What You Have to Give Up to Write

Got a letter today from an aspiring novelist who is wondering if wanting to write means that one has to be willing to sacrifice a great deal for one’s writing and craft. Because one hears of writers who have made great sacrifices in order to work on their writing, including giving up jobs, friends and spouses in order to put their words into being. Does one have to be willing to put that all on the line for one’s art?

Nah. What you really need to do is cut an hour of TV watching out of your day. Seriously, now: Keep your job, keep your marriage, keep your friends, keep the kids. Just drop an hour of TV.

Because, look: If you’ve got an hour a day to write uninterrupted, you can probably manage between 250 and 500 words a day. Do that five days a week, and in the course of a year that’s between 65,250 and 130,500 words; i.e., hey, you’ve gone and written a novel. All while keeping your day job and not turning into a hermit. This is not complicated.

I think the whole “you must be willing to suffer for your art” thing is overrated and is generally bruited about by people who want to make writing look like some amazing, holy process or whatever. My response to this is, sure, writing can be a wild, transcendent thing, but at the end of the day it’s also about putting your ass into a chair and typing. Writing is a process, and like most processes, if you do it on a regular basis, you generally increase your facility for it.

Now, that covers the process, but maybe the question is meant existentially and experientially, as in “no great writer leads a strife-free life.” But you know, my feeling about that is that life is going to smack you around anyway, so there’s no point in making more trouble for yourself than you have to. Certainly a writer should be open to experience and even seek it out, but going out of one’s way to make one’s life more difficult just seems more trouble than it’s worth, and of dubious utility in any event. Just as a matter of practicality it’s a problem; I mean, when my life’s turning to crap I certainly don’t feel in the mood to write scads of prose. Usually I just end up sitting in my office and glowering at the computer screen.

Yes, there are a lot of writers with tumultuous lives. But I submit to you that in many if not most cases, their lives would have been just as tumultuous had they been in some other line of work, because that was just who they were, independent of their writer brain. I have no doubt there are accountants and firefighters and dentists with equally tumultuous lives, we just don’t hear about them. And very few people suggest that one must be willing to accept strife if one is to file people’s taxes with the IRS or perform root canals.

So yeah, no: Don’t give up everything for your art. Just turn off the damn television for a bit (or put down that XBox controller, or stop staring unblinking at your RSS feed or whatever), and get yourself used to writing a bit every day. You’ll be surprised at how effective it turns out to be, and you’ll still have a job and loved ones at the end of it. Unless you screw up some other way, in which case you will suffer. But it won’t have been for your art. And I think that’s for the best.

183 thoughts on “What You Have to Give Up to Write

  1. You are so right, sir.
    I’m married, happily, I have friends and I have past times, I also make time four days a week to write. I established my habit by not allowing myself to watch FXs re-runs of Buff The Vampire Slayer until I had written at least 500 words.
    I now own the DVD and have no need for FX’s evil edits, but the habit remains.
    I would advise set aside dedicated time and work in a reward systems for yourself for keeping to the schedule.

  2. Thanks for that. I made time to write my first novel just by forcing myself to sit in front of the screen for an hour every day. That doesn’t mean I wrote that whole time, but eventually I ran out of blogs to read and forced myself into writing something down at least.

  3. Thank you John.

    In the last 2 years, I’ve realized more and more how little importance TV has in my life, and I consider myself better for the discovery.

    There are just more important things that I want to do with my life, and staying up to date on “The Biggest Loser” or “The OC” are just not worth the limited hours that I have with my life.

    Or as I like to tell guys that I know: “Turn off the TV, go outside, and talk to a girl.”

  4. I’m currently using the Frederik Pohl method to write my sixth novel: four pages per day, no more, no less.

    As he said, sometimes it comes quickly, sometimes it’s harder. But four pages isn’t that much work, especially if writing them is YOUR JOB.

    Four pages comes out to around 750 words per day. And it means I get to have friends, a family, hobbies, and everything else worth having, while completing a YA novel in around three months.

  5. My hobby is writing. I’m a freak of nature, like Brandon Sanderson. Some people collect stamps, or hike. I write.

    I write at least a little everyday, sometimes more, sometimes less. I figure it’ll take a year for me to reach 100,000 words.

    I like writing.

  6. I tried that back during NaNoWriMo in 2002. Got 35,000 pages by the 20th. That was when my son was born. Why I was lame enough to try it when my wife was due I don’t know.

    I’ve never gone back…I probably should. For some reason, I have less free time than in 2002.

  7. That’s pretty much all there is to it. Dedicate time to write, every day, and…write.

    I wish I’d known this sooner. I pretty much wanted to be a writer, but I believed I was too emotionally stable for a long, long time…

    Catherine

  8. I wonder if a lot of the whole suffering and angst bit doesn’t come from the fact that writing is a solitary exercise that often comes with no external validation whatsoever until months or years after you put in the work, if ever! For comparison, my two main hobbies are writing fiction and playing World of Warcraft. Video games are built on immediate gratification for very small tasks, plus I can chat with my friends about it, all without having to put on pants. Awesome!

    Writing, on the other hand, while not requiring pants (score!), is almost entirely solitary. I only have one person who reads my drafts and I imagine that many writers don’t show early drafts to anyone at all. I can look at the words on the screen at the end of the night and feel good about it, but do I really know it’s any good? Sure, playing video games you don’t end up with anything tangible at the end, but at least you had fun.

    Besides, if you suck at playing video games (NOOB!), it’s not really a big deal, but if you write something that sucks or just plain suck at writing, that’s a bit harder on the self-esteem. At least, such has been my experience.

  9. Well…all you need to be good at video games is persistence. I’m not sure that is true of writing.

  10. PS. The end of the second paragraph there seems to indicate that writing is not fun. Writing can totally be fun. And satisfying and rewarding and all that jazz. I guess if one is only writing for oneself and could care less what anyone else thinks, you’re golden. I guess for me, I feel like stories want to be told. Writing wants to be read. I’ve spent eight months writing and three months revising and if at the end what I wind up with is something even my mom can’t pretend is any good, well, there will be tears and much killing of undead. Oh yes.

  11. You can always email me if you need a completely useless comment or someone to rush to the defense of an indefensible point.

    I can try to fit you into my new novel writing schedule.

    I’ll be staring at my email, waiting.

  12. You mean I have to stop playing Sims 3 instead of, like, forcing the idiots to go and talk with the snake people?

    Daaauuum. Easy Peasy. Tired of Sims, anyway.

  13. Yes, there are a lot of writers with tumultuous lives. But I submit to you that in many if not most cases, their lives would have been just as tumultuous had they been in some other line of work, because that was just who they were, independent of their writer brain.

    Just finished Blake Bailey’s biography of John Cheever, and I wonder if a corollary of that is that, in many if not most cases, “suffering for their art” was just the rationale nearest to hand for being a total bastard.

  14. Well…all you need to be good at video games is persistence. I’m not sure that is true of writing.

    I was listening to an interview with comics writer John Arcudi. He was asked something along the lines of what his secret to success was, and he told a story about hearing John Cougar Mellencamp (of all people) on NPR’s Fresh Air program. When JCM was asked that question, he thought a moment, and answered, “Persistence.” The host laughed, and said a lot of people are persistent, and John’s answer was, “No they aren’t. Most people quit.”

    I like that, because it seems pretty true. A lot of people try to write, try to do anything . . . and when the immediate gratification doesn’t happen, they quit. I think a little dedication goes a looooong way. It’s like all the 10-year “overnight sensations” in music.

  15. Funny thing, it works for other things than writing, too. I make jewelry, and it’s amazing how many pieces of jewelry I have made and how much my work has improved simply because I now spend a little time every day with the wire and the pliers in my hands. The other good thing is that after a month or so of doing whatever every day, it becomes a habit, and then, most days, it just flows.

    Of course, from time to time I have to stop to watch Dr. Who. Or Torchwood. Or read Whatever. Moderation in all things, right??

  16. I am about half way through writing my 2nd book. I am a teacher by day and I set a word count to write at night. No Games or TV until done. I finished my first book in about 82 days.

    Do I wish that I could stay home and write, yes. Until that happens I will keep the day job.

  17. Good article, I imagine there are few who can fully live the dream completely. But to achieve some portion of it should provide satisfaction.

  18. Giving up an hour of video games a day is plenty of writerly hardship, thank you very much. Of course, so are pants.

  19. Scalzi is so full of sound advice!

    I think it will help tremendously this year that I won’t have internet in my apartment (I’ll hafta go to a coffee shop to use the internet!) so I’ll have no excuse not to get the writing done!!!

  20. The InterToob is my blessing and my curse.

    If I could get back all the hours I’ve wasted on this beautiful gottdamned rotten time-wasting piece of golden electronic excremental wonderment…

    A few observations, from The Struggle.

    (NOTE: I am my own biggest sinner, on all of these.)

    1) The internet, television, and video games are liable to be lethal to your productivity. Consume in moderation. If you have time to gripe about how you don’t have the time to write, and are spending any time at all on any of the above, it’s time to prioritize, and make some changes.

    2) Write, even when you’re in a shitty-ass fucked-up mood. Are tired. Beat down. Not feeling creative or inspired in the slightest. Whatever. Put your butt in the chair. 99 times out of 100 if you put your butt in the chair and get at least an hour in and/or a couple of pages, you’ll feel better when you’re done.

    3) All the stuff that you think is distracting you from your sacred calling, is your Real Life happening. Don’t throw it in the crapper. Your Real Life is what keeps you sane, alive, and plugged in. Doesn’t always seem that way. But it’s true. Dispose of your Real Life at your peril. Especially if you’re brand new and haven’t chopped significantly into your first million words.

    4) Exercise and watch your diet. People still don’t understand how important the mind-body connection is. If all you do all day is eat junk food and sit on your butt and watch your belly grow, why would you assume that your brain is sharp, fired up and ready to go when it’s time to work on the latest manuscript?

