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January 24, 2010

I am the kind of writer who needs to be discovered. The kind that needs a fairy godperson to waltz in, sift through my thumb drives, external drives, boxes of notebooks and pronounce it all publishable, sweeping pages out of my hand as I create them. I need this because I did not major in marketing in college –  majored in Sociology & Literature – and I do not like to “sell” myself in a way that conjures up images of doors slamming (in my face) like an Egoiste Platinum commercial and ill fitting polyester three piece suits.

I also do the work and doing the work means I don’t have a lot time left over to hawk my ass all over town. I don’t have time to talk about writing – that’s why you haven’t seen a lot of posts about my process – because I am too busy actually writing. I don’t have the kind of active social life I had fifteen years ago where I considered myself a writer but only wrote when I felt like it, which was about twice a week.

Pretty much most of my day involves writing. Whether it’s reading from my never ending stack of books or cruising bookstores or opening a box and strolling down memory lane lamenting over craft and voice choices made years ago or – you know –  writing.

I figure I clock in roughly 9k words a day including blog posts and paper journaling. I am always working on about three to five different projects and I am always writing. When I wrote grants my numbers could top out at 12k words and when I was doing all that and Nanowri we’re talking days of 17k words.

It’s mind blowing to me.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an entire short story collection consisting of nine stories – the magical number – in less than a weekend.

total word count = 48, 434 words.

How do I do it? A typing speed which averages 100+ wpm helps. The blessing of a modest lifestyle, emotionally supportive partner and family, well that helps too.

I’m pretty sure it comes down to writing being my one true, perfect thing. The one thing I’m willing to do for nothing (though being paid is totally new hotness) and the one thing I know I’m fairly good at.

It has been said it’s not the most talent writers who get the breaks; rather it’s the ones who meet their deadlines. It’s the ones who write. This is one of the reasons I rarely call dump bin writers “hacks”. In fact I rarely label anyone who is brave enough to put their writing up for judgment by the world anything but brave. I don’t care if I think it sucks; much of it does. Most bookstores are filled with approximately 80% crap.

Trust me, I’ve done the legwork.

Nevertheless I champion those folks because they went out there and made it happen, even if the world of literature is worse off for their efforts.

Which brings me back to the fairy godperson thing. I want one to appear. I do the work. I write. I am passionate, though not married to my prose. It’s not my child. It’s my work. I take craft criticism well and I’m working on being more open hearted about content criticism. If you tell me you need it yesterday, consider it done. If you tell me you didn’t like what you needed yesterday, consider it revised. If you tell me to write in the style of someone else because that’s what works, I’d consider it as a means of paying my dues (and did so on two ghost writer projects). If you take 300 pages from me, return four and say, “start with this.” I’m not crushed: I’m invigorated. You just saved me a bunch of time and my ego nor my prose is that precious.

I am not the sandwich board wearing type. It’s odd because I can be utterly charming. The charisma you’re sensing is not an internet persona because I don’t have one. If you aren’t into me here, trust me, you ain’t going to like me much more in real life. I’m not especially cuddly nor do I possess a preternatural understanding of marketing principles. (Chazz Tenenbaum, holla!) I’m just a naturally gifted storyteller, social critic who is mildly misanthropic, totally in love with her first condo (and rarely likes to leave it unless it’s for food, hooker boots, pens or karaoke) who wants a shot. In the meantime if you’re looking for me you’ll find me click clacking away on the keyboard or fondling my pen stash or scribbling furiously in one of my Rhodia notebooks while swishing hot coffee around my seared mouth, letting it drip down the front of my many gray knee length v-neck sweaters.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 24, 2010 11:24 am

    I remember once reading something from Maya Angelou where she talked about writing being work. She said something like, “I don’t care if you have natural talent. I don’t care if it’s fun. That’s not what writing is. Writing is work, and if you don’t have that, you’re not a writer.” I remember at the time getting chills down to my heels. I’ve always been able to skate by as the most talented writer in the room, without having to try even the littlest bit. And, until I got to bills-paying adulthood, that was always enough to satisfy me — I can write really well and anybody who reads me knows it, so nyah. But I read that bit from Maya Angelou, and I suddenly felt this complete Truth slam into the back of my head: “Harriet, your writing is going to wither up and die if you don’t work at it. That natural well of talent is going to run dry if it doesn’t have meaning and the satisfaction of work.”

    At the time I was all, “Oh, pshaw, surely I will be discovered somehow!” Now I’m starting to realize just how little “talent” has to do with “priorities.” It’s easy to shove aside something that, for me, usually yields a high output for little effort. I have to learn how to make into a challenge the thing that comes easiest to me in all the world. Once upon a time, I thought I had really managed to not be arrogant about my writing abilities, but that was before I tried to force myself to sit down and *work really hard*, and suddenly I’m all, “But why should I? Working hard is for the people who suck at this, wah wah wah.” Ugh.

    Anyway, what I mean to say is, you find that fairy godperson, send them my way, I’ve got three unpublished novels that need to be shit upon.

  2. January 24, 2010 12:09 pm

    I admire your work ethic, and appreciate these insights into your creative process. But most of all, I like your writing and I hope that over time many more people will get to enjoy it too.

  3. January 24, 2010 12:10 pm

    Harriet J – I’ll be your fairy godperson. Seriously, I’m so damn excellent at midwifing creative work and oddly enough while I have no desire to hawk my own ass, I love hawking other people’s asses.

  4. hsofia permalink
    January 24, 2010 11:38 pm

    Good stuff. If this were Facebook, I would LIKE it.

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