You have made some notes, read some writing books, and done some research. Mostly what you’ve done is talk about writing a book. An idea for a book is not a book; it is a waste of time. There is no singular thing that makes someone a writer, but there is one thing that makes someone a joke–talking about writing a book without doing any work.
We do not like the truth because it is simple, we do not want the truth because it is hard, and we do not trust the truth because it is free.
Perhaps because many are idealists and publishing is so frustrating, writers are particularly vulnerable to believing in those who offer hope in exchange for cash. Writers know life is tough and we all want to think of an easier way. Maybe for a rare few, there is. If you count on that, you are a chump and somebody is going to take your money and break your heart.
Writers shouldn’t fear criticism. Instead, they should fear silence. Criticism is healthy. It gets people thinking about your work and, even better, it gets them talking and arguing. But as for silence — it is the greatest killer of writers. So if you hate a book and want to hurt it — don’t talk about it. And if you hate my books — please, for God’s sake, shout it from the hills!
It has been often said that writing is 99 percent perspiration and 1 percent inspiration. In my experience, this is true. But, in my opinion, it is useless without that 1 percent. It’s like an engine without fuel — can’t get anywhere without it. Or like a lighthouse without a light on top — doesn’t guide anyone in to home or safe harbor.
I hate to be a nag, but you have got to read. Like most authors, I run creative writing workshops from time to time, and speak, when invited to writers’ circles and at summer schools, and I’m continually amazed at the number of would-be writers who scarcely read. For ideas to germinate and proliferate there has to be fertile ground to sow them in, and for the ground to be fertile it must be mulched with observation, imagination, and other writing.
To me, all creativity is magic. Ideas start out in the empty void of your head – and they end up as a material thing, like a book you can hold in your hand. That is the magical process. It’s an alchemical thing. Yes, we do get the gold out of it but that’s not the most important thing. It’s the work itself.
Writers don’t make any money at all. We make about a dollar. It is terrible. But then again we don’t work either. We sit around in our underwear until noon then go downstairs and make coffee, fry some eggs, read the paper, read part of a book, smell the book, wonder if perhaps we ourselves should work on our book, smell the book again, throw the book across the room because we are quite jealous that any other person wrote a book, feel terribly guilty about throwing the schmuck’s book across the room because we secretly wonder if God in heaven noticed our evil jealousy, or worse, our laziness. We then lie across the couch facedown and mumble to God to forgive us because we are secretly afraid He is going to dry up all our words because we envied another man’s stupid words. And for this, as I said, we are paid a dollar. We are worth so much more.
To be playful is not to be trivial or frivolous, or to act as if nothing of consequence will happen. On the contrary, when we are playful… everything that happens is of consequence, for seriousness is a dread of the unpredictable outcome of open possibility. To be serious is to press for a specified conclusion. To be playful is to allow for unlimited possibility.