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What Writing Is Not!

what writing is not pic

Question: What are a writer’s obligations to a reader?

Other than to provide them with a story, not much. Although from scrolling through various posts on Facebook and Twitter you would think it was a hell of a lot more. Over time since I’ve started self-publishing I’ve seen readers say things like (paraphrasing here):

-Writers need to know that cliff-hangers are only acceptable if the next book in the series is already available.

-Cliff-hangers are not acceptable AT ALL!

-It is not acceptable to kill off a main character. Ever!

-Books that don’t contain a HEA (that’s, ‘happily ever after’ for those of you not familiar with the term) are not acceptable.

-It’s not acceptable for the protagonist to be a jerk, or be flawed in any way.

I could go on and on. This is just a small sampling of what I come across on a daily basis while scrolling. I think we’ve, sadly, gotten to a point where a lot of readers feel that a book is a ‘product.’ Although a book is something you buy and pay money for, it is NOT a product, it is a piece of ART! It may or may not be art that you personally enjoy, but it is art nonetheless and as such you have no right to bark at the artist as to what is ‘acceptable’ and what is not. If we were to take dictation from people as to what to write and how to write it there would hardly be any point to sitting down and doing it in the first place. A piece of writing is a piece of that individual’s soul. A lot of writers, myself included, use this art as a method of catharsis. If I sat down and wrote simply to follow a bunch of rules people think I should follow to make my book more enjoyable to them I may as well just sit on my ass and eat ice cream, and I do that plenty enough already!

Honestly if you feel that passionately about writers following all these god forsaken ‘rules’, perhaps you should be plotting a novel yourself! Write it following these directives you hold so dear, but be warned, someone is waiting around the corner to point out any and all rules YOU would be breaking. There would also be some who would say your book is ‘boring’ or ‘predictable’ as it doesn’t take any chances at all.

There are very few TV shows that actually inspire me to be a better writer, but The Walking Dead is one of them. The reason? They routinely break all of the rules I’ve listed above, and then some. Both the show and the comic have little to no regard for avoiding cliff-hangers or killing main characters. My god, that’s what makes the show so exciting. You never know who is going to bite the dust from week to week. Quite often it’s someone I’ve grown fond of. The writers are absolutely fearless and I am always in awe of how thing play out. It’s popular in part, I believe, because very few shows right now are taking the kind of chances they are. I salute them.

Of course you are welcome to like what you like. If you want the things listed above there is nothing wrong with that, but if you read a book that didn’t give you any of those things it just means you didn’t like it, not that the writer did it ‘wrong’. Writers are very appreciative of anyone who likes their work, but most of us don’t want to write a certain way just to placate people. It feels like selling out. That’s the beauty of building your own world. There’s no way to do it wrong because there is no ‘wrong’. And like I said, if you’re that passionate, Nanowrimo is coming up. Try creating your own.

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The War of Art

“The professional learns to recognize envy-driven criticism and to take it for what it is: the supreme compliment. The critic hates most that which he would have done himself if he had had the guts.”
Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles

 

“If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.”
Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles

 

“The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.”
Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles

 

“We must do our work for its own sake, not for fortune or attention or applause.”
Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles

 

“It’s better to be in the arena, getting stomped by the bull, than to be up in the stands or out in the parking lot.”
Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles

“To labor in the arts for any reason other than love is prostitution.”
Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

“The professional has learned that success, like happiness, comes as a by-product of work. The professional concentrates on the work and allows rewards to come or not come, whatever they like.”
Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles

“The artist cannot look to others to validate his efforts or his calling. If you don’t believe me, ask Van Gogh, who produced masterpiece after masterpiece and never found a buyer in his whole life.”
Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles

 

If you’ve read all of those quotes you should have no problem figuring out what they all have in common. They’re all from the same book. A book called, (obviously) The War of Art.  It’s a book that I’ve recommended time after time to other writers and artists, although I have yet to hear back from any of them as to whether or not they’ve read it. While I can’t be certain, if I had to wager money on it I’d bet they haven’t because they’ve not talked about it. Here’s the thing about this book. Once you read it you are filled with a burning NEED to talk about it. Those who have read it, if the message has touched them, actively seek out other people who’ve read it or enthusiastically recommend it.

Perhaps I am putting too much on this book, but I don’t think so. It’s no understatement that this book changed my life when it comes to writing and creating.  A few years ago I was in a place where I was unable to finish anything. I would start, stop, reread, tell myself it was all garbage and go back to either start something new, or not try at all. I was filled with fear of showing my work to anyone. I’d make excuses as to why I wasn’t doing it but when it came down to it, really, I was just plain scared. I would say things like, ‘my work is just for me’.  Translation: I’m too frightened of being judged.  I’m certainly no Shakespeare but I produce. I finish. I do my work and ‘let the rewards come or not come, whatever they like’.  

I don’t know Stephen Pressfield, although I’m obviously an enthusiastic recommender of his books, so nobody is coercing me to say this of course. But I see my fellow Indies struggling and I know that if a lot of them read this book they’d at least have clarity. An artist never stops struggling, but what you are struggling for can make all the difference. I know we Indies also have a thing about not paying more than $2.99 for an eBook for some reason. This eBook is $7.75 and worth every red cent of it. Honestly, you’ll read it and shake your head at what a steal that price even is. Don’t believe me? Go read all the five star reviews!

If you consider yourself an artist at all, please, go read it. If you don’t want to pay for it at least see if your local library has a copy. When you do read it, I’ll be here. Come find me and we’ll talk.

 

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