  21. One other note. I think Steve Barnes said this at Norwescon. Can’t remember if he was quoting someone, or if this is original to him.

    If you’re married and/or have kids and/or have people who depend on you to bring in the bread and take care of business, quitting everything and going jobless so you can stay home and write, does not mean you’re dedicated to your passion. It just means you’re an asshole.

  22. ytimonoma @24, I know a fellow who is a porn writer who writes only at coffeeshops. Not because of the Intertubes, but because, as he puts it, when he’s in public rather than in the privacy of his own home* there is absolutely no chance he will be overcome by the subject matter and, er, be tempted tp lose his groove, so to speak.

    *which, of course, is pants-optional

  23. Word.
    I think of it like being similar buying shit you can’t afford/don’t need: if you broke it down, you’d realize that you have to work X number of hours to pay for whatever video game or new gadget or, hell, a fancy car that you don’t really need. And then you decide that that thing isn’t worth the time. Just do sort of the reverse if you want to be a writer. Is watching the dumb shit on TV (insert whatever show here) worth the pages that you haven’t written? Um, that would be a NO! And I find the suffering for your art thing so phoney baloney.

  24. NEG Personally, I think the writing life begins in the late teens. If you haven’t discovered your writing spirit by then, you’re just wasting your time. It was stillborn, and you’re in denial. If you haven’t written anything by your late 20s, anything being a semi-coherent 80,000-word book (yes, that groundbreaking sff novel that you’ve convinced yourself is embedded in your head) then you’re never going to write it. Forget about it. Take up . . . lawn bowling or mowing. I heard the learning curve is much . . . shallower. If you haven’t written anything by your thirtieth birthday, then you’re in desperate need of a life coach.

    “Built the library, and “you” will come. Be all the “reader/breeder” you can be.”

    POS Writing is therapeutic; the writing life, transcendent. There is nothing like writing waves of inspiration in the privacy of a writing/opium den. It’s a neurological rollercoaster ride. Be an Ameri-can, not an Ameri-can’t. So what!? You’ll never be John Scalzi! But, then again, John Scalzi will never be Robert A. Heinlein.

    - Writing a future Nebulua award-winning novel from the slums of Seoul (with nothing but an old trunk full of sff books and a Macbook Air; no television, don’t even speak the language; and with an Alien Registration Card, my ARC to the stars),

    Dirty Wizard Hunter

  25. If you haven’t discovered your writing spirit by then, you’re just wasting your time.

    I hope you’re kidding, because if not–what a steaming load.

    I didn’t discover writing for anything more than school papers until I was nearly 24. Part of it was having Too Much Real Life To Deal With from age 15 on; part of it wasn’t actually not having any idea that writing a story, whether it be short or long, didn’t require agonizing over each paragraph until it was perfect.

    Here I am at 30 (one foot in the grave, surely!) and despite Even More Bloody Real Life, I’ve kept writing. Finishing things, even. And, if the viewpoint of the guest author at the one workshop I’ve attended is a clue, I’m actually pretty good at it. It’s funny, it’s like all that persistence and life experiece actually honed my skill, even though I didn’t start at the absolute worst time of my life.

    Of course, if you were kidding you can disregard all of that.

  26. “Finding the time to write” is not really the issue. It takes about twenty minutes to write a 250-word page–thirty minutes tops. If you just write one page a day, you have a 90,000-word novel in a year.

    In my (admittedly limited) experience, people who say they don’t have time to write don’t really need more free time, they just need more desire to get it written. Who doesn’t have thirty minutes of personal idle time in a day? That’s half a lunch hour at work, or getting up just a bit earlier.

  27. I can’t seem to make the “write every day” thing work, though it sounds like an excellent plan. Too many 14- or 15- hour work days lately. And I dont watch TV, and have already given up cleaning the house, so there’s not much else to cut.

    Still, I’m making progress: got my first professional rejection last week. *grin* And was told another fiction project didn’t suck by people who should know.

    Of course, by the standards of the commenter above, I’m practically senescent and shouldn’t even bother.

  28. I like what you say here, John, a lot. And I have another rider to ad: If you have something to write about, don’t talk it all out. Get those expressive needs out on the screen, or you might lose the motivation, the freshness and the energy of something that is burning away (or even just mildly niggling away) within.

  29. Yep.

    In my younger days, I could manage 1000 words in about 45 minutes if I knew roughly what would hit the page.

    As for giving up a job, friends, spouses…

    Unemployment and divorce are two BIG causes of writer’s block. I wasn’t blocked in either of those situations; I was just demotivated.

  30. @33

    I don’t think Heinlein started writing until well into his 20s, just checked according to wikipedia first published at about 32. I doubt that Annapolis, the Navy and the hospital left him the time.

  31. Well, not every writer can live in a compound per se. Hmm, there was Hunter S. Thompson . . .

  32. But I only watch a couple hours of TV a week because most of it isn’t worth watching!

    Hurm… I suppose if I start forcing myself to watch dreck for an hour everyday, then I can give it up later for writing time. ;)

  33. Well done, Scalzi, your post inspired me to stay up late to write another entry on my blog. Rather too late, I’m sure, but I’m glad I’ve done it. Thanks! :)

  34. It worked for me. Wrote my first novel by promising myself to just sit down and write at least one word a day, that was all – as long as I had one more word than the day before. Three months later I was hitting two thousand words a day in an hour or two or maybe three (I was unemployed for half a year at the time), six months later I finished the book. Excuses for not getting the writing done are just that – excuses.

  35. From what I hear, the most prolific writer in recent memory was a happy fellow, indeed: Isaac Asimov.

    Or, to quote Ebn-Ozn in the song “Pop Art Bop:”

    “Pain makes art, that’s what you think…Pain makes s*** that’s what I say…”

  36. @33 the writing life begins in the late teens. If you haven’t discovered your writing spirit by then, you’re just wasting your time… If you haven’t written anything by your thirtieth birthday, then you’re in desperate need of a life coach.

    Oh dear me, how foolish I was to think I could begin writing fiction after the age of 35. If only I had known that I was wasting my time when I wrote that first novel back in 2006.

    I drew inspiration from the result, and decided to develop my skills until I could write a good novel. I should have recognized it as the pathetic flailing of a man desperately in need of a “life coach”. Now, here I am, about to turn 40, and I still think that it’s never too late to learn?

    O, foolish old man! If only you had followed your literary muse back when you were writing stories as a punk ass 15 year old! You followed one path successfully … do you think that life could possibly hold more than one? Now, encrusted with age as you are, you turn your embittered and deluded eye towards worlds of imagination? You think that you can live the dream deferred? It is too late for you!

    You cannot write! You are too old!

    Give up! Give up! Give up!

  37. Sadly, no matter how often writers say variations of “plant ass in chair,” many people continue to live in denial.

    I assume the “strife is necessary for Art” people are simply big drama queens who want an excuse to wallow in their strife, because secretly they know the strife is avoidable, if only they would start taking charge of their life instead of pretending to be helpless.

    (This also explains the “art” aspect of it. Only artists can get away with pretending their production is low due to life crises. Drama queens notoriously have difficulty holding down regular jobs.)

    The “turn off the TV” injunction is a wonderfully simple directive, and yet it’s like giving up any other addiction: the person won’t do it until somewhere in their head, they’re ready to do it. There’s a lot of backsliding, too. I started an anti-TV campaign again recently (it’s like dieting–people start again all the time), but last night after Leverage I watched reruns of Roseanne instead of writing.

    Well. There’s always this evening to start again.

  38. I am a novelist myself. That is I am published by a major editor, but in a very small market (i.e. French Canada). Here, as those of you who will come in Montréal next week will learn, almost all writer have to work that way (a few hours a week and during their vacations). Leaving your job is almost never an option, even for established writors (except a few exceptions).

    Therefore, writing this way is more than possible. Personnally, I try to write an hour before work every day or to go for an hour in a coffee shop after work. The only thing you need is discipline, which is probably also the hardest.

    You guys only have the luxury of dreaming about one day being able to be full time writors. :-)

  39. [i]Personally, I think the writing life begins in the late teens. If you haven’t discovered your writing spirit by then, you’re just wasting your time. It was stillborn, and you’re in denial. If you haven’t written anything by your late 20s, anything being a semi-coherent 80,000-word book . . . then you’re never going to write it. Forget about it. Take up . . . lawn bowling or mowing. I heard the learning curve is much . . . shallower. If you haven’t written anything by your thirtieth birthday, then you’re in desperate need of a life coach. [/i]

    Horsehockey. I earned my MA in Writing at thirty, writing a novel for the first time in the process. I’ve done plenty of writing since, and am currently working on my first fantasy novel. Granted I have yet to sell any major work (like the first novel), but I still take time to write 1,000 words a day.

  40. I don’t know how much I can write in an hour.

    My advice is to start writing. Preferably short stories, because its more economical to work out your basic writing issues in short form. If you’re having trouble with keeping your POV straight, whatever you wrote will have to be completely rewritten. Better to find out after a 5,000 word short story than a 80k word novel.

    It’s also a lot less painful to permanently shelve a short story than a novel.

    The other bit is to keep a record of how much you write. I finally finished plotting and research and all that for a novel, and for the last couple months I’ve just been writing. I put the total word count and the date in an xcel spreadsheet. For the last two months, my progress plots as a fairly straight line of about 15k words a month.

    That’s a little slower than I would have liked, but at least with that kind of record, I can get a realistic idea of how fast I write and a realistic idea of how long it will take to finish a novel.

    The other thing a progress chart helped me with is when I hit the “horse latitudes” of writing. When I get bummed because it feels like I’ve not made any progress, I’m not moving anywhere, and I start getting down. The progress chart shows that you have made progress to get where you are, it’s just that I haven’t written much lately.

