On not writing, and poorly quoting, and onions. That last should really be singular. But anyway . . .


Yesterday there was a piece going around Facebook that was a link to the satire site The Onion. The article linked was titled “Find The Thing You’re Most Passionate About, Then Do It On Nights And Weekends For The Rest Of Your Life.” You can read the whole thing here.

It’s funny, and cute, and snarky and a little depressing in the way The Onion can be, but it was also true. And it reminded me of something else I read once, which I’ll butcher horribly here and can’t remember who said it but there’s something in the back of my head that really wants it to be Sherrilyn Kenyon or somebody else awesome like that. And basically this person (and the more I think about it, the more I think it might have been Sherrilyn Kenyon on a podcast, maybe Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing) said “No matter how hard it is for you to write, there’s somebody out there with worse crap than you going on in their life and they’re writing. So quit whining and get to writing.”

And I know I should probably not use quotes there since I’m unabashedly paraphrasing, but it’s my blog post, so get over it. J

And both of those things hit me right where I live, because right now I feel like a fake calling myself a writer. I feel like a huge phony writing here to tell all of you cool people what it takes to be a writer, because I haven’t written a thing in well over two months. I’ve turned out practically nothing this year, and I have all the excuses in the world. I started a new job. I’ve been stressed out over money. My parents have health issues. I’ve been traveling a lot. Whatever.

None of it matters. Sure, some of it does matter. All of those things are true, and they have taken up some of my time. But I could also leave a party early at a convention and get an hour’s worth or writing done. I could get up half an hour earlier in the morning and get a little writing done. I could have foregone the flipping nine thousand hours of West Wing I’ve watched this year on Netflix and gotten some words down.

But I didn’t. It’s been a rough time at Casa Hartness, as we adjust from me being at home to back in a full-time job setting, and it’s taken a toll on my writing. I’m almost back to myself again, which means I should be back to cranking out stories in the next week or so, but it’s important every now and then to realize that not only do we all have every excuse in the book to not write, but we have every reason in the book to write. We write, it’s what we do. And when we don’t, we’re locking away a piece of ourselves.

So take a look at the spoof piece from The Onion. Then turn the intention of it on its head. Don’t let it be a little snarky whine-fest about how you don’t have time to really do anything on your Work in Progress, make it be an anthem that you get to write for twenty minutes every night. Let it inspire you, and write. I’m choosing to use the piece that way, because I have an awesome idea for my next full-length novel, and I need to make time to get cranking on it.

See you in a couple of weeks. Unless you’re in Memphis this weekend, in which case I’ll be at the Hilton for MidSouthCon. Come say hi!

Oh, and I’m totally addicted to two new bands – Delta Rae and Alabama Shakes. Brittany from Alabama Shakes has a voice that sounds like sex and pain and chocolate and thunderstorms. All at the same time.


9 comments to On not writing, and poorly quoting, and onions. That last should really be singular. But anyway . . .

  • sagablessed

    Well said. Well said. 🙂

  • John, Grief when your writing life doesn’t pan out the way you want, at the time you want it, is painful. Been there a couple times, done that a couple times. And wrote my way though when I could write again. I seldom remember this (selective forgetfulness) but there was nearly an entire year when I didn’t write anything of any significance at all. Hugs, my friend.

  • I’ll say amen once more to the Alabama Shakes. Such great music. 🙂

    Thank you, John, for this reminder. I have my lunch hours. I have my commutes (yay carpooling and transit). I have time before falling asleep and while I wait for my husband to pick me up because our schedules are slightly offset and being the manager, he works a little longer than me. I can do this.

  • I’m sorry it’s been a rough time, John. But as to the whole doubting yourself thing? You are talented, you are passionate about your art, and you are creative as hell. Yeah, you’re a writer. Self-doubt and mourning for what might have been, what should have been, is part of being an artist. I struggle with it every day. Sometimes it wins, sometimes I do. But doing the work is the best remedy.

  • So true, John. Once the guy who could only blink one letter at a time wrote a novel, the rest of us lost all rights to complain. On the other hand, I think that a certain kind of pissing and moaning is a natural part of the writing life. I have to have my occasionally internal freak outs so I can get it over with and get back to work. Today I started writing my 3 year “please give me another contract and don’t fire me” essay. Objectively, I know I’m not getting fired. Emotionally, this feels like I’m being stripped naked in public and judged. Two sentences into reading the directions, I realized I was going to have a panic attack whether I neeeded one or not so I might as well put down the pen and let the cursed thing run its course. Fighting to work through it was only going to give me a migraine.

    I like Kathleen Norris’ advice “lower your standards.” Can’t finish a chapter? Fine. Write one page and be done for the day. Can’t write the great American novel full of pathos and adventure? No problem. Shoot for coherent narrative. So overwhelmed with depression, grief, disappointment you can’t get off the floor? Okay, stay on the floor if that’s where you need to be. But say one small prayer (really small, like “help me please”) while you’re down there. Then accept that you have done what you can do. Keep doing it. You’ll accomplish far more this way than you imagine you can.

    And I second what David said – you are a talented man and your work is worth doing.

  • I think I’ve heard that quote somewhere before as well; I just can’t remember who. But anyhow, when I get stuck in a writing rut, I do what this screen writer guy said he does and this helps me a lot or to at least keep my mind on my characters when life gets you cranky. I don’t remember his name but I remember seeing him on Bravo’s Inside the Actor’s Studio. He said that when he gets stuck, he goes down to the beach and pretend his characters are walking with him and is engaging him in a conversation, or in a scene he knows he won’t use in his screenplay. I think that may have been some of the best getting unstuck advice I’ve ever heard.

    Good luck with everything, try not to get too much more overwhelmed. And I hope this advice works.

  • Vyton

    This is good stuff. You wrote it. It helps.

  • Hey, John. Sorry life has been bitching at you lately. Let me add this cautionary word to your tale: once you stop writing, the longer you go before you start writing again, the harder it gets to do. Exponentially. So let life have its moment. Just make sure it’s only one or two moments.

    Wishing you the best.

  • John – what Edmund said. I took a short 10 year hiatus because life got in my way. I’m trying to get back into it, but I’ll admit to two things. I’ve found it difficult to get back into the habit of shutting out the distractions and putting my BIC and my FOK. There’s always something else that needs doing. I’m trying though. If I can get a page done in a week, I’m marking it a success, since it’s more than I did in the preceding years. And if I can knock out 5,000 words in a weekend, it just gives me more incentive to sit down and try again.
    Good luck. You’re too good at this to not be doing it! 🙂