How apropos that, as the new guy here on Magical Words (and I’m happy to be here, grateful to be able to hang out every other week among an assortment of my best friends in the writing world) my first regular post won’t be about writing.
Get used to it. A lot of what I write won’t be about the craft, simply because I’ve read work from some of you, and from a lot of my site-mates here, and I’m one of the least qualified people to teach anyone how to write. But I’ll spend a lot of time talking about the life of the writer, and my journey toward survival in today’s writing world.
But first, a brief bio, for those who don’t know me, and while my arrogance frequently knows few bounds, there are certainly plenty of you who don’t know my story. I am a hybrid author, with one foot firmly in the self-published world and the other in the traditional publishing world. I made a (small) splash in self-publishing in the summer of 2011 with my Black Knight Chronicles urban fantasy series, which is subsequently sold to Bell Bridge Books, a wonderful small press out of Memphis, TN. They have the distinction of being the first publisher to see the brilliance that is Kalayna Price, and my friendship with Kalayna is one reason I looked at BBB in the first place. So now I publish The Black Knight Chronicles through Bell Bridge, and I continue to self-publish my Bubba the Monster Hunter short stories.
And now I’m here, in the company of some amazing people, talking about writing. Or rather, talking about not writing. Everyone needs a creative outlet, or at least an outlet. For a lot of people who don’t write professionally, writing is that outlet. That may be the case for some of you. It’s your escape. It’s a hobby that you love, and you want to make something more out of it, but you have a career that you adore and can’t ever see yourself giving up no matter how successful a writer you become. You know who you are, you lucky people.
But even as we get to live the dream – the quit your day job and write full time dream, which I’ve lived since April of last year – we then need to find a different outlet. Because suddenly writing, which used to be our escape from the world of the office, is the office.
Poop. My dream has become my job.
And it’s awesome. Don’t get me wrong, I love the writing life, and I’m doing everything I can to keep living it. But I have found that I need to have something else in my life other than writing to keep me sane(ish). And apparently the same is true for my Magical Words co-horts, since on any given weekend, or sometimes random evenings, you can find Misty belly-dancing, or Faith on a river somewhere, or David playing guitar, or Kalayna hooping, or me drunk in a ditch somewhere.
Wait, ignore that last bit. I’m not often found drunk in ditches. But if you see a long-haired guy wandering around Cary, NC this weekend, point me back in the direction of Illogicon. No, my outlet is theatre. I have a degree in acting, and have recently begun pursuing acting as an alternate revenue stream, taking the first step to get an agent and begin going after commercial and movie gigs. I’ll admit that it felt odd finally following the instructions on how to break into acting that I was given in college. Twenty years ago. But the advice still held true, I signed with an agent, and now I’ll start going on auditions.
But my point is that to lead a full life as a writer, you must do more than just write. As much as we love it, we can’t spend all our time chained to the computer, or bouncing back and forth between the computer and the Xbox. Not only does it make you go blind and a bit batty, it also keeps you from writing well.
Acting helps my writing, in so many ways. Reading scripts and watching plays helps me write dialogue. Hanging out backstage puts me in contact with some of the most insane real-world characters that I’ve ever known, which I then mine for stories. And the practice of becoming someone else for a little while helps me build characters on the page, too. Not to mention the intense focus that performing requires forces me to shove all the book problems out of my forebrain for a little while, and while my big brain is working on stage, my little lizard brain is back there figuring out plot points.
My lizard brain is impressive for a lizard, lemme tell you.
So find your stage, or your rapids, or your song. Find that other hobby that gets you out there and exposes you to characters, or lets your lizard brain work. And let me know in comments what you find.