    At the moment, I’m not sure if I could write any faster. But I think 15k words a month is “good enough” for me. I can see myself maintaining this pace until the novel is done.

    If you set aside some fixed amount of time, like an hour a day, and track your word-count progress, and it’s a couple thousand words a month, then that tells you that you either have to adjust the number of hours you spend writing, or you wll have to wait a long, long time to finish a novel.

  41. I think this is a little bit over-simplified. Not all writing work is necessarily writing. You still have to pry loose time for stuff like research (assuming you want to know what the hell you’re talking about — I find the reader usually appreciates the courtesy) and career management (the dark art of somehow convincing people to actually READ what you wrote).

    But it’s fundamentally true. It’s usually a lot easier to fix a story’s broken bits than it is to write that story in the first place. And if one wishes to sell one’s work, one must first have work to sell. (Or at the very least a track record of being able to produce high-quality work on demand, which generally involves a whole lot of butt-on-chair action.)

  42. Scalzi – this is what I like about you – completely reasonable advice and commentary.

    Alas, like most reasonable advice, it will be ignored by those who are looking for a silver bullet.

  43. Oh, and from the psychology of writing, the thing I would say about that is this:

    Writing, especially for the as-yet-unpublished writer, is a lot about managing fear, the what-ifs.

    What if I can’t get over this seemingly insurmountable wall that is the 100k words needed for a novel?

    What if I put my heart and soul, my blood, sweat, and tears into a 100k word novel and everybody says it sucks?

    And a lot of people avoid this fear by not writing. they’ll start, but then they’ll find some other thing that needs their time. their sock drawer needs organizing, dontcha know. Or they’ll say they’re stuck on the plot. (depending on who you ask, every story boils down to 1, 3, or 20 plots, or some very small and finite number.)

    Or rather than write new text and bring them closer to completion of the story, and closer to having the world judge their words, they’ll go back and rewrite what they’ve already written. They start churning the text.

    But I don’t think this makes writers any more of a “drama queen” than any other human endeavor.

    On the dating scene, have you ever seen someone you wanted to ask out but end up avoiding for fear of rejection? I don’t think many people can say this has never happened to them at least once.

    A lot of relationship advice is managing the same fear of rejection that writing advice has to deal with.

    Helping someone “get their courage up” to ask someone out is really not much different than helping someone get their courage up to finish a story and submitted it to a market.

    I think once you’ve gotten published commercially, that’s sort of equivalent to the relationship version of getting married. Of course, you might get divorced later, and find yourself with cold feet on the dating scene again. But there is a kind of equivalence there.

  44. Me, I write on the Anthony Trollope plan (get up early, work for half an hour–I believe Trollope’s goal was to write 2000 words a day, I don’t have the time in the morning to do that).

    I found that getting up a half-hour early really helped me get words on paper. Far too often at night I’m too mentally fatigued to do original work (though often I’ll extend a story a little bit after the edits of the morning work). My day job requires a lot of processing during the day, and some days are just bleh.

    But that was all it took to carve out some writing time with the day job. Half an hour in the morning. Now I’ve got two novels I’m marketing, a third to edit and send out, and a bunch of short stories circulating. I’m working on a fourth novel, have a fifth that needs to be reworked before I finish it, am working on a short story (okay, I’m a teacher and this is my summer break so I can do more), and I’m planning a creative nonfiction book as well. Obviously I’m shooting for a higher word count in the summer than during the school year.

    Granted, I *am* getting up at 4:30 during the school year. But hey, it works.

  45. I had a book published in June (GLASS WALLS)–nonfiction. Using legacy research, I wrote eight pages a day, seven days per week, and ended up with a book of 330 pages. Rather than being a time-consuming drudge, it was incredibly energizing and therapeutic. I couldn’t wait to finish my real-world work and other obligations so I could stay at the keyboard. I also write shorter pieces that come to mind and post them on my website: http://www.kurtjohnsonbooks.com .

  46. famous example is Trollope – slaving away as a Post Office inspector at work, writing his daily quota of words each morning before 8:30. Of course having a professional author for mother and family breadwinner, probably gave him a jaundiced view of Writing as Art. TS Eliot worked in a bank, Wallace Stevens for an insurance company, even Charles Bukowski spent ten years in USPS before deciding to starve, “I have one of two choices — stay in the post office and go crazy … or stay out here and play at writer and starve. I have decided to starve.” Of course he didn’t starve, the magniloquent old poser, but that was partly because he’d spent the USPS years building a reputation.

  47. I just graduated from college and got a job, and suddenly my writing time just flew out the window. I used to write in the hours between waking up and getting to class, but when that time became unavailable I didn’t touch the keyboard for two weeks. Funnily enough, without playing with the stories I had working, I was miserable (I think this proves to myself that I really do want to be a writer).

    Then I just set aside my lunch hour for writing. The rest of the office goes out to Bennigans or whatever, and I stay at the office, save hundreds of dollars on food over the course of a month, and write for an uninterrupted hour.

    My fiancee and two dogs appreciate that I am no longer a Mr. Grumpy Pants, and I get to hang out with them instead of locking myself away to write in the middle of the night.

    All of that being said, some truly brilliant pieces of writing have come from tortured, reclusive souls spouting their prose from between bouts of alcoholic stupor. Then they die young and alone. Personally, I’ll take the family and friends route any day.

  48. I like what Greg London wrote, about fear.

    I was 18 when I first conceived of trying to write for pay. That was in 1992.

    I sent my first story out to a paying market in 1994.

    From 1994 to 1998 I wrote a flurry of short stories, and began — but did not finish — several novels.

    Eventually I let the rejection slips do the talking, and my fear of failure became so large, my production dwindled down to almost nothing.

    I then went into near-hibernation for about 8 years.

    Now that I’m back hitting the markets again, I rue those lost 8 years. If I’d been hammering consistently throughout that period I am sure I’d be much farther down the road than I am now. Possibly already published and writing new books and ‘living the life’ as they say.

    Which leads me to procrastination. Something at which I am a thorough professional, and I will challenge all comers to prove they’re better at procrastinating than I am. I have made procrastinating into a fine art.

    Don’t be like me. Don’t put shit off. Doesn’t matter if you’re a teen or if you’re 50 or if you’re 70. If you’ve got the desire, then dammit, get to work! Get the words down. Send the words out. Get in the game.

    Everyone and their cat sits around and says they want to be a writer some day.

    Real writers write. They don’t talk about it, they do it. Doesn’t matter if you’re bringing in several rejections per month/week. You’re in the game and you’re playing. And you can’t win if you don’t play. Often.

  49. Brad, I did the same thing, only I spiraled into depression too. I do wish there was a way you could get better without those nasty little ‘no’ emails, though. Ugh.

  50. John is too right. Just write, that’s all.

    Suffering for your art is unavoidable. Why seek it out.

    Having a long subway commute helped me. For an a hour every morning I wrote on my way into Manhattan. I got 1000 words a day and missed my stop most of the time. The novel I wrote during that time is being published by HarperCollins in 2010.

  51. I put my hour a day in during my lunch break at work. Plug in the headphones, jams to some classical music, and write write write. That way, I don’t even have to give up my TV watching! I usually manage about 1000 words a day doing that. And I’ve trained myself to do it enough so that if I am not writing during lunch, I feel guilty.

  52. Hey, I don’t consider what Trollope did at the British Post Office necessarily as “suffering.” Among other things, he exercised his fox hunting horses by riding them while he laid out the postal delivery routes. Would that I could find a day job that gave me the excuse of riding a horse while doing it (without the lousy pay most horse trainers get, short of the Big Names).

    And the man managed to turn out some pretty nice work, to boot.

  53. Thanks for this post. It reflects, perfectly, all the trouble I have with people who talk about the need to sacrifice or struggle or go mad to get work done.

  54. “If you haven’t written anything by your thirtieth birthday, then you’re in desperate need of a life coach.”

    Rubbish. I know too many people who started late.

    It’s nice to be bitten in your teens, when (as our esteemed host put it), you write crap. It’s good to get the crap out of the way early.

  55. Um, really this good advice anything that you care about and suffering for art/a passion is waaayyyy over-rated in my book. Get yourselft stabilized and get to work on the things that blow your hair back.

  56. Stephen @ #64,

    Being a professional who is invited to talk about writing in front of an audience is a tad different from going around telling friends and family and your blog buddies how much you want to be a writer, yet never actually creating or sending out any fiction.

  57. Persia @ #65,

    Depression is too often my companion these days, so you have my sympathies in that regard.

    I think part of my issue was expecting too much too quickly.

    I think I also needed to do a lot of growing up — as a person — before I was ready to begin competently portraying three-dimensional human beings in fiction.

    And there is discipline; something I struggle with to this day. Had none in my younger years. Still largely have none. I’m never good at doing things when the ‘fun’ goes out of them, and they become bona fide work.

    That was a real wake-up for me: when the writing turned to work, and suddenly I wasn’t breathlessly waiting to get to the computer and bang out stories. I was dreading it, in fact.

  58. Brad, well, there’s a difference about “talking about wanting to write” and “talking about writing” (which you stated first).

    And I was being a smart aleck anyway.

    Frankly, most of the writers I know and follow on their blogs tend to “write about writing” quite often (I got this many words, I just solved this plot bunny, what I’ve learned/what this story has taught me). John is an exception except to tease us when he’s got a super sekrit project going on. My experience at cons “in the bar” is they either talk about the business or about their lives or some other crazy thing, not about the writing itself.

    I certainly hope they’ll talk about writing at cons. If not all that money I just sent out for Viable Paradise is going down the crapper.

