Let’s talk about sex, baby… no, I’m kidding. I’m kidding. Please come back. Well, unless you want to talk about sex. Always game for a good sex chat. Yes, I’m talking to you erotica writers reading this. Wink wink. (Call me.)
What I am going to talk about is needing passion for writing, but in order to do that, first let me ride piggy back on a great writer for a moment; I am a staunch believer in Stephen King’s writing advice, which is you must read a lot and write a lot. The reading part is great because it opens your mind to alternate styles, genres, plot devices, and let’s face it, reading is fun. There are also no social stigmata against reading.
We encourage reading from a very young age. If you’re like me, you’ll pay a good sum of money to buy books that your kids mention in passing, just in the hopes of getting them to read instead of playing video games or watching television. We have book clubs and, as adults, have lengthy discussions about books we’ve read, about their superficial and existential meanings. And that’s as it should be.
The writing part of King’s advice is self-explanatory. What I mean to say is you can’t be a writer if you don’t write. That’s the tricky part, though, isn’t it? This conversation is probably familiar…
“Hey, whatcha doin’?”
“You mean kind of like a book or a story or something?”
“No, I mean exactly like a book or a story or something.”
“What the hell for?”
When I made my writing intentions clear, my dad said, “Just don’t quit your day job. I doubt they give you health insurance for making shit up.”
Are you as confused as I am? I never understood how we, as a society, could champion reading the book yet abjure the writer. But that’s how it is and friends and family—the very ones who should be the most supportive—don’t take us seriously.
This disdain, I’ve found, leads to a lack of motivation. Why write if you’re going to get nothing but grief over it? Why write if it’s going to make waves in the lake of your life? Who needs the stress, right? Only in rare cases is a writer going to make a living with his/her work, so the physical act has to come after slaving at a paying job of some sort, time with family and friends, you know, all the bullshit of a normal life. This is something we just have to get over. The way I did that was to make myself almost too comfortable every time I sat down to write. I developed personal rituals that helped me cope with that indifference until I was ready to deflect it at every turn. I’m not going to get into that any further here. If you’re interested, you can read my thoughts on those “writuals” over at Michael Haynes’ “Write Every Day Blog” where I did a guest post over the weekend.
I will say that a major part of creating those rituals is passion. If you don’t care about the writing, you’re never going to have the gumption to stand up to a parent, or a spouse, or a best friend and say, “Hey, fuck you. I have to do this. I’m sorry you don’t understand that, but I also don’t care. Your understanding falls below my need to put words on paper.”
Believe me, it’s a hard stance to take. I had to do it quite often when I decided to make a serious effort at writing. If you’re one of the lucky few, you’ll never have to fight, or you’ve only had to do it once or twice. Some of us have to fight longer to get the time that we need.
Truth is people rarely fight for things they’re not passionate about. And if you’re not willing to fight, then your passion is lacking, and while I’m not the type to say “Get the hell out of my line of work,” I am the type to say “Don’t act entitled to help and praise from those busting their asses to make this a go.”
And what we need are fighters, people. We need people who take the writing just as serious as the reading. People who believe writing is just as important as reading and the two need to go hand in hand. Don’t just encourage your kids to read, teach them to tell their own stories. You know, the ones where the T-Rex is eating the jet while climbing all over the high chair while Barbie hangs by her hair from the straps.
Those stories. And all the others in their heads.
The reason is simple. Us writers—we aren’t the pebbles.
We are the lake.