Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A to Z Challenge: Nose to the Grindstone

Warning: Although I didn't intend it this way, today's post might be a bit ranty. 

As a veteran novelist, I should know better than to discuss writing with the general public. But you see, I know that writing is a wonderful activity, full of healing and, well, let's face it, a lot cheaper than prozac. So whenever I get a chance, I mention writing. 

But of course, that opens me up to critics and... well... this other breed of people. The ones where I have to unmake the decision to take them out. 

You've probably heard them too. "Oh I have an amazing idea. OMG!!! You can write it! I'll give you a share of the profits!!!" *cringe* "I also want to write, but I just never have the time." (Because all those series they just have to watch takes up everything they have left.) *snarl* "I write too, but... I don't know... haven't touched it in a while." (Or years.)

My inner response is usually: ARE YOU SERIOUS?! My outer one tends to be something like: Oh... that's nice... bye. 

Because (except in some cases the third type) those people are pretenders. They like to pretend that they are or will be writers. But they're not. 

The only way to be a writer is to write. Or when you're not writing, to be seriously thinking about plots and character etc. And yes, this may be harsh, but when you spend all your time on only thinking about writing without truly intending to get any of it written down, you're a fake. 

The only way you'll ever going to finish a book, or even a story is by sitting down and... you guessed it. Writing. No one else will do it for you. You'll need to make time for it. Even if it means that you have to sacrifice T.V. time. Ah... I can hear the wails now. And if you have a story that doesn't draw you and you're really a writer, why aren't you working on another project? 

Writers aren't people who look for excuses not to write (except when they're procrastinating, of course). They make writing a priority. Right after God and Family, most of the time. They're the ones who'll make it in the writing world. Basically because they applied the one writing rule to their lives. 

BUTT IN CHAIR, FINGERS ON KEYBOARD

Anyone else get annoyed with pretenders? Especially those who try to turn you into a ghost writer? 

42 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I just smile and tell them to have fun writing.

Laura said...

For the past year I've battled about whether I'm a writer or a pretender, but recently I've been thinking of myself as a writer. I can't see myself ever not writing, so I think that counts for something :)
I do get annoyed at people that think it's really easy, and that anyone could do it if they had a spare five minutes. My dad keeps asking me why I haven't published a novel yet, like it's that easy!

Sean McLachlan said...

There are waaaay too many poseurs in the writing world. The "bestselling" authors who haven't sold anything, the chat room trolls, the self-styled artists long on attitude and short on talent, and my (least) favorite: the "Pulitzer nominee". If these people spent half the time writing that they did trying to convince their fellow writers of their supposed awesomeness, they might actually have a bit of success.

Bish Denham said...

I'm pretty closed mouthed about the whole subject. If someone tells me they want to write for kids (particularly because they think it's easier than writing for adults) I just smile and nod.

Connie Keller said...

Wow, I guess I'm spoiled since I haven't run into too many of these kinds of people.

On the other hand, when an article I wrote was published, someone asked me, "Did someone else help you write this?" I gritted my teeth, smiled politely and said, "No."

Michael Di Gesu said...

IT's happened a few times to me, but I politely declined. I am WAY to busy doing the things I need to do. Although I haven't written much of my own, I spend my time wisely critiquing other talented writers or WRITING my A-Z intros. LOL. I consider pieces of flash fiction, so, I am writing.

I have three more left to finish. After that I plan to jump back into my own work. As you said .."A writer writes ..."

C. Lee McKenzie said...

I don't tell people what I do unless forced into it and that's because of the reasons you've mentioned. Others include: Will you write for adults after you learn to write for young readers? OR I have a book in my head and when I get a free week, I'm going to write it.

Okay. I'm leaving now. This is my back you see.

Cherie Colyer said...

I'm much like you in that I don't talk about writing much, unless it's with my friends who write. I've noticed the same thing you mentioned in your post. It's also annoying when those who don't write assume it's very easy to whip out a story. That always has me biting my tongue.

I nominated you for an award. Click here to learn more.

YVONNE LEWIS: said...

Good read, as I only write poetry and not novels and the like I don't think too many people take me seriously.
Yvonne.

Nancy Jardine said...

I'll also add -stretch the neck muscles every now and then and have a good wriggle in that chair.
Not a rant at all!

michelle said...

