W. P. Johnson

Archive for October, 2011|Monthly archive page

It’s Better To Write Than To Have Written

In Uncategorized on October 3, 2011 at 1:35 pm

This is a guest post byCalebJRoss (also known as Caleb Ross, to people who hate Js) as part of his Stranger Will Tour for Strange blog tour. He will be guest-posting beginning with the release of his novel Stranger Will in March 2011 to the release of his second novel, I Didn’t Mean to Be Kevin and novella, As a Machine and Parts, in November 2011. If you have connections to a lit blog of any type, professional journal or personal site, pleasecontacthim. To be a groupie and follow this tour,subscribe to the CalebJRossblogRSSfeed. Follow him on Twitter: @calebjross.com. Friend him on Facebook: Facebook.com/rosscaleb

The following is an exchange between myself and the owner of this delicious blog, a man by the name of Bill, as we organized a date for the American Typo blog on my Stranger Will Tour for Strange. What began as a casual hello turned into what would ultimately become the content of the blog post itself.

The exchange took place via PM at The Cult, the official fansite of author Chuck Palahniuk. The site is home to many writers (in addition to fans), so the content of the exchange has a bit of meta relevance.

[uninteresting fluff redacted; interesting to me and perhaps Bill, but not to you, the reader]

Bill: Any advice to those still in the trenches? So far I’m just sending out short work, but I’ve been getting a lot of rejections and am starting to burn out a little. My girlfriend has it into her head that I need to start being more social or something, that it’s more of a matter of networking, but I’m not so sure that will really help much.

Caleb: I read something, somewhere, that stuck with me. An author, I forget whom, said that for the longest time she wanted to be a writer, but really what she wanted was to have written. I was (am?) the same way. I’m in a constant battle of trying to convince myself that the act of writing needs to be more desirable than the relic of having written [1]. Well, convincing probably isn’t the right word; I am already convinced that the former is more important than the latter. It’s hard to shut off ego.

This isn’t to say that you necessarily have the same affliction, but it seems, based on your PM, that rejection is getting you down. Which, in my world, meant that I was getting tired of not seeing my work validated in print (I remember those trenches well). I’d have to give the point to your girlfriend; for me anyway, interacting on a social level really helped [2]. I was able to focus on something other than rejection. I was able to focus on my future readers. But I never thought of “being more social” as a task. I simply started communicating with people that I thought might enjoy a book that I would one day get published. Facebook, Twitter, blogs, The Cult, The Velvet, all of these venues allowed me to talk with like-minded people, and future readers, on a non-competitive playing field. RE: I didn’t care anymore about rejection. I just cared about communicating with people. And that’s what writing is, right, just a way to communicate.

Shit, I think I may have just written the blog post.

Bill: I think I am finally at that place where it really is about the work [3] and not so much about the validation. It’s more the pressure of validating the choice to others, namely my current partner in life. I bartend, so the problem is it looks like I’m just a bartender for life [4] as I perpetually get rejected, and it seems like all I’m doing is writing and sending stuff out. I’ve pretty much become a complete workaholic but it hasn’t prompted results quite yet. So she’s just concerned I’m putting every effort into the work itself and not making any effort to “make contacts”, etc. I do frequent the workshop, but maybe I could do more.

In this internet age, it would probably be helpful to write about the basics of networking, having a presence on the workshop and other fansites, facebook, etc. Especially since print mediums are slowly transitioning to tablets, it seems like the net is becoming the place to meet people. [5]

1. On “the relic of having written”: This, I think, is why many authors are afraid of ebooks. They don’t allow for the tangible proof of having written, the trophy. One book or one thousand books, they all look the same on a Kindle. Perhaps ultimately ebooks will help separate the true writers from the have-writteners (that’s a strange looking word).

2. On “interacting on a social level really helped”: When I began engaging with other people who cared about words and writing, I started to see the potential for truly falling in love with the doing of writing (instead of the product of writing, the book or story). I could meet with people and talk about the intangibles for hours. It’s like fetish porn. At one time, a person might have thought he was the only one into feet. Then he started talking about and suddenly the possibilities of foot-on-genital relations were endless. It was no longer about simply interacting with the foot; it was about the context surround the foot, about the smell of the foot, about the shoe, even.

3. On “it really is about the work”: One of the first blog posts on my homepage references an interaction I had with author Ron Carlson back in 2005-ish. Essentially, Carlson told me that writing is all about the writing. Simple, right? But it took a while for me to realize the truth behind this idea.

4. On “it looks like I’m just a bartender for life”: Craig Clevenger still bartends. Don’t forget that without life experience, you will have nothing to write about. I am lucky enough to be in a position where I can write as much as I want. And guess what? That doesn’t mean 8 hours a day. That means about 2 hours a day. Give me 8 uninterrupted hours to write and I’ll nap for 6 of them. If you haven’t tired writing for a solid day, give it a go. Take a sick day. Start at 8am, write until 6pm. It’s hard. It’s actually something I would never want to be forced to do. The romance of writing all day is so much more appealing than the reality. On a side note, I wrote the entire first draft of Stranger Will in the produce cooler of the grocery store where I worked during college. Day jobs are important to writers. They remind us of all the reasons we have to write this shit down.

5. On “it seems like the net is becoming the place to meet people”: True. The potential readership on the net, between blogs, ebooks, online zines, and writing forums, is so much bigger than most print publications. A story in The Paris Review would be great for credibility’s sake (and for my paycheck’s sake), but I know that the type of people I write for (The Velvet, The Cult) are not The Paris Review readers.  My readership is online. I’ve learned to embrace that. I’ll bet your readership is the same.