Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Stephen King Equals Dr. Oz.

Last post, I talked about you, as a writer, facing your inner demons of self-worth. If that’s not fire pan to fire bad enough, you be getting it aplenty from the outside world too. There will be forces both social, economic and industrial that will constantly test your resolve and tempt you to quit.
Where to start? Let’s start with strangers and work our way in.

For writers, it’s feast or famine in so many ways. The best example is the guy who has never heard of you. His unspoken assumption is that if you aren't on the best sellers list or a cultural icon, then you've got to be a starving artists.

Admit it, you've done the same if you've met a writer, or other artist, you didn’t know.  People imagine us in either a hovel or a mansion. Never a ranch style with a two car garage.

Do me a favor  …  the next time someone gives you that look when you say you’re a writer. Ask what they do.

If they tell you they’re a doctor just look them in the eye and say, “Oh. You mean like Dr. Oz. That’s cool, but I've never heard of you.  That must mean you have a day job, right?. Say when I retire from writing, I want to be a doctor because I’m good with people.

"I’m working on a medical thriller. So by the time I’m done researching the book, I figure that I’ve got all the ground work I need to be a doctor.  That should take me a couple of years. How come you guys don’t do that way? It’d be much easier.” This works with lawyers too by substituting “Supreme Justice” and “Law” where appropriate.

If you happen to actually be confused at their blatant contempt when you deliver the lines above, then read on.

There’s Initials After Name. I Dub Thee Worthy To Mow My Literary Lawn.
This goes more into my days as an ad copy guy, but anyone with initials behind their name (Esq., CEO, VP, M.D., MBA, PhD., etc.), thinks they can write.  In the marketing world, this attitude is summed up as “I could write this ad for my firm if I wanted to, but my time is better spent elsewhere.” The same attitude my brother takes when he pays the neighborhood kids to mow his lawn.  It’s a cheap tactic to devalue your skills – and your craft – at the bargaining table.

It’s worse when you’re a fiction writer and these guys want to ask how much you make just to boost their egos.  And when you consider that they spent a third of their life and tons of student loans to get the paycheck, respect and status they earned. The idea that some shmuck with an overactive imagination and keyboard could get paid to make up outlandish tales, it’s inconceivable.

These guys do use words. They produce verbage by the truck load for contracts, peer reviews, business plans. Somehow they think this mean they can also write fiction – if they just set their mind to it.

Better yet, they don’t even have to write a novel to prove their theory. They just point to Grisham, Kafka and Crighton and BAM! Case in point without even having to hit the keyboard (betcha that the three gentlemen above would call bullshit on that. )

Considering the economy here in 2012, that’s probably how a lot of these guys ran their businesses into bankruptcy.

The worst wrinkle on that is the guy who has confused you with a marketing fellow and thinks that you two can be partners.

The Idea Guy
To sum up this is another smart fellow who has an idea. For his single idea (we call that a “concept” in writer speak).

And here’s the deal. He’s willing to share that idea with you (well, it could be something more, like asking you to write his/her memoir) for a 50/50 split. The idea, this gold nugget of the rarest imagination will tumble from his lips to your humble lap.  – if you ‘re lucky, this idea is more than single word (bioterroism!) and maybe a whole sentence (Innocent man has a twin serial killer!)
 From there, you only have to spend the next two years typing up the story, creating characters from whole cloth and wrapping a real plot around the concept.

Then this guy keeps hounding you with this great deal.  You dread the next time you meet him because he’s going to bring it up again. Sometimes he’s even joking about it, like he’s trying to be ironic about it, but you know deep down he’s hoping you’ll  bite.

David Morell (you might be familiar with the movie version of First Blood) says that he now tells people he’s a literary professor just to avoid these guys.  By the way, his On a Lifetime of Writing is required reading. Warning: The parts about Hollywood and the Publishing industry will crush you soul.

Not all idea guys have initials behind their names, though. Some of the guys making you this deal will be your neighbors.

The Local Boys In a Band
In the music industry, there’s the “Local Boys” effect.  It’s the dichotomy of having a packed the house 2,000 fans on MyFace when you do a gig on the other side of the state line, but at home nobody could care. To them, you’re the dude that played french horn in High School.

To a lot of people, you won’t ever be a writer unless you finally get that big payday. And even then, you won’t be considered made until the movie adaptation hits the big screen.

Until then, you’re just a co-worker, a weird acquaintance or family. Unless you are lucky, that means the people closest to you will be your worst enemies. Constantly hammering at you to give up your writing time to hang out or do what’s “best” for you.  

For my friend Paolo Bacigalupi, he had a supportive wife that helped him as he spent 10 years honing his craft into a multiple award winning books. I’m guessing that come time for the family reunion, there was a least one conversation that gave him some satisfaction.

And I can name at least six arrogant bastards that are going to pound on the keys like an infinite number of Shakespeareian monkeys if I ever get my own windfall .   And they are not complimenting me by any means. It would be more like a bunch of know-it-all neighbors digging in their backyard for oil after the village idiot found Texas Tea in the outhouse.

You can probably name a few like that yourself.  My suggestion? Start a list with these guys on top.  Then keep adding to this list. Add every naysayer that you can think of.  Include anyone, no matter how dear and close. Don’t hold back.

For your writing career, these are the people that going to be your Achilles Heel.
  • These are the people you’ll have to say no to again and again.
  • These are the people who are get jealous when you spend hours typing that “stupid” story
  • They will keep telling you that it’s a waste of time because you’re getting paid every two weeks.
  • And they all tell you that the did  believe in you … in the beginning
Congrats, you've jumped on the Writer's Train. Still wanna go for a ride?

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