The first thing a seasoned writer said to me a long, long time ago was BICHOK! I responded with a blank look.
Thanks for the reminder. Butt In Chair Hands On Keyboard.

Writer In Transit

Stephsco said...

I've heard other people mention that comment of "I have an idea--you should write it." But I've never heard that myself. What a WEIRD thing to say. It just doesn't even make sense at all. I guess it just points out that person has no idea what goes into writing a book and what "sharing the profits" would entail. My guess is: they do none of the work, but then want their cut later because it was their idea. Whatever!

I had the realization a few years ago that my dream of writing a book would never come true unless I tried to actually write a book. This seems so very obvious, but I think a lot of people get stuck in that idea phase and never make it to the chair. Or if they do, they might not know how to actually get a cohesive story down.

Butt in chair is always good advice :)

Anne Mackle said...

It's good to have a rant.Some people think having a blog is all about having time and not because I have to write. I also have a friend who says she can drive but she's never had the time to sit her driving test and expects me not to laugh.

Michael Offutt, S.F.A. said...

Well said, dear Misha. Well said.

Catherine Noble said...

I have to ask... what is a veteran novelist?

If someone said to me "Oh I have an amazing idea, can you write it for me?" I'd urge them to look into a writing course, or join a writers group and get help to build on the idea they're so passionate about.

As for the other excuses (no time/project gone stale), I'd see these obstacles as I see any other obstacles: a front to cover up a lack of confidence in their ability.

I wouldn't call these people pretenders. I'd wish them well on their quest and get on with my own writing endeavours.

Good post, Misha, it's really interesting to see what other bloggers think about this topic.

D.G. Hudson said...

I always tell them that they should get to work writing, I don't do ghost writing. Everyone wants to write, it looks so easy, but writers know it isn't.

Good Rant, Misha, that's ok. Thick skin and a polite manner come in handy.

Andrew Leon said...

I don't any of those people in "real life," just online. They can be easy to spot. They have a sidebar on their blogs with their lists of projects, usually around eight, none more than 15% complete.

Melissa said...

"The ones where I have to unmake the decision to take them out."

I laughed so hard at this line, I could barely finish reading the post. Love it. LOVE it! xD

Pk Hrezo said...

The fakes are the ones who never last. Writing well is such hard work that we truly earn any rewards we may earn. Plus, the right to laugh at fakes. ;)

rebeccabradleycrime.com said...

Oh yes, I've heard how easy it would be to sit down and write a novel. I just smile and say, go, give it a try :)

M Pax said...

Nah, it doesn't bother me so much. Although, I don't want to write their stories. People tell me ideas they think I can use sometimes. I put them in my idea journal. Maybe I will someday.

Sheena-kay Graham said...

Keeping your head in the clouds gets nothing done.

Shelley Sly said...

Oh yes. I remember a year or two ago, I told a good friend of mine that I was writing seriously -- as in, going to pursue publication. I was surprised when she kind of pouted and said, "Oh man, *I* always wanted to write a book!" Well... then write! If you've "always wanted to", then do it.

I think she still hasn't even started a manuscript, though. Makes me sad, because I get so much joy out of writing, and wish others (who are inclined to write) would, too.

Carol Kilgore said...

These people don't bother me too much. Mostly I think 'yeah, right' and move on. If you're a writer, you can't not write. I don't mean write 24/7 but you are always thinking of something and waiting to get back to the keyboard. I don't know any writers who can totally turn it off. We play and have fun, but the work is hard and the only boss is yourself. I'm tired and I think I'm rambling, so I'll shut up now :)

Ciara said...

I nod and smile a lot and try to avoid any deep conversation. :)

klahanie said...

Hi Misha,

I shall keep my comment today, mercifully short. I've never encountered such situations. As for turning me into a ghost writer, I can see right through that one....

Gary

Cindy Dwyer said...

I don't see how I could ever consider writing someone else's story or even co-authoring. Another writer half-heartedly suggested we write a book together and it was the closest I've ever come to knowing what it felt like to be a man with a clingy girlfriend. I wanted out, out, out immediately.

Jeff Hargett said...

Does that mean you're not going to write that story about the awesome idea I had? Even if we split the millions it'll make??? Guess I'll just have to write it myself. :-)

Rant or no rant, the point is valid.

Jessica Peterson said...

I can't say that I'm bothered by 'the pretenders' because whether or not writing is something they truly wish to pursue is up to them. I am however, inspired by other writers and the support the lend one another.

