David C. Hughes, Writer

“For the LORD your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your JOY will be complete." –Deuteronomy 16:15

Archive for the tag “Writing motivation”

Motivation and the Writing Life (Part 3 of 8)

DEALING WITH WRITER’S GUILT

Do you feel guilty about writing? Do you experience the twinge of discomfort when you sit down at your computer to write instead of applying yourself to endeavors more worthy of society’s approval, like working at a “real” job? I believe this is a common ailment suffered by not only writers but by others who hear a different drummer. When I was a kid I wrote funny stories, shot funny Super 8 movies, and drew funny cartoons. I was blessed with a junior high teacher named Mr. Smith who used my story about a hero named Super Flub to springboard a class assignment to develop a comic strip. In high school another teacher supported me in more ways than one: He let me make a movie for credit, he encouraged me to write a humorous newspaper and he plagiarized in part a script I’d written called “A Play on Words,” which he called his own. No matter how you look at it, theft is wrong, but in a strange sort of way his actions affirmed me—my stuff was good enough for a teacher to steal (by the way, my fellow classmates booed him when they realized he’d copied some of my work when he read his version to the class).

Soon after graduating from high school I began writing a novel about my experiences in Boy Scout summer camp, and I wrote several short horror stories that I thought were pretty clever. But I’ll never forget the time my mom walked into my “office,” which was actually her bedroom with my desk in it, and told me I was wasting my time. I was devastated.

“Don’t you have anything better to do?” she asked. That one event instilled in me a sense of guilt about my writing that lasted for decades. And over the past thirty years, I’ve found that most non-writers wonder when writers are going to get actual jobs. Even though I’m comfortable (now) in what I do for a living, that question can still incite me to write sarcastic blog posts, which isn’t a bad thing.

So how do we writers fight the guilt about making a living with our imaginations and ruminations? How do we convince ourselves that what we’re doing is not only worthy, it could be world-changing? First, affirm that this writing itch is more than just a whimsy—it’s something you have to do. It’s a gift. It’s a calling. It may even be God’s will.

Second, don’t let the detractors have their way with you. Believe in yourself even when no one else does. No one in this world will have more passion, drive and commitment to your avocation as you do, so quit whining, man up (even if you’re a girl), and write anyway. Live “despite.” If you touch one other person’s life in a positive way with your writing, then it has all been worth it. You have changed the world for the better.

Third, have fun with it. My daughter, Hannah, is a competitive gymnast. At seven years old she’s been doing gymnastics for five-and-a-half years. She’s an accomplished Level 3 athlete, placing in practically every event she’s competed in since reaching that level. Before each meet we pray over her, we encourage her and we tell her above all to have fun. So she does. She’s the team goofball, the class clown, the one who sits on the mat and grooms herself like a cat while waiting to mount the beam, the one who imitates a squeaky toy (to a T) when someone squeezes her rock-hard tummy. She takes having fun to heart, and she’s good at it.

Our society has placed on us a double standard. On one hand, if we’re having fun, it must be a waste of time. Or worse, it’s not any good for us. On the other hand, society says, “Just do it,” that having fun is everything. But understand this: it’s okay to enjoy writing. In fact, the more you enjoy it, the more your passion will shine through, and the more your passion shines through, the more others will engage with you. Writing can at once be a blessing and a curse. But it’s what we do. So if you’re gonna do it, you might as well do it well. After all, what do you have to lose but the guilt of doing it?

(Next up: Fear is the Mind Killer)

Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes

Motivation and the Writing Life (Part 2 of 8)

DREAMING FOR DOLLARS

Do you write for the money? If so, I’m sorry. Amanda M. Thrasher, co-founder of Progressive Rising Phoenix Press, my publisher, told me, “We don’t do this for the money. We do this because we love it. The rest will follow.” And P.T. Barnum once said that money “is a very excellent servant, but a terrible master.” Have you succumbed to that master, or are you master over it? Choose carefully.

We hear so many stories about the big names—Stephen King, Suzanne Collins, James Patterson, John Grisham, Dean Koontz, John Sandford—that we forget the majority of the bookshelves are filled with unknowns and un-heard-of folks like us, and that’s if we even make it to the bookshelves. It’s easy to be led down a dangerous path by the much-glorified accomplishments of others. Our society places so much emphasis on the money-makers and the big names that it forgets about the rest of us, the vast majority. There’s no glory in the ordinary, there’s no hype in the mediocre, so we must manage our expectations while allowing the excitement of our dreams to keep us inspired.

“An author signing a first contract can expect to receive an advance of anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000, on average, per book,” reports Rebecca Brandewyne on her website.[i] That’s a far-cry from the multi-million dollar deals grabbing the headlines and propelling our well-grounded dreams into ethereal fantasies. Oftentimes an author contracted by a publisher may not sell enough copies to recover the advance and begin generating royalties. If a book doesn’t “earn out,” the publisher may ask the author to pay back the remaining advance not recouped, and the book is then pulled from the shelves and considered non-salable. And to sprinkle dead flies on a rotting corpse, the average shelf-life of a novel you may have spent three years writing is about four months. That stinks.

There’s a story about an elderly Jewish gentleman who began to withdraw from his family, friends, and the community at large. As concern for the man’s health grew, his rabbi decided to pay him a visit. “What is bothering you?” he asked.

“Nothing,” the man said. “Since retiring the world has grown so complicated. I have no time to worry about anything but keeping my head above water.”

The rabbi smiled and led him to the window. “Look there. What do you see?”

The man watched the people on the street, the vendors selling their wares, the children playing. “I see people living their lives as they do every day.”

The rabbi then led the man to a full-length mirror hanging from his closet door. “And here, what do you see?”

“I see myself. Why?”

“You see,” said the rabbi. “The window and the mirror are both made of glass. You look through the window and see the world, your community, your friends. Nothing is in the way.”

“And the mirror?” the old man asked.

“The mirror is backed with silver,” the rabbi replied. “Whenever silver gets in the way we only see ourselves.”

Now, think again of the bookstores, row after row, shelf after shelf of unknowns. Like an Oreo cookie, the bookshelf end caps may yell, “Read me, I’m excruciatingly famous,” but the stuff in the middle is the stuff worth savoring. When the silver gets in the way, we only see ourselves.

[i] http://www.brandewyne.com/writingtips/authorspaid.html

 (Next up: Part 3: Dealing with Writer’s Guilt)

Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes

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