I'm a writer. There, I've admitted it. I wonder if there's a 12-Step program for folks like me...

Most of this blog will be about writing for a living. Or maybe about trying to earn a living as a writer. Or maybe about trying to have a life while you write.

And maybe I'll be able to avoid the driving temptation to write about politics. But I'm not very good around temptation, so all I can promise is that I'll try to avoid writing about politics.

But I will write about the software I use, and the software I try out, and what I think about it. I actually spent lots of years in software testing - as a tester and as a manager of testing departments. I actually started work in software development in 1971, so I have a bit of experience with computers to back up what I have to say on this subject.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

On Writing


Writing is just about the most fun a boy can have by himself and still be able to talk about it in mixed company.

It’s also a lot of work and takes a lot out of a fellow (I’m being generic here – I mean both boys and girls, men and women).

It can drain you, right down to your toes. Writing isn’t a compulsion for me the way it is for some folks – or at least they claim it is. Some sort of poetic/prose muse drives them, they say, and it just might be so. For me, it’s more of a money thing, since I can’t seem to make a living doing any of the other stuff I know how to do.

And I’ve done a lot of stuff in my life. I’ve been a lot of places, met a lot of interesting people, and made some of them really mad at me.

Bu that’s life, I guess. You just have to take the bad right along with the good. You’re not given a choice, you see.

And Life has worn me down, some, I’ll admit it. I’m not as young as I used to be (my ex-wife will tell you that I never was as young as I used to be, and she’ll say that with a straight face, too).

I’m so worn out I expect to see bits dropping off any day now.

So I write. About what I know, where I’ve been, some of the stuff I’ve been involved in and what I think about it all. But for safety’s sake, and to make it all a bit entertaining, I turn it into stories. I take all of those characters – men and women, good and bad, mix them all up a bit and drop them into interesting plots for readers to enjoy.

And yes, some of those plots – or parts of them, at least, really did happen; in different countries, perhaps, with different people, certainly (my characters are just that – characters), but they did happen. Some of them, anyway.

But sitting at my writing desk (one leg of the chair is propped up on some old, dusty tomes because the mice nibbled it down), and looking out of the cracked and dusty window pane (the part that isn’t covered by a bit of cardboard to keep with bitter winter winds out) in my fourth-floor walk-up garret while I sit huddled in my winter coat and the quilt off my bed sharpening a dull goose quill, I half-way envy my readers – their obvious wealth (because they can afford to buy my novels) and the leisure time to enjoy them, and their normal (okay – somewhat more normal than mine) everyday lives.

Occasionally they write and tell me just how much they enjoyed what they read. And that makes it all worthwhile; it really does. And the icing on the cake is, of course, seeing a new – and positive – review posted somewhere.

Unsolicited praise is praise indeed, and all writers love that sort of thing. If it was strictly about the money there would be a glut – a glut, I say – of former writers lining up at McDonald’s and Burger King begging for a decent paying job (okay, so they’d be standing in line behind everyone else applying for jobs at those places). But it isn’t just about the money. It never way, it never will be. Writers write because they love writing.

I received such an email today, and I’d like to share it with you:

“I must tell you how much I enjoyed The Big Bend. I must admit my husband put me onto you. He said you definitely need to read this author! Which means, read everything that he has written. He reads twice as fast as I do, and always says, hurry, hurry, you won't believe what happens next! Just purchased Hog Valley and Twisted Key and can hardly wait to dig in. Please, keep writing and we'll keep reading. Thanks for making our reading time so enjoyable.”

Needless to say I have removed the sender’s name for privacy’s sake, but that is the letter in toto.

I wrote them back right away, as I do with all such emails, and thanked them profusely.

Yes, I write to make a living, but that does not mean I don’t enjoy receiving emails like that one. I live for them (just to clarify - I live by my royalty checks, but I live for those emails).

So does every other writer.

Well, that and good reviews, of course. I’m pretty sure the readers of this blog are about an even mix of readers and writers, so you understand that I’m playing straight with you (at least, I hope you understand that). Reviews sell books, but word of mouth is just as good. If you enjoy what a writer produces, let your friends know about it. Do the guy (or gal) a favor and post something on FaceBook or MySpace about what you just read and let your readers know where to find it.

Yes, I write to produce an income. I live off my royalty checks (which are not all that great, by the way). And since it takes about two years to produce one of my novels, I invest a great deal of time and money in getting them into the market.

That’s by choice,  because writing is exactly what I want to do to earn my living.

But it does get lonely here in my cold-water, fourth-floor, walk-up garret. Mice make for poor company, and lately even the pigeons on the window sill have been eyeing me hungrily. I do so enjoy company, especially when they bring food. Especially when they bring enough for the mice, and the pigeons, with maybe a bit left over for me.

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