Sunday, August 25, 2013

How Not to Be a Writer

It’s been over a month since my novella’s debut on Amazon and I’ve spread out to other retailers. In case you haven’t poked around my site yet, I’m announcing now that The Cellar is also available on Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, iTunes, Diesel, Sony and OmniLit.  Get it while it’s hot!

So now I figured it was time to whip out the trusty clipboard and take stock. For a completely obscure first-time author and the fact that summer is slow for ebook sales, I’m doing okay. The question is how far am I from living comfortably off my daydreams and whimsy? As of midnight last night, I’m still a pipe dream away from sipping mojitos at the Grand Wailea. But the good news is I can mosey on down to Jamba Juice and buy several Aloha Pineapple smoothies and leave a small tip.  A very small tip.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing to want to make a good living off your passion. Us newbie writers do dream of hitting bestseller lists and/or getting a call from JJ Abrams or Spielberg shopping for film options.  Dreaming is for free, and it lightens the heart to indulge in it from time to time.  But sometimes we get so caught up in trying to hit it big we lose track of why we write in the first place.

During the first two weeks I was obsessively clicking the refresh page on my sales or seeing if anyone commented on my blog or if anyone posted a review on Amazon or other retailers.  FYI to all of you, good reviews are the nourishing nectar of new books. Without them your book will waste away like a pudgy kid waving a car wash fundraiser sign in the hot summer sun. I’m just saying.

Continuously clicking on your stats nonstop is the royal road to frustration and irritation. And there’s also envy as you compare yourself to your more successful peers. Envy builds up a lot of negative energy and bad juju that you don’t need when you’re trying to plan your next book. Nothing blocks you more than looking at someone on the bestseller list who has no business being there, who got there through lame dialogue and half-baked writing. Yep, you know who you are. Hang your head in shame as you cash your royalty checks. It’s all blood money.

So anyway, back to the whys and wherefores of writing.  I asked myself direct questions that demanded honest answers. Would I write even if I know I’d never be famous for it? Would I do it even if I’d never be able make a good living from it? I decided that even in the midst of scarcity and obscurity, I’d still do it anyway. I’d still do it for the sheer delight of creation. I’d do it for the giddy feeling I get when the dialogue is sparkling and the writing is flowing. And even if no one else read it I’d still go read it myself and write another book just for the hell of it. It’s a painful, soul-stretching task to craft a story but there’s a lot of joy in there as well.

I’m reminded about a quote I heard from a cop show.  A veteran officer was giving some advice to a rookie: “You're a cop because you don't know how not to be one. If you feel that way, you're a cop. If you don't, you're not.” That goes the same for being a writer. You’re a writer because you don’t know how not to be one.  

That’s why I’ll keep doing what I’m doing for as long as I can. And if at least a handful of people can live vicariously through my stories, then I know I’ve done my job. Fiction was always meant to make our real lives a little more bearable. It gives us a little mental vacation to watch someone else deal with far worse problems and come out on top.  Or not.  In which case you can just bask in a grateful feeling that your life isn’t quite as messed up.