having Made It. That would mean some books on the New York Times bestseller list. That would mean the occasional appearance on the weekday morning chat shows they always host in New York or maybe Los Angeles if they want to be contrarian. It would likely be New York because that’s still the home of American publishing. Every so often, someone from Hollywood would call my people and one of my books or short stories would get optioned for a television series, movie, or even graphic novel.

I’d likely have a day job – maybe teaching at a four-year university after spending a few years earning my academic spurs at a community college near my home. I would be there, teaching writing in a nice, clean classroom with pristine whiteboards to eager young people with up to date laptops. People might call me “Professor Liegois” as I walked by them on the campus green or in the main buildings. I’d have a nice, cozy office somewhere on campus, stuffed with textbooks and novels, some of them even my own. And I would have regular office hours where I would help those students struggling with how do deal with the written word.

Man, I was dense as hell back then. What changed?

Well, life got in the way. I started being a journalist, then got into teaching. I got started in teaching junior and senior high school to give it a shot, but I always had my eyes on trying to get on with my local community college. I would have loved to teach there… but that was not to be. This entry’s not the place to get into all that business, but I think it might be worth a later blog entry to discuss how that worked out.

Then, I started trying to get back into the groove of writing. It was a long process to try and recover my love of writing fiction, of writing, period. I had spent a long time cosplaying as a writer, but I eventually realized that I had to start producing things to actually be a writer.

And that’s what I eventually did. Somehow I actually managed to get a book published. It wasn’t A Massive Success – like I even knew as a kid, few books are – but I was on my way.

However, during a recent time in my life, when I moved from my old haunts to the middle of south central Iowa, and I became involved with other types of writing, something changed for me once again. I began to fall in love, once again, with the idea of writing for the sake of writing. I started to write just because I wanted to do it, rather than because I wanted to accomplish something.

In Part 2 of this essay coming up (let’s say two days from now – this Sunday?), I’ll talk a little bit about how that came to be and what effect that’s had for me.

Footnotes:

  1. I’m also, once again, trying to write through a cold, which is not a good thing. And I’m going to try to travel cross-state to be at a book festival this weekend. They invited me, so I definitely wanted to be there.
  2. Just realized that is my favorite word to quietly and politely move on from a subject. My students take a bit to catch on, but sometime I think I should just be more blunt. But a bit of finesse does help. Ironically, I think, based on listening to his podcasts, that this is also a favorite saying of Jim Cornette, the pro wrestling podcaster and historian and former pro wrestling manager, personality, and promoter.
  3. Pro wrestling and my writing intersect a bit more than what you might expect.
  4. I was a Facebook follower of hers while she was still alive (and still am). She was a very sweet lady.