Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Wishful Writers

By Lynette Rees

If I had a pound coin for everyone who ever said to me, "I've always wanted to write a book..." I'd be a rich woman.

Why is it the world and his wife think they can write? Not just write, but craft a novel before they have even written anything at all, they've not even kept a journal or attempted a short story. Don't get me wrong, I'm definitely not a snob. I'm not one of those people who thinks that writers have to use flowerly terms and unusual words others don't understand. Au contraire! :)

Writing often isn't taken seriously by others. They just don't get it. I mean if they met a doctor they would hardly say to him: "I've always fancied being a doctor and would love to perform major surgery!" This is because that person knows unless they undertake X number of years training, they will not have the skills required.

I don't mind helping new writers but once in a while someone will contact me claiming they want to be a writer and then will try to pick the hell out of my brains. I will answer their questions to the best of my ability but when they bombard me with questions I start to think: Why don't you take a writing course if you don't understand anything at all about writing? I have suggested this and gone out of my way to provide links to help them. I wasn't born with a pen in my hand, if I had been my mother wouldn't have been very pleased! Okay, I had a flair for writing, my stories were often read out by the teacher, but I thought nothing of it at the time.

It wasn't until a few years back I started to take my writing seriously. I joined a local writing group and online ones too, read books about the craft of writing, crafted my first proper short story and article and most importantly of all, got it out there into the big, bad world. I've had some success, I've also had my fair share of failure, but I never thought I had to get someone to do my thinking or my writing for me, like some would-be writers do.

Yet, these self same people who claim they badly want to write, never even get started. I had one online friend who told me she wanted to write children's books, this was supposedly her dream. I asked her if she had ever written anything. "No," she replied, "I don't know how to go about it." I managed to get her enrolled on an online writing course I was taking, which cost her nothing. A couple of weeks later I asked her how she was getting on with her assignments [these were only small writing exercises]. Oh, I haven't been able to do them as I just don't have the time!" she replied. Now this same woman spent hours upon hours chatting on MSN Messenger. Did she really want to be a writer of children's books? I don't think so. I would pigeon-hole her in the category of, 'I've always wanted to write a book..."

Next time someone tells me that, I'm going to ask, 'What's stopping you then?"

Chances are they'll never even get started.

You can visit Lynette's website and blog here:


Edward Yates said...

Of course writing is a lot of hard work. I am an ‘average writer’ and have to work very hard to get my work from average to ‘good’. At the moment I'm re-writing chapters of my PhD, and occasionally I have done short stories and the odd academic publication. To begin with I think a surgeon is of a different order, as they are more like a mechanic for the body. So while surgery may be some people’s passion it is not the same as artistic creativity per se. A lot of people do spend a great deal of time writing pieces, or fragments, whether it is for online forums, blogs or using messenger, and I agree that these things are all big time wasters. But to deny the human urge to write or create a work of some kind, as just ‘wishful’ is pretty pessimistic about human creativity. This urge is perhaps why there are such a large number of people tapping away on blogs or forums or messenger. I guess I would prefer to say that everyone can write, but for many reasons, ranging from fear of failure, fear of success, lack of time, or procrastination via messenger do not. Perhaps then my question back to you would be why don't more people write?

Lynette said...

You misunderstand me, Edward! I'm not saying people shouldn't write and if they don't want to get published it's up to them! If they just want to blog all their lives and are happy with it -- fine!

I know some real talented people who write fantastic blogs that draw in a lot of readers. One in particularly is written by an actor. That man is so talented. I read his blog regularly. It doesn't matter whether he's had anything published other than his blog, he's a damn fine writer!

What I'm talking about are people who keep saying they want to write a book but do nothing about it!

I can't answer your question, why don't more people write? All I can answer, is in my experience, a lot of people talk about writing, but do nothing about it. :)


Edward Yates said...

One thing that I wonder about is how easy is it for a person to get published, particularly in Australia we just do not have as large a market for writings of various kinds. And it has been a case of many people of just bashing their heads against doors for years. It takes a fair bit of perserverance to actually go from being someone who gets something written to completion, to someone who gets something written and published.

I have two friends who both write, one gets published and paid enough to live off bits and pieces here and there. The other friend is more talented (than the first person I mentioned), but has little or no confidence (or something) in terms of his work.

Perhaps what I was trying to get at was that perhaps it also depends on what a person wants to get out of writing. I think sometimes people write just for themselves, and blogging would certainly be one of these activities, a little like a public journal or diary. But I guess I'd agree that it is easy to mistake activities of communication with writing too. Even keeping a blog or writing short stories regularly is a big thing for a lot of people though.

Lynette said...

Hi again, Edward,

You have just mentioned the magic word -- perserverance! This is what I have found over the years. I started writing with a view to publication about eight years ago. I had just got online and joined a writers' group.

I wrote a lot of short stories back then and tried sending them off to magazines, but kept getting rejected. Then I tried my hand at writing non fiction articles and found I was getting more acceptances. I only got paid small amounts then: a few dollars here and there.

I just kept on keeping on and learning my craft. I honestly believe I will never know it all. That's what I love about writing, there's always something new to learn. :)

Nowadays, I can get my work published by more well known magazines for larger sums of money because I didn't give up at the first hurdle.

Yes, confidence is an issue for writers. It's easy to get defeated if you receive rejections. I'm at a point now where I think: "Well,if that editor/publisher doesn't like it, then maybe another one will."

There are so many ups and downs in this business.

You are right, a lot of people do just write for themselves and some for others as well without wanting any payment. I know a local woman who is a marvellous poet. She writes poems for weddings, etc. She is so talented, yet she thinks it's wrong to try to get something published or to get paid for her work.

To me, getting published and getting paid is the icing on the cake, but I would still bake the cake even if I didn't get to ice it, if you know what I mean! ;)