  59. Well, I’ve been told by my partner I’m hardly easy to live with during a project.

    I forget to cook dinner on time (I get home first from work) or I forget to feed myself for an entire day or I forget to shower or I get viciously snappy if I’m in the middle of my word-count and he asks if we can go do something. It’s not trying to be dramatic, either. This usually starts at the halfway point of the book, because I’m scaling up my word-count from 1,000 to 5 or 6 or, one day, 9,000 words. I’m tired but I’m also on the rush of finishing, and getting that book done.

    So, no, I’m not easy to live with while a book is underway. But in between projects I make up for it, and for his patience, and that’s why we can live together without murdering each other.

  60. I think the whole “cross-carrying to write” thing is dependent solely on how melodramatic you feel you have to be as a human being.

    My computer recently killed itself so I just went down to the local library and plugged in there. Not as comfortable as I’d like it to be, but it’s a place to write. The point is not to get yourself in a tizzy over “the ideal time” to write.

    And if you can’t stop feeling melodramatic, play catch with a giant salmon. I’ve been to the fish market in Seattle. There’s no way you can keep feeling prohibitively melodramatic if you’re playing catch with a giant fish. It’ll flush the whole “oh woe is me” thing right out of your system.

  61. Anthony Trollope didn’t set a daily goal of so-many-words; he wrote for an hour. Period. Every day. If he finished a novel with ten minutes left in his hour, he fed a new piece of paper in and started his next novel with the remaining ten minutes.

    You might have a word-count goal each day instead. That’s fine. What Trollope teaches us all is the value of discipline. Set your goal, pick your time, but WRITE. Every day. That’s it.

    Unless, of course, you’re in your twenties. Then it’s too late for you. (I adore it when young people presume to know more about all the potential of a full life lived than those who are 50 years their senior. . . .)

  62. Interesting juxtaposition between this post and yesterday’s Lifehacker piece about how “Makers,” the creative types, need large blocks of time set aside or they can’t be productive. http://lifehacker.com/5325582/why-the-managers-schedule-blows-creative-productivity

    Maybe the real trick is to get yourself to the point where you can sit down and immediately pick up where you left off at the end of yesterday’s writing hour. Scalzi and Cory Doctorow seem to be able to do this. I have a hard time with it though.

  63. Lately, I’ve been squirreling away my “buffer time” (the time I am awake between waking up and having to zoom to the office, so I have a bit of a buffer, if I oversleep), usually to the tune of 40 – 80 minutes per day and have put 20k words towards the latest project, in July alone.

    As for what Chad says (re “picking up where you left off”), I try to find a suitable quitting point. The end of a scene, a shift from onr speaker to another in a monologue (works for me…). But, then, I don’t use bookmarks, because they fall out of the book and I can’t find where I was, so just remembering the page number is quicker.

    I don’t know how universal this advice is, but, yeah, putting just a little time aside, each day, makes for a huge pile of hours, over a year.

  64. Good advice. The one long work I ever attempted was done on my PDA in odd moments. It’s amazing how much time we spend standing in line thinking about the potted plant over in the corner.

    Regards,
    Jack Tingle

  65. As for picking up exactly where you left off, I picked up a trick from something I read recently that has worked pretty well for me so far – stop in the middle of something.

    That is to say, when you reach your word count or page count (or time count) when you are generally set to finish up for the day, make sure you finish in the middle of something dynamic. It’s very tempting to finish the scene, or this piece of dialog, or these few sentences while you know where you are going, but stop instead.

    I’ve done that a few times now, sometimes stopping in the middle of a sentence. Everything inside me rebelled against doing that too!

    I found though that sitting down and reading over the few paragraphs to get a sense of where I was up to, I find it very easy to finish off the sentence. It’s already started, so the flow picks itself up for the most part. By the time you’ve done that, you’ve got a little momentum and the hardest part (starting) is over.

    It’s certainly an interesting trick, and has worked for me a few times. Give it a try.

  66. Writing quotes of the day:
    g) Blogs are where troubled writers go to die, like dogs to the backyard.
    f) The blogosphere was created by halfwits, an army of uninspired zombies. So many of them nowadays that they’ve begun stacking themselves atop one another like dry waffles, maple syrup being the sweet inspiration that never pours. Virtual mausoleums.
    e) [cough] The misconception being that if you don’t have a blog then you ain’t digging.
    d) If you’re here, you definitely ain’t there.
    c) A thousand words on this blog, are a thousand less in your [wink] book.”
    b) Aerosmith’s “Dream On.”
    a) Enjoy the barbeque, slim.

  67. Sigh. The quality of trolls we get nowadays….

    I admit I don’t myself like “write X words/pages a day” – it’s a bit like saying “do three pushups a day”. You’re not really exercising, but you think you are.

  68. I’ve noticed that nobody else has mentioned physically disconnecting from all networks when taking time to write. Pull out that Ethernet cable, or turn off your wifi receiver if you’re using one. Unplug your router if you have to, and it won’t bother anybody else.

    If you’re not on the network, you can’t screw around on the net instead of writing. And if you go to a cafe that requires that patrons pay for wifi access (as does Starbucks, as Starbucks uses AT&T for wifi service), you get an additional deterrent to screwing around.

    YMMV, of course, but that’s how I wrote the first draft of my first novel. I brought a laptop to the cafe after work, wrote until the battery ran out for a couple of years, and created a monster.

  69. mythago, I agree. Back in the day the quality of trollage was significantly higher. Plus they didn’t do things that could be dismissed as easily as “irony much?”

  70. Three push-ups a day is better than no push-ups

    Not if you convince yourself that it’s three push-ups so you’re exercising and needn’t do anything further.

  71. At which point the comparison between writing and exercise sort of breaks down.

    Even if all someone can handle is three sentences a day, presuming they do three sentences every day, like clockwork, those sentences will add up over time. The empty bucket will get filled.

    Sadly, exercise doesn’t work that way. Mainly because the ‘bucket’ has a perforated bottom. You have to constantly be dumping more in to make up for what you lose. Exercise too little, it all drains out and you’ve got nothing — ergo, three push-ups a day. So you have to start small and ramp up over time, until you’re pouring so much into the bucket that the level rises to where you want it.

    Stop pouring at any time — say, take the summer off from working out — and the bucket will drain with frightening rapidity, and suddenly to get back to where you were you have to redouble your effort.

    Ah, metaphors. Gotta love ‘em.

  72. I shoot for a minimum of 5000 words per week. Some nights I hit 1700 words, other nights 200. But I’ve been hitting the 5000-word quota consistently for the past 5 years. As a result, I’ve written four sff novels, the fourth eclipsing the first with respect to writing style, structure, character and plot development, et cetera. The irony being that I write best with three triple-shot American’tos, a handful of M&M peanuts, a few cigarettes, a banana, and a whole night to burn away like the 300 calories I burn regularly on the treadmill; I write “worser” when I actually have an entire day and night to lay around and burn. Saturdays usually go as follow: 1) choosing a peon in the blogosphere and nudging it back into place, like a doomed spider on a Venus Flytrap 2) reading (currently, Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox; Charles Stross’s Singularity Sky; Portable Nietzsche; perusing through some old Omni magazines (best magazine evah!) 3) reply to said peon, cordially invite it to Darwin’s Ball 4) load up Red Alert 3, nuke something for no particular reason 5) after third American’to, I immerse myself in back into my worlds of make-believe and set about writing 1,000 words plus . . . The upside: no dependents, unless you count my dropdead gorgeous Korean girlfriend, a twenty-six-year-old lingerie model who specializes in feet spreads. Sweet . . .

  73. pizzangst, I don’t think that’s a particularly constructive attitude, even if your statement does resemble Frank Zappa’s opinion on talking about music. Learning by doing and by reading other people’s work can only take one so far. Sometimes you have to communicate with other people.

  74. I disagree with the blog entry. Suffering isn’t about being a good writer – it’s about being a good artist. An hour a day of writing will make you a good writer, but it won’t win you the Pulitzer Prize. A great artist requires confidence, wisdom, and patience – all of which comes from suffering. The more you suffer the more you gain. I know this from personal experience. I’ve been an artist for 16 years and my art has improved immensely in the past three years because since then I’ve gotten a taste of what it means to suffer. For the past three years I’ve experienced midnight shift work, 12 hour days of heavy lifting, two months in northern Canada camping and tree planting in snow, in hail, in freezing rain, under a blistering sun, and being eaten alive by bugs, and the boredom and ennui of unemployment. I’m not putting myself on a pedestal for these experiences. I know that together these are merely a taste of suffering, and I intend to suffer greatly for the rest of my life because I’m grateful for what I’ve learned from each experience. I would rather live the life of a slave than a life raised in the suburbs, working at McDonald’s through high school, getting accepted to a good college on a scholarship, then entering a well paying job to settle down with a wife and kids and a suburban home. The slave will know what life is. The suburbanite will have worked for what he’s earned, but he has lead a dull and typical life.
    In addition, suffering isn’t restricted to physical labour. It includes sacrificing the theories, values, and customs which you were raised on to discover the truth or a truth. It’s this truth that makes good art – and that’s what one must strive for.
    So good writing doesn’t equate good art. Yes, an hour a day will make you a good writer, but a weak soul which has never questioned its existence has nothing to teach the world.

    PS – READ HENRY MILLER

  75. Sorry, I wanted to add something else: Suffer like Siddhartha Gautama. He was born and raised in a life of luxury but left everything in order to discover the truth of life and he found it. This truth of life is the art which we strive for. It takes a good writer to express this truth. So write 5,000 words a day and suffer like you’re bringing on Armageddon – you’ll have more fun this way than in a suburban home and an office job.

  76. K:

    “Suffering isn’t about being a good writer – it’s about being a good artist.”

    Possibly, but this is not to say that going out of your way to make yourself suffer is a smart thing to do. As noted in the entry, the world hands out quite enough suffering to almost everyone. One generally does not need to seek it out or encourage it by doing patently stupid things, ostensibly in furtherance of one’s art.

