This is the third of a series of blog posts about writing and self-publishing that Jay has written for the Sudden Insight Publishing blog. Enjoy!
I’ll start off by saying that I am the first to admit that I can be a bit wordy at times. I though of writing more when I wrote the blog I am revisiting, but I wanted to keep the length reasonable. I didn’t call it part one and part two because it’s not a two-parter; it’s a revisitation. It’s a different way of looking at the reason that I have for writing.
One of my favorite parts of my favorite books have always been the author’s notes. A peek behind the curtain at what the writer was thinking or doing while writing the story, or the way parallels and connections start to happen in real life to echo the tale’s voice, have always been interesting additions to the stories I have loved. I don’t do much in the way of author’s notes in my books because I blog in two places, keeping the curtain constantly in motion for anyone interested in what I am up to.
The main reason I wanted to revisit this subject is because I don’t just write. I write a particular way, with a particular bent and a particular purpose. Of course, any writer could say that; but those particulars would be different for them, and thus their reasons for writing are different as well. I don’t just write because I feel like I have ways of saying things that I wish someone had said to me that way before; I don’t just write because when I close my eyes I see scores of untold tales that each fascinates and compels me in its own way; I don’t just write because it’s where it’s easiest to lose myself, and to find myself: I write for all of these reasons, and more. Yet I am more apt to refer to myself as a philosopher than an author, and I think that the biggest reason I write is to think things through.
Much of what I write is just for me. There are some journals that I have written that I am sharing bit by bit on my blog, along with updated commentary, that once fell into that category. The rest of the ridiculous number of pages I have filled consist of writing exercises from books or devised by me to make me happier or healthier or better at life, notes about things I’ve learned or felt or seen or done and chicken-scratch descriptions of things I’ve built or am building or will build one day in some world.
Even the things I write to share in publication or online are built on a foundation of notes and outlining and rewriting and editing that is all hidden work. What do you do with the stacks of pages that made a publication possible? I don’t know, but I can’t muster up the courage to toss them or burn them just yet. I guess it seems strange to me to think that a structure could still stand long after its foundation has been destroyed.
That’s a perspective that is long cultivated. When I looked at writers and philosophers as models for a way of life, I found that those who could marry the practical to the mystical without neglecting either one were my favorites. I’m not a huge self-sufficiency nut or anything, but the practical philosopher in me sees the importance of learning as much as possible about the world around me. Whether it’s auto mechanics or gardening or connecting low voltage DC power (or high voltage AC), I find the unbreakable laws of physics as fascinating as the amorphous rules of philosophy. I also find that my interest in one is intimately tied in with my interest in the other, and I make sure my mind is asking why a thing works as often as how between blessed moments of stillness.
I’m really just getting started with my writing in many ways, with only two very different books published. Working a day job that demands my attention and dedication as much as my writing does has both helped and hindered my writing. It has helped to work with deadlines and scheduling, seeing the big picture and at the same time making sure the details are handled properly. It has hindered it simply in that writing takes time, editing takes time, and all my maintenance writing needs to keep happening throughout it all just to keep the pipes clean.
The value in becoming proficient in fields unrelated to your chosen field of study is evident to anyone who had done it. For a writer, it’s a necessity. For a practical philosopher, it’s a requirement. Nothing bores me more than a story about a main character who happens to be a writer, though it’s fine if the story hinges on it in some way other than that it is the easiest perspective to write from. Telling your readers what it’s like to do some job, even in passing, shows them that you see that there is a world beyond books.
Another cool aspect of doing some real life research are the little surprises you can leave your readers. A bit of specificity here and there about some little-known fact or detail can endear me to an author in itself if they do it right. I know so many goddamned airplane words, after years of reading Richard Bach, I could get by for several minutes talking to a pilot before they realized I’ve never sat in a cockpit. Yet imagine a pilot picking up one of his books for the first time; he knows Mister Bach is authentic even sooner than other readers. They call little surprises in video games Easter Eggs, so that’s what I call these hard-won passing details.
One of the best reasons to publish is to make enough money writing on evenings and weekends and vacations to write full-time. Fact is, research and writing and editing all take a tremendous amount of time, and that extra forty hours a week means more books. I hardly see a complete end to day jobs in my life, however, and I’ll tell you why. Jobs are a great way to learn new things and meet new people; they give the writer or philosopher or just the person interested in life and fascinated by people opportunity to explore a facet otherwise hidden away from them.
A book might be an escape for your reader; it can’t just be fantasy for the writer. If the writer doesn’t bring their whole being to bear on a book, it shows. I write the way that I would want my favorite stories to be written, and I write the stories most willing and able to win me over. I can’t do anything else and still feel authentic in my art, which is a rare word for me to use. My favorite definition of art is that it’s the product created by someone who has something to say that has found an entertaining way to say it. The only person who has to love their art is the artist, but it helps to find others who want to own a piece of that work in a way that gives the artist more time to create more art.
The writer does not get to take vacations, and I suspect comics and painters and musicians feel the same. If there’s not some work underway consuming the writer’s thoughts, there’s at least one upcoming project on our minds. Peace only comes after long hard hours that nobody else sees, and it is followed by the new tension of another story that needs to be told more than the writer needs peace. It’s the only full-time job I will always do, because writing is how my mind already works.