No Shame No Gain

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“The best author will be the one who is ashamed to become a writer.” ~Nietzsche Friedrich

If you had a business card, what would it say? Mine says Licensed Insurance Agent; that’s what I tell people I do for a living. I would love to tell them I’m a writer but I don’t. Why do I and so many other writers plead the fifth? Why the embarrassment? Why the shame? Why do we treat writing like something to wash off our hands or hide under the mattress?

The fear of judgment can sew any writer’s mouth shut when tempted to divulge their passion. There are a lot of mixed reviews. Some people praise the ambition to write while others nay say the lack of practicality. They fear people will think they are impractical, immature, delusional. The image of a writer varies greatly from one person to the next. When I see a writer, I imagine a dedicated individual mentally velcroed to their desk and duct-taped to a chair writing with the same meticulous attention one gives to tweezing brows. They have a full cup of coffee that has long grown cold because they haven’t had even a moment to spare a hand to drink it because they have been too busy composing their story. They are much like a God creating a universe, only without the day of rest. The non writer sees the writer as either being a socially awkward middle-aged outcast living in their parent’s basement eating Cheetos and stale popcorn while watching B-rated science fiction movies, or a pretentious, responsibility dodging narcissist who lives in a perpetual state of preadolescence avoiding the “real world.”writer-do1

Sometimes the shame comes from the subject matter or genre. I used to know a published romance writer. She was a single-mother who was unapologetic about her subject matter; after all, writing was paying her college. But that pride is not often shared by romance writers. They face criticism from friends and family, not just critics. I had family who were disgusted that I was friends with a romance writer; they thought it inappropriate that I spent time with her especially with my (at the time) two-year old son. I wasn’t ashamed of her, nor was I concerned for my son. Writing about sex is as natural as having sex Following the same thought process that deems a romance writer an unfit social outlet would also rule out people who think about or have sex. This practially negates anyone as a friend. She was viewed as having a dirty mind, but she was just a person with a passion.

Parody, like romance, faces particular critiscm, the writers of which are often not considered  “serious” or “real” writers. My sister writes Parody. While she is not ashamed to admit this in her own blog and NaNoWriMo forums, she would never tell a coworker or client. As a writer of Fantasy, I understand her secrecy. I would sooner quit than tell my clients that I write about elves. They may question me as a person, and therefore as their agent, fearing that I don’t have a sound enough mind to protect their assets and service their policies.

Likewise, I wouldn’t tell a coworker. I’m currently training a new hiree. We introduced ourselves and talked about where we went to school, previous jobs, our families, where we’ve traveled, where we’d like to go, what we like to do. Even though it’s a big part of my life, writing didn’t get mentioned. We had so many nuances in common, I can’t help but wonder if she is a closeted writer as well, but I am way too afraid to cross that line. I’ve already divulged things that risk judgment: being a democrat, athiest, unwed mother, etc. She even knows my burial plans (how we ended up on such a bright and sunny topic is beyond me).

The shame can also grow from our own insecurities. After all, I have not published a single book; I have nothing to validate the time spent writing. How can I justify my “hobby.” I can’t support myself financially with it. I haven’t even won a contest since high school. Why should I be proud? Any of these thoughts or their kindred circling like buzzards in your own mind?

The only people who know I write are a few friends, my sister and fiance. My own mother doesn’t know. Forget telling my grandparents. I might as well write myself out of the will. I’ve heard people more proudly proclaim they are clowns, unemployed, alcoholics, even members of the Ku Klux Klan before they will admit to being a writer.

As writers, we live in a special other world: one we create filled with fantasy, magic, suspense, and imagination. It is also a secretive place with shame and fear lurking in the depths. We let very few people in because they will either validate our existence or they will tear it down.

To my fellow writers, even if you feel you can’t tell anyone what you do/what you are, I hope you are proud to be a writer, and I hope you have outlets where you can proclaim it loudly like a group therapy session.

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Fan of Fanfiction

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When discussing publishing goals with other writers, a movie franchise usually makes the list. Everyone wants to be the next George R.R. Martin or J.K. Rowling. The chances of a book being made into a movie or TV series are slim. Just getting published is hard enough. While I’d love to see my books turned into a movie or a series with the quality and budget of Game of Thrones or The Lord of the Rings (I’d even settle for the B-rated quality and budget of The Seeker), I’m not holding my breath. That doesn’t mean I don’t want my books to be popular. What I really want more than movies, t-shirts, and action figures is fanfiction. productimage-picture-discover-fanfiction-today-9528

That’s right, I don’t care if they ever make a movie or tv show based on my books as long as I am immortalized by a network of obsessive fans. Some authors despise fanfiction; they consider it a form of plagiarism. But fanfic writers aren’t stealing your work; after all, they aren’t being paid for it. They pose no real threat, except for perhaps butchering your universe, but for the most part, fanfiction offers a lot of benefits for writers.