  77. John – there are many ways to suffer. I mentioned the suburban life in my reply, and that’s my idea of ultimate suffering but it’s not the suffering that will lead me to produce great art. The idea of the suffering artist is more complex than that. I’m not advocating anyone to slit their wrists to “suffer”, because that won’t do it either. The artists who have their books listed in the best 100 novels ever written didn’t get their place because they wrote for an hour a day. If you study their lives they’ve suffered immensely – either through physical or emotional strains (ie. Hemingway and Conrad) or through doing nothing but writing (ie Kerouac). The artist is an adventurer and a philosopher before he is a writer. He produces great art through writing of his experiences and of the insights gained through these experiences. Yes, the world is a bastard to everyone – but once you’ve really suffered (which I’ve yet to do), the trials and tribulations of the average North American become minuscule in comparison. (It’s like saying: you get enough exercise walking to your car and back every time you go out, so you don’t need to work out to get fit.)

    Marko – one doesn’t need to read too in depth on Buddhism to know the most important aspect of the religion. (For the record: I’m not a Buddhist.)

  78. k, it’s easy to say that a person’s trials and tribulations may be trivial compared to those of another when you’re not the person suffering through them.

  79. Matthew – you didn’t understand what I said. John says that everyday trials and tribulations are enough suffering for the artist, and I disagree. True suffering – the suffering that brings great art – when compared with everyday average run-of-the-mill suffering makes the latter seem completely insignificant.

  80. I think you need to put down that MacBook, take off your beret, and tack on about twenty years of life experience before you talk about the relative insignificance of “run-of-the-mill suffering”, because right now you sound like you don’t have the faintest clue about life or art.

  81. Even if all someone can handle is three sentences a day, presuming they do three sentences every day, like clockwork, those sentences will add up over time. The empty bucket will get filled.

    Sure. The problem with the analogies, again, is that strings of sentences are not like drops of water; 1000 words you write all at once can be very, very different than 100 words you wrote in a week and a half.

    This isn’t mean to dissuade anyone from the writing equivalent of three pushups, or to be some kind of writing drill sargeant barking that if you ain’t writin’ twenty pages a day, son, you might as well pack it in. It’s just a caution about falling into the trap of saying ‘I’ve done my three sentences today, that’s as much butt-in-chair as anyone can be expected to do!’ and call it good.

    k., good grid. When you think living in the suburbs is ‘ultimate suffering’ you’re telling us that your perspective is so skewed that everything else you say should be taken with extreme suspicion. And the ol’ “suffer and adventure for your art” is a swell way of procrastinating, isn’t it? Gee, I’d love to write my novel, but I have to out and suffer first; I’ll be sure to get to it right after my great, suffering-building adventure, but gosh darn it I can’t write it now.

    More snarkily, it’s the old line from Cerebus: “What builds character?” “FONFLIF!”

  82. Marko – here’s where I stop arguing over the internet. You say I haven’t the faintest clue about life or art, yet I’m the one presenting an argument about how to create high art and your only replies are cheap shots at me about my interest in Eastern philosophy and claiming that I’m a stereotypical downtown-Toronto hipster (I’m using a Dell, MacBooks are too expensive). It’s you who sounds childish. Where are your counter-arguments? The everyday trials and tribulations of the average worker can be a burden on many people, I’m only saying that, in comparison to the degrees of suffering that the artist has to go through (and I repeat I’ve yet to experience this), this suffering is insignificant.

    And quit playing stereotypes when you’re trying to be funny – it’s unbecoming.

    For those of you who are serious about and and about writing – LEARN FROM THE GREATS! They all tell you to suffer like a mothertrucker.

  83. k:

    “The artists who have their books listed in the best 100 novels ever written didn’t get their place because they wrote for an hour a day.”

    Leaving aside the obvious question of whose “100 best” list we’re talking about, this is flatly wrong. A great many writers who are considered “great” for varying reasons were disciplined about their craft and wrote every day. So it may very well be that their discipline about their craft gave them their place, because without it they wouldn’t have finished their works.

    Beyond this, your assertion that the struggle and strife life throws at people on a day to day basis is not enough for art is both arrogant and stupid. Every person I know, no matter how pedestrian their life has been, had had their moment in the crucible, and whether that tempering is enough for you is really aside the point.

    That said, K, I grant that you certainly sound like someone who has not had to suffer much in your own life, given your obvious romanticism of the condition.

    “You say I haven’t the faintest clue about life or art, yet I’m the one presenting an argument about how to create high art”

    You’re making an argument, yes. What Marko and others, including me, are saying is it’s not actually a very good argument.

  84. Oh man, I know I said I’m leaving this argument but I can’t resist – I’ve been trapped in suburbia for too long and a decent conversation about art is hard to come by. 1 more month until school… 1 more month until school…

    mythago – there’s nothing wrong with my opinion that suburbia is the ultimate suffering. I’ve grown up in the suburbs and it’s no place for an artist. Suburbia is dead. Nothing but grass, houses, roads, and cars. Where is the inspiration? Where is the life which I can devour and spin into art? I’m grateful that I live in a beach town, if it wasn’t for that my writing would be as dull as the perfectly cut hedges dividing the endless tracts of land around my neighbourhood. If suburbia was a prime place for an artist I’d be loving my time right now – unemployed in a small town with all the time on my hands to soak up the empty sidewalks and the endless grid of fresh-cut grass.

    As for your smart remark about “my great suffer-building adventure”, those who have done this suffer-building adventure have their names on the classics list. Call me naive if you will, all I’m talking about is working long and hard for little money in order to achieve something great – and it’s very easy in this world to work long and hard for little money, too easy.

  85. Have fun in suburbia, guys. Obviously I’m too much of a dreamer to be taken seriously with the likes of the 9 to 5.

    See you on the city streets – I’ll be the one with the dirty beard asking you for spare change.

  86. Marko, can we please lay off the Macbook insults? I happen to be using one right now. :)

    K, I understood what you were saying, but I don’t buy it, and I am none too thrilled with the condescending tone in which you appear to be posting (but that’s Mr. Scalzi’s problem, not mine). Nor do I buy the notion that suffering is absolutely necessary in order to be a writer. You need empathy. You need imagination. You need a grasp of the language (and Dan Simmons has a long article on this subject). You need diligence. You need patience. You need to understand how to create a plot and characters. Most importantly, you need a story to tell.

    Now, you might develop empathy for others by having suffered yourself, and you might cultivate patience and discipline in the process, but suffering won’t give you the rest.

  87. Matthew Graybosch:

    “I am none too thrilled with the condescending tone in which you appear to be posting (but that’s Mr. Scalzi’s problem, not mine).”

    Eh. Once it was clear k hadn’t the slightest idea what s/he was talking about, the condescension became comical.

    That said, you’re directly on point. K does seem to be overvaluing drama (which s/he has confused with suffering) over the practical aspects of writing. K will either figure this stuff out in the fullness of time, or won’t.

  88. Matthew,

    I’m a MacBook user, too.

    I am, however, not using it to write angsty prose, torn from my chest by the overwhelming meaningless void that is my suburban existence. (Sheep! Sheep, I say!)

    Then again, with my lack of suffering, I can’t be a great writer yet, anyway. Until life really screws with me to test my mettle, I might as well just sit at the coffee shop with my MacBook and brood, hoping that one of those cute sophomore girls from Dartmouth will notice my inherent artsy vibe.

  89. mythago – there’s nothing wrong with my opinion that suburbia is the ultimate suffering

    When my oldest kid (a teenager) starts ranting about how many chores she has to do, I tell her “You know, we’re actually doing you a favor. Someday, you’ll be sitting around with all your artist friends, and one of them will talk about how his parents used to beat him with motorcycle chains, and another will talk about how her mom was a drug addict who disappeared for days at a time and didn’t leave any money for food, and you’ll say ‘Oh yeah? Well, sometimes MY parents made me pull weeds out of the flower bed!’ And they’ll all look at you in awe and go, whoa, now YOU had it rough, man.”

    Until just now I had no idea that the guy looking at her in awe was k.!

  90. John Scalzi: “Eh. Once it was clear k hadn’t the slightest idea what s/he was talking about, the condescension became comical.”

    I wonder if K knows he/she is acting like an ANSI standard internet emo kid. Oh, well. Not my problem; at least I got the rest of it right.

    Marko, don’t worry; I’m not using my mac to write angsty prose, either. At least, I don’t think I am. I just use it to write bad science fantasy and dabble with various operating systems and programming languages.

    I probably haven’t suffered enough to be a “great” writer either, but I knew from the beginning that Starbreaker wasn’t going to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. So I’ll settle for being competent, and hopefully developing enough of a following to not need a day job.

  91. Suburbia is the ultimate suffering?

    You tell that to some Burmese dissident, New Orleans mother-of-four living on welfare, or Rwandan refugee, and they’ll laugh in your face. Right before they beat you the hell up.

    85% of the world’s population would gladly mortgage their souls to swap places with you, and suffer the “torment” of North American suburbia gladly.

    Like I said, tack on twenty years of looking around with your eyes open, K.

  92. I retract my previous comment. Clearly, having year-round air conditioning, a full fridge, and $700 worth of XBox360 games is far more painful and traumatizing than toiling behind a water buffalo twelve hours a day.

  93. Mind you, the real irony is that k is arguing that the suffering of every day life counts for something, after arguing the opposite. But, as noted, s/he’s young.

  94. I can’t remember the exact words, but a lifetime devout Zen compatriot back in the days when I lived in Berkeley described the new urban homeless rebel-without-a-roof crowd roughly as missing the point, that it’s about experiencing your experience, not about worsening your experience.

    I think that’s what’s in play here, but I am open to clarification from the apparently young and roofless.

  95. Oh man oh man how I hate arguing over the internet. I promise myself that this is the last time I get myself into this – I should have done some research before I poseted and figured out I’m talking about high art to a bunch of scifi guys.

