This is a personal aside. It isn’t part of the regular series, which comes out every ten days. There’s some humor here, so I hope you’ll enjoy it. If you take it seriously… well, that’s a function of your perception of yourself, not my intent.
Here’s the thing: People keep talking about me having found “my way” to be a writer. Then most often they congratulate me, as if I’d been out in the Superstitions digging test holes for the past 40 years and finally, just last week, found my “way.”
For reasons I’ll discuss a little later in this post, the congratulations are neither warranted nor necessary. The first couple of times this happened, I even told the person something like, “Thanks, but congratulations are not necessary.” But it didn’t matter, see, ’cause the congrats weren’t sincere anyway. They were merely the prelude to the dressing down I was about to receive.
So right after the congrats, that’s when the insanity starts. My assailants usually begin by saying that although they’re happy for me (a lie), my “way” won’t necessarily work for anyone else (a lie) and pretty much everybody has to find their own “way” (a lie) so “Please stop giving me advice!”
What? Really? You want that someone who is successful at doing what you’re not successful at doing but allegedly want to be successful at doing should stop passing along time-honored lessons learned that he received from other highly successful people in the same field in which you currently attempting an ongoing endeavor?
Shrug. Okay. No problem.
Seriously, I don’t care. I’m not saying that because you hurt my feelings (you can’t) or offended me (again, you can’t unless you use a firearm or a knife or a really large stick). I’m saying I don’t care because I obviously wasted my time (and I don’t want to waste anymore) passing along those lessons to someone whom I thought wanted to learn about her chosen craft.
Totally my fault. I was wrong. I should have known better. Most wannabe writers are far too steeped in myths about writing to extricate themselves. You go on back to your twenty-third draft. I have a story to write and publish.
Sigh. I really do want to help, so sometimes I do say more. That’s an unfortunate side effect of “I have the knowledge to help” multiplied by “I’m stupid enough to try one more time.” And if I do say absolutely anything else about it at all, well, everything goes downhill from there.
I have to say folks, I am constantly incredulated (a victim, perhaps, of a medical condition called persistent incredulositis that I just made up) that this sort of thing happens so often. I honestly don’t understand why so many people take offense when I offer them writing advice. I mean, if you don’t want to accept it, don’t. After all, it’s worth precisely what you paid for it. If you don’t agree with it or if you don’t even want to try it for yourself, ignore it.
Oops. There I go giving you advice again. I can just hear it. “You can’t tell me what to do! I don’t have to ignore your advice unless I want to! You’re not the boss of me!” Perhaps I should have written, “Ignore it, or not, whatever you want to do.” Seriously, I couldn’t begin to care less. Here’s why.
In the first place, the advice I pass along is fact, not opinion. It isn’t something I made up. It’s what I’ve learned from other, very successful sources. Yet upon receiving such advice (after they asked) the pretentious avant-garde set leaps to their feet, points at me, and begins jumping up and down screaming,
“That’s YOUR way! You can’t force that on me! I have a right to my OWN way! I have to spend time contemplating my CREATIVE PROCESS and mulling over my CHOICES as a PERSON and I have the right to call myself a writer even if I don’t do it YOUR way which is, you know, to actually write stuff, and you have absolutely NO right to define “writer” for me because my definition is up to me and I’m never gonna do what you tell me to do no matter what you say, Hater!”
Then they slap their hands over their ears and jump up and down and run around in circles while screaming “La la la la la!” to shut out my voice. Wow. And we’re not even married.
Okay. Thing is, I didn’t find “my” way, okay? So please stop saying that. Now, people are different. If you personally feel you have to contemplate your “creative process” or find your particular “way” or any of that, great. Knock yourself out. But don’t include me in all that. Again, I didn’t find “my” way. What I found was Bradbury’s way and Heinlein’s way and the way of every long-term, highly productive professional fiction writer who ever lived: I write.
I don’t spend so much as a second contemplating my creative process, and I absolutely do not “give myself permission” to do anything, ever. I hasten to add, if you feel you have to go through all those machinations, that’s fine with me. I just write.
Oh, and I don’t accept advice on writing fiction from folks who are less productive than I. If you’re a priest and you want to describe what it’s like to be on your side of a confessional, that’s wonderful. If you’re a surgeon and you can fill me in on what it’s like to slice through those layers from the skin to the heart, that’s great. But if you’re a writer and you are less successful and productive than I, well, that would just be silly. It would be kind’a sort’a like accepting advice on driving a sixteen-wheeler across the country from a person who has only driven her Prius around the block once a day for the last thirty years.
Finally, I don’t offer advice on what I don’t know to be true. I just don’t. I also don’t claim to be what I’m not, although certainly what anyone else chooses to do in that regard is strictly up to them. I mean, if I called myself a mechanic or plumber or firefighter or lawyer or doctor or grocery store clerk, I would feel compelled to actually fix engines or plumb pipes or fight fires or practice law or practice medicine or spray water on vegetables. But I’m not any of those things.
I’m a writer. I write.
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1 thought on “On “Way” and “Process” and Other Stuff”
WHOOT, Harvey! Love this. People have a hard time dealing with what lies behind the myth. The writing world is not flat, it’s round. You should write about people like Galileo because I’m thinking you can totally relate to how they felt. I’m so happy to have learned the “ways” of Heinlein and Bradbury. Thanks for taking the time to teach them.
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