“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.

Writing Journal: 3.23.2022: I’m writing, but not what I’m “supposed” to write – or, the difference between total writer’s block and “situational” writer’s block/procrastination

Well, this is a bit frustrating now.

I’m doing… all right with the writing, I guess? I’m well into March, which is one of those “extra week” months where I can get five weeks of writing sorted out rather than just four weeks. Last week’s totals (I’ll spell that out in a moment) were the best I’ve had all year, bar none, and by the time that this post goes online, I might already have achieved my writing goal for this month, to keep on pace with this not-so-crazy 200,000 words in a single year goal for 2022.

But, I’m getting the feeling that I’m beginning to separate my writing into the “serious commercial or semi-commercial writing” and the “totally frivolous and fun writing.” Two different areas, and categories that represent two different emotions for me. I have been associating the first category with success, accomplishment, “being a serious writer,” and procrastination on a very measurable level. The second category is filled with slight embarrassment because most of the writing is “frivolous,” “not serious,” “fan fiction,” “not intended for commercial success or even intended to appeal to a wider audience” and it’s supposedly not something I should invest a lot of time and creativity.

But I’ve had more fun doing that latter sort of writing than any other type of writing during the past few weeks. So, since I’ve been thinking on this subject for more than a little bit, maybe it’s time to take a step backward and see if my behavior makes any sense. Many people have complimented me, both in past times and present times, that I have a good self-analysis of my behavior, my reasoning, and my emotional reactions. Maybe it’s time to apply that to my current writing status.

(I usually post writing journals that either just say “here’s my totals for the week” and hello, or go into a deep dive about what I am thinking, writing-wise, about what is going on. I get the feeling, as I am putting this together, that this entry is one of the latter kind.

So, buckle in.

Some dude found it on Facebook, then posted it on Reddit. I saw it there and thought it was a good visual representation of the weirdness that I was considering regarding the writing output I had recently. Now, it’s on WordPress. You’re welcome.

So, we have the “serious writing” and the “fun writing” categories that I came up with for myself because I need to write about something and I might as well get it out here. My other experience is that once I talk something out with myself, once I analyze it and try and explain it to myself, I usually am able to work my way for it. I often times have eventually found myself repeating behavioral patterns, but it almost always keeps me from repeating not so good behaviors in the short term because once I figure out what is actually going on inside my head, I am able to correct things. So, I think it is good to talk about that here, especially since it concerns itself with my writing and what I am doing with it.

Essentially, what is happening is that I’m doing well at the latter writing but not the former. So, I’m going to make a brief effort to see why that is the case, and also if this classification into good and bad writing actually makes sense or is just some arbitrary malarkey that I decided on.

I’m going to try to, anyway. Or, at least summarize it.

As of right now, I’m seeing the “serious” work as something that I have to do but have to really motivate myself to do. There’s plenty of stakes in it, such as getting better known and possibly making this pay off. While my “fun” writing has no chance of doing any of that, but I enjoy myself when I do it and find the process a breeze to put out new material – new material, that is, that is not even intended to be commercial or be exploited commercially.

This is an interesting conversation… but I think I need to think on it a bit further before I tease out the implications and see the reasoning, whether accurate or false, behind this thinking. For now, just know I had a very productive week and looking forward to many more. After some of the weeks I’ve had last year and early this week, that is a nice change.

All you writers keep writing, and everyone keep safe.

Writing statistics for the week ending 3.19.2022:
+6,787 words written.
Days writing: 6 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 2 of 7 for 120 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 7 of 7 days.