    I’m emo:
    All of you loose complete credibility over the use of this word. I thought I was speaking to some well-rounded people. I’ve had a strong hatred for this word ever since the scene began. Plus, angst and suburbia go hand in hand. Look at the average housewife or househusband of a small town and I’m sure they’ll tell you that from time to time they get bored to tears from the lack of excitement in their lives. I compare a life in suburbia to a life sitting in a chair with food and a warm blanket. Good for the belly but a torment on the mind. Give me a choice between a life on the chair or a life running hungry through the cold rain and I’ll take the rain.

    Suburbia is the ultimate suffering:
    You guys took this completely out of context. I said that, in terms of creating high art that cuts through the underbelly of humankind, suburbia has the least stir and the least excitement for inspiring art – therefore it is the prime producer of ennui – the last thing an artist asks for. Yeah I’m well aware of the poor folk around the world and I know that their suffering is infinitely greater than mine, but (unlikely but possible scenario) if one of them overcomes their possission and wants to write a book on the human condition I’ll guarentee you it’ll be a killer read – and that’s what we’re talking about – suffering to create high art.

    I’ve had a taste of what backstabbing work can be while I was tree planting last summer (which means a lot more than pulling my momma’s weeds) but I’m not placing myself on a pedestal – I am saying that I’ll take a lot more of this hard work to make something great than have a life in suburbia repeating every day.

    Also, you guys are dicks. I’ve yet to make a personal shot at any of you (except for the scifi bit, and boy did I get a hearty laugh when I found this out and looked at the blogger’s other posts) and here you are going to town writing ridiculous things about someone you don’t even know. John, you can take your computer games and scifi escapism and awards and shove ‘em up your arse because your books aren’t gonna teach me anything about the human condition or how to live my life. Now, I’ve gotta get up early tomorrow to walk to my old high school to get on a school bus to drive for an hour to a corn field to get out and pluck tassels out of the tops of the stocks under a blistering sun because that’s the only summer job that’s available in my town and I’m happy to have it because I’ll take the load off of my student debt (I know I said I was unemployed, but this gig is short and I’m enjoying it so it’s a nice break from the ennui of suburbia).

    I hope you guys laugh about this for a while, and I’ll be checking every night for the next few days to see that you do, just so I can have the satisfaction that your lives are so dull that the only kicks you can get is flaming someone you don’t know and chuckling about it to yourself like you’re better than everyone, and I’m sure it’s been done on this blog before. Like I said – give me little pay for hard work, with a pen and paper, and I’ll be happy.

  96. k:

    “I’ve had a strong hatred for this word ever since the scene began.”

    Really? And when was that, k? You might be surprised. And for someone who hates the emo, you’re doing a really excellent job of being one right here on the Internets.

    As for the “you guys are dicks” bit, followed up immediately by an attempt to be a bit of a dick yourself, well, you know. That’s cute, is what that is.

    In any event, as you are now doing the patented “I’m leaving! Now I’m back! Now I’m leaving!” thing, and you also don’t appear to see that you’re being comprehensively handed your ass, I’m going to do you a favor and kick you off the thread. You’re welcome to comment elsewhere on the site (as long as it’s on topic to the entry), but you’re now officially done with this thread. If you try to comment again on it, I’ll just delete it. This is for your benefit at this point.

  97. I think k. meant that tree planting is backbreaking work. Backstabbing work is something very different, and believe you me, it pays better. Tons.

    (And wow, when did the Whatever start complying with Canadian Content regulations? Canadian trolls, Rush videos…pretty soon Scalzi’s going to start linking to Strange Brew outtakes, eh?)

    that it’s about experiencing your experience, not about worsening your experience

    Well said. There’s nothing particularly charming or art-enhancing about slumming.

  98. I’m a fulltime writer and this is what I’ve given up to write:

    –bad television;
    –stupid people who aren’t worth my time;
    –dead end jobs I didn’t want

    I’d say it’s a decent trade-off.

    I’ve worked hard to be able to earn my living at this, but I’ve also held strong boundaries. If someone in my life doesn’t respect my writing and my writing time — that person is kicked to the curb, whether they’re related or not.

  99. DougK@60:
    ppfamous example is Trollope – slaving away as a Post Office inspector at work, writing his daily quota of words each morning before 8:30. Of course having a professional author for mother and family breadwinner, probably gave him a jaundiced view of Writing as Art.

    What gave Trollope a “jaundiced view of Writing as Art” was he belief that an enormous amount of pretentious and dishonest tosh got written by those more interested in “Art” with a capital A, or literature as political tracts, than entertaining an audience made up of human beings. Can’t say I really disagree with him.

    Joyce Reynolds-Wardon@68:
    Hey, I don’t consider what Trollope did at the British Post Office necessarily as “suffering.”

    Trollope himself certainly didn’t. While he (in)famously listed his earning from his books in his Autobiography, he also got quite terse with people who thought his day job was some kind of distraction from his muse. While his civil service career was demanding, time consuming and arguably not as well-paid or recognised as it should have been, Trollope was still justly proud of earning an honest living and being a conscientious and skilled public servant.

  100. “LOOSE all credibility?”
    “Backstabbing” work?

    He’ll be the guy asking for change in the street because he can’t get a job writing anything. . . .

    It’s ultimately a matter of logic. His assertion is that great literature (top-100 list material) cannot be written without great suffering. If you can find a single author–on any particular top-100 list–who hasn’t suffered all that greatly, yet who wrote something considered great literature by a majority, then his argument fails. Actually, forget the lists; if you can find an author who has gained popularity by the quality of their writing in any genre, at any time, without carrying any particularly heavy cross, then he’s wrong (not that there’s much doubt on that count. . . .).

    The adage is “write what you know,” not “write what you bleed.”

  101. And you don’t want to bleed all over your computer, anyway. The warranty never covers that.

  102. K,

    Are you a U.S. citizen?

    I’ve been off the InterToob doing some 18 hour days for the Army, and I read your post this morning and immediately thought to myself, “We’ve got to get this person into a uniform.”

    Plenty of suffering to go around when you’re an E-1 at Ft. Benning, Ft. Sill, Ft. Leonard Wood…. And that’s long before you get to your first place of permanent party, or enjoy a tour of Iraq or Afghanistan.

    There are lot of people your age who are right now undergoing spiritual growth and enlightenment on the IED-strewn highways of the Third World.

    Some of them come back maimed and disfigured. I am sure their first thoughts, upon awakening in the hospital sans fingers, eyes, hands, arms, legs, is, “My God, I never knew what real life was until I got the shit blown out of me by a trio of Soviet artillery shells rigged with a cell phone triggered detonator!”

    We’ve got a cadence in the Army, K, and I want to write it here for you. It’s applicable.

    I don’t know why I left.
    (platoon: AHdunnowhyahlef’…)
    But I know I done wrong.
    (platoon: butahknowadunwrong…)
    And it won’t be long.
    (platoon: and it won’ be long…)
    ‘Till I — ‘Till I — ‘Till I get on back home.
    (platoon: ’tillah, ’tillah, ’tillahgetonbackhome…)

  103. K–

    Whatever is teeming with hanger-ons, lost wannabe writers who never sacrificed shit for the art. They all got married in their 20s, settled down in suburbia-esque places, chained themselves to a dead end job, and go about their uninspired meaningless lives, thinking . . .

    . . . convincing themselves that they’re “kind of” writing on blogs like Whatever.

    They follow writers like Scalzi, soaking up his success with each passing book signing, feeling like they’re part of his success. They start shit blogs, blatherings on uninspired idiots.

    I write on Scalzi’s site after my 1000-word daily quota is done, sometimes more on the weekends. I’m always amazed at how much time so hanger-ons spend following after Johnny like lost puppies. They know who they are, Brad R. Torgersen particular. Brad’s the quintessential hanger-on. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” about your army life, remember Brad. You ooze it, mate . . .

    These guys don’t know the first thing about sacrificing for the art of the novel. My favorite Stephen King book is The Stand, which he wrote in marathon drug-induced sessions, chain-smoking cigarettes, popping pharmaceutical gumdrops and dime-bags round the clock for months. And voila, a masterpiece! Kerouac’s On the Road was written in one marathon sitting, drinking booze and chain-smoking cigarettes for the nicotine energy. Neal Stephenson and John Varley go underground for YEARS writing their masterpieces. John C. Wright disengages from the world, focuses on his art. And don’t get me started on poets . . . I spent four years studying literature. I have an undergraduate degree in English Literature from a reputable university, spend a year on my thesis before flushing it down the toilet and committing to my first sff novel way back when. And I never looked back.

    I loved Scalzi’s Old Man’s War, thought is was inspired. He hasn’t come close to it since, as far as I’m concerned. He doesn’t delve into his books anymore. They’re shallow, literally. He wasn’t even original to begin with, took the easy road, mimicked Heinlein. Cory Doctorow’s books are amateurish. If there is one author in the science fiction community that should shut his mouth and go underground, it’s Doctorow. His books read like they were written on the bus, coffee stains over every dangling modifier. Gaiman is all about wooing the readers at book signings. Americans go crossed-eyed listening to Brits blather on about whatever . . . I prefer my sff writers to have nicotine-stained fingers, drug addictions, and a head full of murmuring worms. The more detached from the goings-on of everyday reality, the better.

    The bottom line . . . all of our favourite books were written by authors who suffered, who smoked cigarettes, popped pills, drank booze, lived in slums or run-down areas of town, learned about people from the outside, from the street level. All these unpublished uninspired hanger-ons who write their little quotas and blog entries are pathetic daydreamers. Of course, some will complete their books, that’s just the law of averages. But they’ll read like it . . . They’ll serve as nothing more than “egoboos” in their otherwise incomplete lives.

