Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Can You Be Saved From the Writing Life? Take This Simple Test and Find Out!


I'm on the road again.  But, knowing I'd be away, I've devised a simple test you can use to determine whether it's possible for you to be saved from the drudgery and humiliation of becoming a professional writer.

Most people harbor the notion of writing for a living, even if the thought appears fleetingly and then goes mercifully away.  But a lot of us take that notion very seriously indeed -- and a certain fraction of us waste a great deal of time trying because we have no idea whether we've got what it takes.

Well, I can't tell you whether you'll succeed as a writer.  But I can tell you if you have no business trying.  Simply take the following 100% irony-free three question test.

Ready?  Here goes:

1.  Does the prospect of reading at least one hundred (and probably a lot more) full-length books a year fill you with joy?

2.  Do you enjoy doing research?

3.  Do you enjoy writing?

That was easy, wasn't it?  Now to analyze your answers:

1.  The proper answer is Yes.  Not only are you going to have to read an enormous number of books as research for your own writing and even more to find ideas in, but if you don't keep current with what's being written in your genre, you're going to fall out of touch with it and editors are going to lose interest in you.

2.  The proper answer is Yes.  By research here, I mean not only book learning but going to places to make observations, interviewing people who do the kind of work your characters do, lying down in parking lots to discover what your fatally-shot protagonist is going to see in his dying seconds . . .  Obviously, science fiction requires research, but so do mysteries (so your villain doesn't put a silencer on a revolver), fantasy (especially if horses are involved; people who love horses are not a forgiving breed), or pretty much anything else.  Oh, I suppose writers of erotica don't really need to do research.  But they'd be mad not to.

3.  The proper answer is It doesn't matter.  I personally loathe writing.  But the desire to have written something is sufficiently strong to make me sit down to the computer and type.  It's entirely possible, of course, that there are writers who enjoy writing.  But the thought of finding one is so depressing that I've never actually looked.

There you have it.  If you didn't answer Yes to the first two questions, you probably can't become a writer and you wouldn't enjoy it if you did.

And I've just saved you a great deal of time and effort.

Above:  That is not a trick shot.  Those really are some of the piles of books blocking access to my bookshelves.  If this appalls you . . .



JJM said...

Of course that's not a trick shot. Doesn't everyone's desk / living room / dining room / bedroom / anyroom look like that? What would have been appalling is seeing any of those books sitting spine up. --Mario

Tom Lawrence said...

Re: writers of erotica

Yes we do.

janeyolen said...

Oh you silly boy, you have long known someone who adores writing. I go to my desk (or in my case these days due to a bad back my laptop as I sit in a comfy chair) with great joy. I love to write.

Your old friend,


Michael Swanwick said...

Jane, with anybody else . . . ANYbody else, I would have snarkily replied, "Former friend." But I can't bring myself to do so in your case. I tried. Just can't.

Maddening, really.

janeyolen said...

It's a magic power I have, sweetie. And I try to use it for good, really I do. Though sometimes it gets away from me and. . .

Jane, ie A Friend Indeed