Why fanfiction? Because the fandom community is a community of fans. It’s like having a fan club. It would mean that readers were so enraptured by my characters and my world that they didn’t want it to end. They want the story line to continue so badly they just do it themselves with their own original works.

They say imitation is the best form of flattery. We know this isn’t always true. There are some bad fanfics out there, but the fact that they want to live inside your world instead of their own is still very flattering. One plus side to fanfic over movies is that a bad movie can make your book look bad. A bad fanfic makes the fanfic author look bad. There is no real affiliation. Where there are a dozen bad fanfics, there are probably a few good ones.

imagesCATBIVURFanfiction is free advertising. If someone follows a writer who happens to write a story about your book, they may decide they want to read the canon. The more fanfics you have written about your book the more awesome potential readers will think your book is. Go on fanfiction.net and see how many there are for your favorite book.now-kiss

Not gonna lie, I’m very interested in the pairings. It’s sort of a guilty pleasure of mine to see who my readers would ship? Would they like the original pairings or do they play musical chairs with my couples? I would totally sit at my computer with a glass of wine with the curtains closed to read fanfics based on my own favorite ships.

Fanfic is a great way to get feedback from your readers. The stories they write tell you a lot about who they like, what they like, what they think should have happened, shouldn’t have happened, etc. You could read them for future inspiration. It’s a great way to get to know the people who will most likely buy your next book.

The Sticker Says it Best

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So this week I had a bad case of Mondayitis (for which there is no medication). When your first item of business is wake up ten minutes early, you know how the rest of your day will go. I got my son to school late and arrived at work barely on time. I had to schedule a much procrastinated car repair, which turns out will cost me two paychecks. Thus ends my personal business and my work day actually starts. Insert eight hours of stressful, mind-numbing work. My work day does not end with work. No, after getting a ride to pick up my car and then picking up my son, I finally get to go home where … I need to do dishes, feed the cats, clean something—everything.

 DuIMG_4223ring my lunch break—the only break I had that day, mind you, I was with my sister when we drove past a Jeep. The bumper sticker said, “I’d rather be writing.”  We had just been talking about work goals and our car and house repairs and how it all cuts into writing time. While I was working and dealing with auto repair people, all I could think was how much I wanted to write. You don’t see a lot of bumper stickers about writing (mostly support the troops and I love my [insert dog breed]). Here was someone who felt my pain and frustration so much, in fact, that they had to slap it on their car for the world to see.

I just wanted to share this bumper sticker in a way that did not involve peeling it off their car.

Losing a Legend

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a_610x408I just heard that writer Tom Clancy has passed. While I haven’t read any of his books, it goes without saying that millions of readers worldwide are saddened by the loss of this literary figure whose books were so popular many were bestsellers, inspiring blockbuster hits and video games.

 At 66 he was still a writer. I wonder did he have any unfinished works, any characters that died with him? Command Authority is his last book on record and is due to be published in December. But was this his last project?

 If I died today, it would not just be my death, it would be the death of all of my characters. After all, our stories live inside of us. If something happens to us, those stories are never told.

In honor of Tom Clancy’s passing, I will be visiting my library to pick up a copy of one of his books. I am interested in recommendations. It doesn’t have to be his bestselling, or even a bestseller.

Don’t be a Writing Whore

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shakespeare-got-to-get-paidI know many of you have heard of Ghost Writing, but have you ever heard of Prostitute Writing? It’s a term I learned in college, that I like to share with other writers because those who try to make a living from writing are at risk of doing this. The term was coined by one of my writing mentors, Karla Stouse. Most of her money she makes as a college professor, but a sizeable portion of her income comes from writing, which allows her to travel and maintain her ideal lifestyle.

You may be trying to imagine what prostitute writing is. I shudder and blush to think of the possibilities some of you have come up with. It simply means writing for monetary gain with no emotional attachment. Writing, like sex, can be done just for the financial reward. Not that there is anything wrong with making some money from your writing. But usually there is an emotional reward that is met with the monetary gain.

Karla mainly writes computer manuals, but some of her earlier published works were children’s books. She refused to bring them to class to show her students because she was ashamed of them. I think I found them on Amazon, but I can’t find descriptions or reader reviews to learn if her loathing for her books is founded. This is the perfect example of prostitute writing.

I’ve done my share of prostitute writing. As a writer for Textbroker, I’ve had many assignments I didn’t enjoy, but I wrote them anyway. When I write my novel, there is an emotional payoff, even without immediate financial gain.

Do you enjoy everything you write? Is there love in every word, or do you just write for the money?