    Dirty Wizard Hunter

  104. I’ll always buy Scalzi’s books, though. They’re better than most of the other crap out there.

  105. all of our favourite books were written by authors who suffered, who smoked cigarettes, popped pills, drank booze, lived in slums or run-down areas of town, learned about people from the outside, from the street level — DWH

    I see that romanticization of addiction and poverty is alive and well with some people.

    Go figure.

    I do know that when King wrote about his booze and drug years, he did not do so with fondness. Rather, he complimented his family for putting up with him through much of it, and ultimately credited them with having the backbone to call him on the carpet and demand he get clean, when it became clear his behavior was going to destroy him.

    As for being poor and from the slum, King and his wife couldn’t wait to escape both.

    The reality is that most writers who write and manage to have their names pass into the halls of Greatness, do so not because of their various dysfunctions, but in spite of them.

    Contemporarily, I’ve had the good fortune to interact with enough pro fiction writers — face to face — that I’ve been utterly disabused of the notion that creating great ‘art’ has anything at all to do with suffering. Most of the writers now writing who will have their works lionized by future generations, have no idea they will be lionized. They’re not setting out to create masterworks as much as they’re looking to bring in the next paycheck and maybe be somewhat creative or inventive in the process.

  106. Maybe I’m just being cynical, but is there any chance that K and Dirty Wizard Hunter are the same guy?

  107. Brad R. Torgerson, I agree with you concerning the motives of most pro writers (they’re in it for the money). If one takes a look at Alexandre Dumas père, one may find that he indulged in few, if any romantic illusions about his work. He used August Maquet as a collaborator because it worked. He mined history and police records for material because that worked. I don’t think he had any idea that The Three Musketeers or The Count of Monte Cristo would be considered classics after his death; they were just products of what some of his detractors called “Alexandre Dumas, Novel Factory”.

  108. Dickens was much the same, apparently. The man wrote to feed his (sizeable) family. He was 100% in it for the money. Which is not to say he didn’t get artistic satisfaction out of writing. I think if you’re in it for the money and get zero artistic satisfaction, you’re not in the right line of work.

    But Dickens had no clue at all that we’d still be celebrating A Tale of Two Cities or A Christmas Carol in the 21st century. These — and many more — were simply a means to a paycheck, often written to deadline.

    So much for the emo image of the Great Writer as tortured, angst-ridden sufferer.

    Writing is a job.

    All other pretensions to the contrary, are just that. (Stares very hard at K and DWH…)

  109. I’m willing to bet that even William Shakespeare was in it for the money; actors got shit for wages in Elizabethan England, compared to the playwrights and theater owners.

  110. K’s posts remind me that most teens who grow up in the ‘burbs — I was one — experience a tremendous longing to be authentic. As if the comfortable life of the ‘burbs is somehow fraudulent, false, not real, not true, etc.

    I think some of this comes from ‘burb teens having not been tested by life yet. When you’ve yet to experience any hard knocks nor have accomplished anything through long or difficult struggle, you don’t know what you’re made of, and the adult word doesn’t think you’ve proven anything yet, so you’re not taken seriously. It’s a double whammy.

    I also think some of it comes from ‘burb teens watching their parents struggle to keep shoveling coal into the suburbian choo-choo train. Lord knows I was more than a little worried watching my Dad bust his hump at a job he didn’t like, just to pay the bills. Was that what I had to look forward to? Where was the beauty and the meaning in such a life?

    Now that my Dad is retired and it’s me shoveling coal into the suburbian choo-choo train, I shake my head and wish to hell I’d appreciated how good I had it when I was an empty-headed ‘burb teen with all the time in the world to kill and very few worries of any sort, beyond the trivial and transient kind which we all — as teens — thought were Teh Biggist Problims In Teh Werld.

    I know that’s probably making too much fun of the ‘burb teen outlook. But really, the ‘burb teen outlook deserves what it gets, because so few ‘burb teens appreciate what they’ve got, how much work was put into giving it to them by their parents, and how this lifestyle is the lifestyle of dreams for countless people living in poverty around the world.

  111. My favorite Stephen King book is The Stand, which he wrote in marathon drug-induced sessions, chain-smoking cigarettes, popping pharmaceutical gumdrops and dime-bags round the clock for months. And voila, a masterpiece!

    Oh come on, King himself has called bullshit on that — and I think you’ve even fucked up the timeline. He’s said that he can’t even remember writing Cujo — and you’d really have to get into special pleading to even pretend that’s even sold B-list King. In the end, he made a choice between being an alkie drug-addled “asshole” (his word, not mine) and staying alive and married with children who could stand being around him. I think he made the right choice.

  112. The next level is much smaller. These are the really good writers. Above them–above almost all of us– are the Shakespeares, the Faulkners, the Yeatses, Shaws, and Eudora Weltys. There are geniuses, divine accidents, gifted in a way which is beyond our ability to understand themselves, and many of them lead miserable lives[. . .]
    Stephen King, On Writing

  113. So, Dirty Wizard Hunter, what are you trying to prove? I’m not an artist, and have no desire to be one. I don’t give a single little fucking shit if people think of me as a “great writer” after I’m dead, because I won’t be around to hear it.

    Just think of what Shakespeare might have accomplished if he had not been distracted by pointless, unnecessary suffering. Likewise for Faulkner, Yeats, and all the others King named as “geniuses”.

  114. I’ve learned that in order to become a great writer one must suffer inordinately and boast about it anonymously to strangers.

    Or maybe that’s what it takes to be a great squeegee man. Whatever, it’s important information.

  115. Jeff, who’s the squeegee man? You and George and Brad et al are the moppers-up on this blog, scavenging the doldrums of see-me space for blogging traffic, nothing more. “Visit my blog, pppllleeeaassseee!”. Like buzzards, you are, the lot of you. I’m washing my hands of you unspired halfwits, beginning now . . .

  116. and, after making the caterpillar-to-butterfly transformation, emerging as the Buzzard Hunter.

  117. Anais Nin said you have to starve to write. I think she may have meant it metaphorically, but I’ve actually experienced that for real. I’ve also suffered for real, having grown up in an abusive household.

    Given the choice, I’d rather not have experienced either one, lol, even for the sake of “art”.

  118. As Mel Brooks wrote in “Blazing Saddles”:
    Reverend Johnson: “Order, order. Goddamnit, I said order.”
    Howard Johnson: “Y’know, Nietzsche says: ‘Out of chaos comes order.’”
    Olson Johnson: “Oh, blow it out your ass, Howard.”

    Hmm, two trolls to do the “I’m outa here, fools” routine in one post. I wonder what the record is?

    Now if they we’re arguing, “First you have to live” (or even a “shamanic experience”) I’d say they had a point. Since they’re saying “First you must suffer in proportion to the art you want to create” I have to say Bull.

    And King didn’t suffer to write his books. As he also states clearly in “On Writing” his addiction wasn’t related to his writing. He was addicted because that’s what addicts are. Hemmingway drank because that’s what alcoholics do. As I believe King also wrote about Misery/The Shinning that it was his drug addled brain crying out for help. So, sure, he suffered, but it wasn’t to create art and wasn’t a part of that creation. He suffered because he is an addict.

  119. Jonathan Carroll wrote in OUTSIDE THE DOG MUSEUM:

    “Bullshit on all that artistic suffering, ‘agonizing’ over the empty page, blank canvas… Anyone who agonizes over their work isn’t a genius. Anyone who agonizes for a living is an idiot.”

  120. Yeah, I agree with all you guys. Books should be written quick and with as little effort as possible. I would even like it if the big science fictoin places were faster. I don’t like waiting for my author’s books. They should just get them out into the stores as fast as possible make everyone happy, like you all science writers here agree.

  121. Dear anonymous rotating troll handle man,

    I suspect you’re missing the point.

    It’s not about speed of production, it’s about dispelling the mythos surrounding production.

    All that gobbledygook about sitting in a lonely garret, just you and the typewri-Errrr, laptop, a bare bulb dangling forlornly from the ceiling and a cigarette/roach smoldering in the ashtray, your seat surrounded by a graveyard of crumpled pages, empty bottles, and crushed beer cans. You haven’t shaved, nor bathed, in a week. You need the stench of your own filth to help make it real, the only decoration in the room being a crumpled photo of Hunter S. Thompson ripped from the pages of a nameless magazine. You keep it tacked up where you can see it. To remind yourself just how real you have to get, before you brush the edge of timeless genius.

    Horseshit.

    =^P

  122. And, sort of piggybacking on Brad’s comment (and serious, for a change): by all accounts, David Foster Wallace, one of my favorite writers, suffered unbearably up until he killed himself last year. I wish he’d been happier. I would have waited however long he’d needed for his next book. I would have settled for something not-quite-up-to his earlier standards.

    Hell, I would have settled for him never writing again just for the happiness of knowing he was still kicking around, teaching college kids how to write, hanging around to answer questions (or, more likely from most accounts by people who knew him, to shyly duck a question).

    I would have settled just for the possibility that maybe one of these days, sooner or later, he’d possibly sit down to scratch out a little essay somewhere. But he was profoundly unhappy, and he suffered, and now as a direct result he’s dead and he’ll never write anything again.

    Yeah, “suffering for your art” is a load of horseshit. Ultimately, it doesn’t just rob the artist, it robs everybody who loved him, even all the ones who never knew him.

  123. I’m washing my hands of you unspired halfwits, beginning now . . .

    Bawahahahahaha. Then I’m taking my ball and I’m going home! Jerks.

    Hey, Dirty Wizard’s Underpants, take the rest of the trolls with you, would you please? The Whatever used to be a better place before you twits showed up. K? Thx.

    ______________________________________

    And back to the topic at hand, I’ve known a hell of a lot of alcoholics in my time in the military, and a hell of a lot of people who suffered. Suffered with PTSD, with separation and loneliness and stress and so on. They suffered, but most of them were very good at their jobs. Some self destructed, but some eventually stopped suffering, they dealt with their demons, or met the right person, or made peace with whatever ailed them – and then they were very, very good at what they did.

