Never Give Up

I’ve been writing for over twenty years, in the fiction field. There was a point where I wrote technical papers while I was in the military, giving me experience in both fiction and non-fiction. Basically, I’ve been in this game for a long time, and I’m still working on branding my name.

Every day, I hear authors complaining about how hard it is to get people to purchase their books. They’re ready to quit the moment someone says they need a “real job.” In my definition, a real job is one you work at many hours a day. You perfect your craft, mingle with others in your field, and do your best to advance.

How does this translate to the writing field?

First, you do work your craft daily. The craft of writing isn’t just sitting down in front of a computer and working through a complicated plot. You have to plan what you’re going to do. Even pansters like me do some planning so we don’t mistakenly give two characters the same name, or change what you’re calling a location halfway through the book. Then there is the moment you open that blank page and go “durp!”

Once you’ve moved into the flow of the book, it’s not unusual for the author to vanish from the normal world for many hours, days, or months. Please don’t disturb us during this time with questions like, “How’s the book going?” “Are you blocked?” (expect a snarl after this question) or “Aren’t you finished yet?” The snarl you heard after asking “Are you blocked?” will seem very tame in comparison to the other questions.

If you want to understand the writer, you must read Robert A. Heinlein’s The Cat Who Walked Through Walls to get the full grasp of how we operate:

There is no way that writers can be tamed and rendered civilized or even cured. The only solution known to science is to provide the patient with an isolation room, where he can endure the acute stages in private and where food can be poked in to him with a stick.

This quote is a favorite of mine and aptly describes the creation process of a book. We are a lonely lot, who actually seem well trained once we emerge into the real world.

By hinting that a writer as a wastrel who needs a “real job,” you are demeaning the craft we strive to perfect every day. You have no understanding of just how hard this job truly is.

To the naysayers who delight in offering advice, might I suggest you think about how offended you’d be if someone told you to give up the one thing you must do, the dream job you’ve strived to have all your life.

To the writers out there who hear this—don’t let those naysayers win. You are a writer. Write.


Jack Strandburg said…
I know what you mean about planning, K.C. I use Excel to keep track of character names, even to the point of noting how many first and last names begin with letters of the alphabet. Recently, I added another "project management" spreadsheet to plan individual tasks of each project and it has actually helped me become more productive, because it keeps me from getting "psyched out" looking at the project as a whole, which is often intimidating.

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