I’m a huge fan of Tony Robbins. I was introduced to his teaching when my father gave me a set of his Personal Power Cds for my eighteenth birthday. I was heading off to college the following year and dear old dad thought I could use the guidance. He was right but it would be several years before I truly appreciated the gift he gave me.
Tony teaches that in order to have an extraordinary life people should live with passion. At least, that’s what I took away from his teachings. It’s a great idea. Who wouldn’t want to be passionately motivated on a daily basis?
I wrote my first and only novel between the eighth and ninth grades. It took a year to write, I wrote it in longhand, and it’s so terrible I can’t get past the second chapter when I’m nostalgic and try to read it. But I wrote it. Yea, me!
What I remember most was the passion I had writing it. I didn’t know jack about writing. All the ‘big’ words were misspelled. And I didn’t care if a scene was realistic or not. Hell, I didn’t even know what a ‘scene’ was. I just had a blast telling the story.
Somewhere over the years, I lost that passion.
Today I know a lot about the craft of writing. I’ve spent a good deal of my adult life studying the topic. Over the years I’ve read instructional and inspiration books by everyone from Ursula K. Le Guin to Stephen King and from Christopher Vogler to Robert McKee. I’ve taken workshops and classes and listened to dozens of authors speak at various conventions. I own a huge collection of writing how-to books including the entire Elements of Fiction series, which I highly recommend, and am currently rereading their book on description because I suck at it.
Today I know how to construct a scene, develop a character, and follow the hero’s journey. I know where to place the major plot points and what they mean. I know how to write dialogue, though how well I write it is up for debate.
I did not know these things when I wrote my novel.
Several years ago I saw the movie Bucket List with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. I started my own bucket list back high school but never realized it had an official name. I just called mine “List of Shit I Want to Do Before I Die”.
“Have a story published” is on the list. I thought it was doable. I mean, come on, I had a better chance of getting a story published than being the first woman on Mars or being bit by a radioactive spider and gaining superpowers (two other not-so-realistic items on the list).
When I turned thirty-five I decided it was time give writing a serious shot. I was a software developer at the time, making decent money but the jobs were stressful and damned unfulfilling. Let me tell you, it was a joy leaving it behind. I miss writing programs but I sure as hell do not miss the idiot managers I had to work with.
Hanging on the wall next to my computer is a framed rejection letter I received from The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. They are the only publisher who took the time to write a personal rejection letter. I’m very proud of it.
Six months later I was still unpublished. My collection of rejection letters was growing, as was my frustration with my new career. I eventually gave up and started a new career in accounting.
There are three lessons I learned from this:
1. Do not quit your day job.
2. Do not give up.
3. Do not go into Accounting.
Fast forward to 2016. I decided to give publishing another try. I knew I had a real shot at it this time because there was Amazon and they will accept stories from anyone. Even me.
I was working on an erotica novella at the time and struggling to finish it. The whole thing was outlined. I knew exactly when, where, and with whom my heroine was going to have her sexual adventures. I even had an ending that would guarantee the reader would be panting for more.
Unfortunately, I just couldn’t write the damned thing. I had worked on it for almost a year and only had the first scene and part of the second to show for it. Looking back, I think knowing exactly what was going to happen took a lot of the fun out of it. What made writing my high school novel so enjoyable was not knowing or caring about what was going to happen next. That was certainly not the case with this story.
I put the story aside and wrote what would eventually become Punished for Trespassing. The story took nine months to write. The final length was around 7,300 words. Double that for rewrites and you do the math. I was not exactly cranking out thousands of words per hour.
I began the story with a very simple premise: the protagonist is blackmailed into having sex with the antagonist and his son. There would be oral and vaginal sex, but no anal. I made up the backstory and the characters’ personalities as I went along. I tried not to over-think it and let the story flow naturally.
But the passion never returned.
Before long, I grew to dread writing. I would do anything to avoid it. I washed dishes, vacuumed floors, cleaned laundry, binge-watched the second season for Arrow for the third time. I did anything and everything but write.
Finishing Punished for Trespassing was one of the hardest things I ever did. The sad part is I liked the story. I liked Lynn and Jason and old farmer Stevenson. I loved the idea of Lynn being blackmailed and Jason getting a hard-on watching Stevenson and his son fuck her. It was my kind of story and I loved everything about it.
Except writing it.
The same thing happened with Satisfying the Campus Guard and it’s happening right now with Poke’r Night.
Last weekend while procrastinating I watched The Dark Knight. I absolutely love that movie. The Joker is about to kill the black mob boss when he asks, “Why so serious?”
Suddenly, it clicked.
Why was I taking this whole writing thing so seriously? I’m not doing it for the money or the fame or the prestige. I used to do it because it was fun. It hasn’t been fun for a very long time. I’m not even telling the kind of stories I really want to tell. So, why the hell am I taking it so seriously?
I’ve decided to change my attitude about my writing. From now on, I’ll write what I want when I want. If my muse is on vacation I won’t beat myself up about it. If I find myself Googling stupid shit or checking Twitter (I’m never on Facebook), I’ll figure my subconscious is trying to tell me something. I’ll play Lord of the Rings Online, watch a movie, have sex; find something I’m really passionate about and do it. Then I’ll come back to writing.
Like all writers, I have loads of story ideas written down in my notebook. Many would be a lot of fun to write. Someday I hope to write them. But if I don’t, that’s okay. There are always plenty more where those came from.
I don’t plan to write much this weekend beyond this blog posting. I may jot down a story idea or play with a scene or two, but nothing major. No pressure. No self-criticism. Just a gentle reminder to myself…
Why so serious?
Please feel free to leave a comment. Ignore the Name & Email fields if shown. They are not required.