Have fun with a-z.

Carrie-Anne said...

My ex was constantly trying to get me to co-write something with him, or to write a book based on one of his cockamamie ideas. English is his third language, and I've corrected enough of his cover letters and other things to know he's a bad writer. Confusing run-ons, confused homonyms, improper grammar, etc. Of course, his parents are mentally still in the Soviet Union, so they never use English at home to help with his speech. He has no idea what kind of effort goes into writing, and that you can't just carry on a chat or phonecall when you've got a lot of momentum going.

dayebydaye said...

Sometimes I question whether I am really a writer and this was a reminder that I am! Thank you for this post!!

Milo Nerak said...

I find that I'm in agreement with Jessica Peterson on this one. We all come to things in different ways, and some people take longer than others to pursue a goal. While I appreciate and respect your point of view, I, personally, do not believe that I know enough to know if another person is serious about their creative intentions. I'm not putting food on his or her table, nor am I putting shoes on his or her feet. Nothing is lost if I encourage someone to try. It is tempting to pass judgement, but I'd much rather encourage creativity. After all, there is plenty of room for everyone. This was a wonderful post. I enjoyed it because you really made me think about the topic.

Donna

http://www.TheWaywardGifted.blogspot.com

writerlysam said...

Amen to that! I have one additional rule to add to your lovely motto "coffee on desk" without caffeine, I would be unable to string together a coherent sentence right now *drags butt to bed*

Neurotic Workaholic said...

I have to admit that sometimes I watch TV rather than write, especially because I'm addicted to crime dramas and there are so many of them on TV. But I always end up missing writing, because I gain more from writing than from watching TV.

Sean McLachlan said...

Ghost writing for your ex? That's the worst idea I've heard all day. Run! Run!! RUN!!!!!

Powdered Toast Man said...

I have been blogging for 4 years. Do you consider me a writer? I have never called myself a writer. Is blogger a form of a writer?

Tyrean Martinson said...

Oh, the procrastination thing has seriously been bad lately for me, but I'm still a writer. I still write.

However, when you were into the part about the people who want ghost-writers for their awesome, best-selling novel idea . . .I felt your pain, truly, deep-down. Somehow, some of these people get under my skin and I actually feel guilty for not wanting to write their stories. But the problem is, I really want to write my stories. And I want to write them so much that I would never entrust my story babies to anyone else. Never. So, then I wonder, why would someone who truly cared about a story give it to someone else to write?
They wouldn't.
I considered working with someone on a "based on real life" story, and then I asked her a series of questions and realized it wasn't going to work. Why? Because she wasn't willing to do any work. I knew that if it was going to be a story that was any good, we would have to meet weekly and go over all the details. I would need to research her life and interview her extensively. She wasn't as interested when I got into that, and I realized that I didn't have the time to spend on it.
I think there are moments, when say, a writer wants to write an biographical account of someone else's journey, that a collaboration could work. However, I think it needs to start with the writer, and a solid understanding between writer and subject, not writer and "director of the next best-seller."

TV is a fun distraction, but only within time limits. Writing must come first.

Tyrean Martinson said...

who, sorry for the novella sized comment. Next time, I'll e-mail.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Love this idea!

Kristen Dyrr said...

Somehow, I manage to write all day to make a living, and never work o my novel. I guess I'm half a pretender. I write, but not the thing I want to write most of all. :)

#atozchallenge, Kristen's blog: kristenhead.blogspot.com

Teacher-Mom said...

So, have you ever had anyone ask you,"What are you doing all day on that computer? You spend hours on it!" Now if I were sitting in front of it playing some kind of game that ended in 'ville' or watching some show...well you get the picture, I wouldn't be 'wasting' time in their eyes. Would I?

Bradley Charbonneau said...

Hi MIsha,

I have no patience for those who don't write (or don't "do" anything). I'm with you on the, "Oh, that's nice." and move on. I want to help people who are willing to work.

I took up a challenge last November to write every day for 30 days. I did it. But I didn't stop. In fact, I haven't stopped yet (today is day 189. I was out of the game for a while, but I'm back and I'm not leaving. I agree with you on the Writing as Therapy. In fact, I think it can be even more. I wrote up my findings at 100 Posts in 100 Days.

Thanks for writing ... about writing.