Aspiring writers tend to be even more excuse-prone than writers, which is pretty hard to do.
They usually list stereotypes that are sound-bytes they’ve read somewhere, or a mental barbed wire fence they don’t dare step over.
It’s time to stop aspiring and perspire. I can eradicate the usual suspects of lame excuses for not starting writing with this list:
Out of the many uber-talented young writers, I’ve chosen Christopher Paolini as an example. He’s a fellow Montanan, so I have an admitted gooey spot. He wrote ‘Eragon’ when he was 15. Published at 19, it was then made into a film. He completed the ‘Inheritance Cycle’ series (4 books) at the tender age of 28.
I recently met a 13-year-old journalist who successfully writes for her local paper. She said ‘Why not? All they could say was ‘no.’’ Case in point? They didn’t. Being young and innovative, having fresh perspectives can be your ally.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the memoir book, ‘Angela’s Ashes.’ Frank McCourt was born in 1930, taught for 30 years and didn’t start writing his book until after he retired. He was 66 when ‘Angela’s Ashes’ was published.
Late bloomers to writing have an edge on other writers: it’s called ‘life experience.’ You’ve had time for trial & error, ages to tinker with ideas- take your solid idea and write.
By the by, did you know Bram Stoker didn’t publish ‘Dracula’ until he was 50? He was ‘waiting for the right moment.’
You’ve got an army brat background and you fell in love with writing and music at a young age. To pay the bills, you were: a shipping clerk; a telemarketer; and a sporting goods salesman. All with your goal on songwriting fame. Then you- Greg Lawson- co-wrote a song J-Lo sang, which goes by the title: ‘Love Don’t Cost a Thing.’ And there you are, those crappy jobs paid off.
You’ve lost your job thanks to a touchy-feely boss, who then refused to pay you for the work you’d done. It coincided with your rent being due, which got you evicted. You lived in your car, with bad kidneys, in the cold- until your superb songwriting skills paid off. That would be Jewel.
Songwriters, take note and heart. No, you don’t have to go homeless to be ‘discovered,’ but follow your passion. No matter where it leads.
Yes, it’s a tired story- but no less significant for the basic facts. J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame was a single mother on welfare, who wrote the first book in the series in cafes. (It’s never been broached how a welfare mother could afford to spend so much time/money in cafes…but no matter).
Toni Morrison wrote her first novel at 39, ‘The Bluest Eye,’ as a single mother of two while teaching full-time at Howard. She went on to win both a Nobel and a Pulitzer for her 5th book, ‘Beloved.’ Not bad for a single mom.
Writers who are single parents are an emerging force to be reckoned with- in fact, you guys are downright trendy at the moment. Strike while it’s hot.
Nothing Interesting to Write About
Terry Pratchett, author of the famed ‘Discworld Series,’ writes fantasy books. He was knighted for his ‘services to literature.’ So that’s Sir Terry Pratchett to people that pshaw how far creativity can take you.
Now let’s take one of the most reviled jobs- a lawyer- and create an action series out of the personal experiences of being a lawyer. That’s what John Grisham did. I can’t imagine those early book pitches ‘It’s a lawyer, who’s a good guy? And has slick action skills of survival? No one’d buy that…’
It goes to show that writing what you know, imaginary or real, is capable of greatness. Or best sellers. Or both.
Patricia Cornwell is bipolar; to the extent she leaves the business end to other people. It doesn’t stop her from writing. Stephen Hawking, arguably one of the most brilliant minds alive, is confined to a wheelchair. His motor neuron disease has him dependent on a computer just to speak. He still writes.
Nothing mental or physical should hold you back from fulfilling your aspiring writer’s dream. That is the beauty of writing- there are absolutely no limitations.
There’s No Niche For Me
Sherman Alexie, an award-winning novelist and one of my favorite screenwriters, happens to be Native American. Stephen Fry, an unadulterated wit, has written in more genres than I have fingers for. Or hands, for that matter. And he’s ever-expanding.
Alice Walker, author of ‘A Color Purple,’ has too many niches to be pinned down. Ever. Novelist, poet, activist, you name it. Joyce Carol Oates (who has a stable place on my top 10 desert island reading list) (‘Tales of the Grotesque’- just wow.) has written nearly everything possible: fiction. Non-fiction. Young adult. Poetry. Short Stories. Crikey.
We all have a hook, an imagination, an angle, a known aspect that is uniquely ours. Hone yours. No more excuses. Regardless what your personal writing goal is (to be published, to be read, to make supplemental income, to connect) the first priority should be a simple three-letter word: try.
You’re already ready. M.