    I know, I’m one of them.

    Writing is a skill. Some folks write because they are inspired. Some write because it’s a way to put food on the table, or booze in the glass, or blow in the nose. Some write because they have to. Some write because it’s the only damned thing they’re good at. And some write for only reasons they can explain – but ultimately, writing is a skill. You don’t have to suffer for it. You don’t have to not suffer for it. Suffering may make you better at it, depending on what you write (I’d argue that someone like Hemingway in the black pits of depression probably wouldn’t pen very passable classic children’s books like Charlotte’s Web say), but he was damned good at what he did write.

    Suffering is only another aspect of experience. And experience is what writers use as raw material, but there are many types of material to draw from. Write what you know.

    After you get famous, let other people rationalize why you write.

  124. [Deleted because I'm tired of this dude being a dick. Richard aka Dirty Wizard Hunter, you're done with this thread -- JS]

  125. The more I think about this, the more I realize how much I dislike suffering writers who write about suffering.

    Up above somewhere, Dirty Wizard’s Codpiece said: I loved Scalzi’s Old Man’s War, thought it was inspired. He hasn’t come close to it since, as far as I’m concerned. He doesn’t delve into his books anymore. They’re shallow, literally. He wasn’t even original to begin with, took the easy road, mimicked Heinlein.

    No, the difference is that Scalzi writes about people who like themselves, who have piles of self-esteem, who regard life as some kind of adventure instead of a crushing burden. It’s the difference between Haldeman’s Forever War and Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. Haldeman himself suffered, boy did he ever, and his character William Mandela was a doubt ridden soldier who hated the army. Heinlein’s Johnny Rico had some doubts at first, but he came to love the Mobile Infantry and came to believe in himself. Mandela hid from life, Rico embraced it. One is not necessarily better than the other, but personally I prefer to hang out with people like Johnny Rico and not Bill Mandela.

    Cory Doctorow’s books are amateurish. If there is one author in the science fiction community that should shut his mouth and go underground, it’s Doctorow.

    Again, Doctorow writes about people who are having fun.

    His books read like they were written on the bus, coffee stains over every dangling modifier.

    And why the fuck not? If you don’t like it, don’t read it. Eventually Doctrow will starve from your lack of patronage and then he’ll suffer, won’t he? It’s not like there aren’t choices in the genre, Dumbass.

    Gaiman is all about wooing the readers at book signings.

    Right, because to be a real writer, one who suffers and creates true art, you have to be an asshole. All real artists are anti-social curmudgeons on the verge of blowing their brains out, right?

    Personally I’ve about had it with angst and suffering writers and writers who write about suffering. The last two seasons of Battlestar Galactica were nothing but fucking suffering, and bleating, and crying, and agonizing, and more damned suffering. For crying out loud, enough with the suffering already. I want novels about people like the ones I know – people who inspire, who love life and adventure, who intend to live forever. The central figure in Zoe’s Tale, like that, exactly like that, especially after she grows up and starts having space opera adventures of her own.

    Get cracking on that, Scalzi, would you?

  126. I write because I can.
    I write because I want to.
    I never needed any other reasons.

  127. [Deleted as yet another sock puppet. Hunter, you were already told to leave this thread. Try to post on it again, and you'll be banned -- JS]

  128. Jim Wright@160:
    Personally I’ve about had it with angst and suffering writers and writers who write about suffering.

    Meh… I say it’s just part of a balanced diet. But one thing I love about Jane Austen is that there’s this delicious balance between real pain (and she certainly was no Pollyanna when it came to the less than secure position of women in her world), and the kind of astringent, clear-eyed, even bitchy humour that kept popping out.

    The last two seasons of Battlestar Galactica were nothing but fucking suffering, and bleating, and crying, and agonizing, and more damned suffering

    Just the last two seasons? To be fair we are talking about a show whose plot turns on the near-total genocide of the human race.

  129. Craig @ 168 Well my review of BSG is here. (I’d give you a link, but I’d probably get accused of being a mopper upper and shameless link whore. Oh, wait)

    And not to get off topic into a BSG discussion, but your observation is a good one on the current subject. I seriously doubt that all of the BSG writers were depressed and suffering anti-social misanthropes with suicidal tenancies and drinking problems. You don’t have to suffer in order to write convincingly about suffering. You see it on the news every night. You know people. You empathize. You use your imagination.

    That’s writing.

    Dr. Alice Sheldon is a perfect example, she wrote male characters so convincingly as James Tiptree Jr. that she fooled the entire genre and inspired passionate defenses of her manhood by notables of the field. And when she wrote women, men still assumed she was in fact male with an unusual ability to write from the female perspective.

    John Varley is another guy who writes the opposite sex so convincingly that unless you knew who he was, you might think you’re reading another Tiptree.

    That’s writing.

    On the other hand, I love PKD’s work, and the man was tortured inside. And his books reflect that, they are all explorations into self.

    Again, experience is what gives a writer his or her voice, be it tortured or not. Both have merit, and personally I prefer those who tone down the damned suffering writer persona a bit.

  130. Um, let me amend something here: Alice Sheldon was a major depressive personality. She suffered her whole life. In the end she committed murder and then took her own life.

    Her work is full of her pain. Certainly.

    But not the maleness. That is purely a product of her imagination.

    But, yeah, bad example.

  131. No, the difference is that Scalzi writes about people who like themselves, who have piles of self-esteem, who regard life as some kind of adventure instead of a crushing burden.

    And they actually like other people and get along with them pretty well; when they don’t it’s the normal friction of human interaction, not towering, angsty hatred and misunderstanding. The main baddie on OMW isn’t so much a cackling evil genius as he is kind of an asshole.

  132. Jim Wright @ 170:
    And not to get off topic into a BSG discussion, but your observation is a good one on the current subject. I seriously doubt that all of the BSG writers were depressed and suffering anti-social misanthropes with suicidal tenancies and drinking problems. You don’t have to suffer in order to write convincingly about suffering. You see it on the news every night. You know people. You empathize. You use your imagination.

    Certainly — and I’ve seen recent interviews with Ron Moore and Jane Espenson, where they’ve both said one fun thing about Caprica is that they can hit a few tonal notes — including jokes — that just weren’t appropriate for the universe of BSG. But you’re right — Ron Moore certainly likes an occasional ciggie and a fine Scotch while recording a podcast, but I rather doubt he’d have the kind of career he does if he spent every waking moment self-medicating away the existential angst. It’s exhausting being that fucked up 24/7. :)

  133. Exactly.

    Writing is a job. And like any job, it requires a certain degree of discipline. A lot of writers suffer because they lack that discipline – then they don’t finish stuff, then they don’t get paid, so then they don’t eat. Cause and effect. But the thing is, a lot them wouldn’t have the necessary discipline in any job. They show up late, don’t finish shit on time, don’t pay attention to detail. They took up writing because they thought it would easy. Guess what? It’s fucking work.

    Certain you need to give up some things up to be a decent writer – like the tendency to sit around all day in your underwear playing Halo. You are going to have to lock yourself in the den in front of the word processor for a couple hours every day and you’re not going to be able to go outside and play ball with your kid until later. You’re self employed, the taxes for that are a huge pain in the ass (here in the States anyway), you’ve got to buy your own health insurance or not get sick, you’ve got to run a business and learn the trade. It does take sacrifice.

    Same as any job.

    On the other hand, the benefits are pretty good. Flex hours, groupies, wild parties…

  134. Hello, all of you sound like an outfit of the informational globalization that turnes a man, a writer into the insect. Man you can almost see why Hemingway actually had to leave and sturve in Paris, because it didn’t have that James’s spirit. Writing is not a job. Writing is a responsibility, the ability to find answears and questions, to response to the century, open eyes.

  135. “Writing is a responsibility, the ability to find answears and questions, to response to the century, open eyes.”

    The irony of such a statement coming from someone with such obviously poor command of the language is pronounced.

  136. I prefer rather making mistakes then committing the sins. At the first place – it’s a nice work out for the editor. On the other hand – playing an old myth of the Shakespeare’s theater. John, have you ever heard of Roland Barthes or Derrida’s vision of writing?

  137. “I prefer rather making mistakes then committing the sins.”

    The problem is that making the mistakes makes your message unintentionally ambiguous (for example, when people are unsure whether you intend “then” or “than”). Which is poor writing in any book.

    Again: Lecturing anyone on the aims and goals of writing when you apparently cannot aim a single sentence toward its goal is rich with irony; attempting to rationalize such a thing, as you have so poorly done here, is merely farce.

    Please come back when you can actually communicate, Volodymyr.

  138. maybe people should turn off the t.v for an hour and read something as opposed to trying to be writers … only a few good ones turn up in any generation … maybe we need more informed and intelligent readers rather than more folks caught up in yet another delusion … Anyhow, we have Cormac McCarthy, J.M Coetzee, Stephen King and a handful of other geniuses of fiction living and breathing as we speak and that’s pretty phenomenal in such a techologically crowded age … isn’t that enough for now? I dare any writer to read a page from McCarthy and still believe they can ever get even close to that …

  139. I agree with you but not all the way. It really depends on whether you want to be a great writer in literary history, or just a local author who has a few books on the local bookstore shelf. While some people are blessed with the gift of writing well, many are not, and will need to spend great quantities of time refining their craft until they get it “just” right.
    An hour a day reminds of a book I read that claimed a four hour work week in sales can make you a millionaire. There is really no truth in that claim as most salespeople had to work 60-80 hours a week for many years to become millionaires. Again, there are some salespeople who are so gifted that they needed no training or sales manuals or eighty hour work weeks to be successful
    I think that most writers will need plenty of years, tears, beers, and sore fingertips before becoming a well-known, successful writer.

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