Thursday, September 1, 2011

Curse, A Gift, or Something Else Altogether

Whether it’s writing a short story, a novel, or anything in between, I love to write and I’m proud to be a writer; especially one whose chosen path is the speculative one, though I didn’t choose to become a writer.

Like thousands of other writers out there in the world, writing chose me.

In our world, a writer’s world, the word “Published” is sacred. Like a boxer needs a belt, a football team needs a trophy, or an Olympic star needs a gold medal, we writers vie for the title of being “Published”. Of course there are also higher titles to obtain, such as “Bestseller” and “Award Winner”, but to be “Published” is the first of many steps to being fully recognized for a work drenched with the blood, sweat, and tears of the one who has become “Published”. And we writers don’t even need for this title to be hammered in gold. Real writers don’t care if their works are published in the number one commercial press in the world, or in the meekest of fanzines. Compensation means little to us--save for the basic need for it--and a vent for our creativity is more highly coveted than any coin a paycheck has to offer.

For real writers, every project we produce comes to be like our children, or a close friend or family member. Sure, we’ll have our disagreements and our projects will refuse to listen to us and go the opposite way they were told to go, and sometimes we just simply need a break from them, but there is a reason they exist at all. The thought of stuffing them into a dark filing cabinet forever is a deplorable one. So we, as writers, try desperately to find good homes for our chil…projects to spare them the fate of that dark, lonely, and unforgiving filing cabinet purgatory.

We’ll search for years, decades, a lifetime until that home is found, hammering these projects into viable entities until someone grants them the home we as their creators know they deserve.

And what do us writers get in return? Several things. Like parents with our children, writers take satisfaction and pride in watching our projects go off on their own, standing by them during their struggles in the markets, and watching them defend themselves against snarky critics, and sometimes even rising above and beyond limits hoped for but never imagined, because yes, we writers are human and recognition and success are the benefits of our game.

I say recognition and success are benefits because they are not the true prizes to a real writer. The true prize comes when a project is fully brought to life. Ask any real writer and they’ll tell you, “I’d write even if I wasn’t published.” And they would be speaking the truth. In a very real sense that’s what makes a real writer a real writer, as opposed to a celebrity who puts their name on a biography, or commercial brands mass-producing quantities of poor quality, or the person who finishes a project, gets rejected once and then gives up to work in a dusty warehouse or answering phones in some stuffy office for the rest of their lives.

Real writers aren’t allowed to give up.

I wrote my first “novel” when I was twelve. In truth, it was horrible and contained probably no more than a few hundred words…barely a proper short story, but it was still something I was drawn to do. I wrote several more “novels” around that time, but didn’t decide to give the craft a serious go until I was around twenty-three.

I spent several years hacking through a few dozen false starts, then, something clicked and I began to spit out short stories and even a couple of novels like they were going out of style and I hadn’t been happier before then. Out of all those early projects, 100% of them were rejected, some of them many times over.

But unlike the one-timer, who was devastated by the rejection and hung their gloves up for good, I—-and many other real writers--thrived upon the rejection. We don’t give up because we can’t, and probably wouldn’t if we could. We take those rejections, find out what we did wrong, do our best to fix it, then head back out there to try again; repeat as needed.

To us, the craft of writing is like a drug: addictive, seductive, gripping. I’ve read or heard time and again about writers who’ve been in the field for decades and talking about retiring, even setting dates for those retirements. But yet these same individuals keep putting out books year after year, sometimes even long after their supposed retirement dates, because that’s what real writer’s do. They write. We write. I strongly believe that real writers are born and not made. You just can’t make a normal person sit in front of a screen of plain text for hours on end and have them completely enjoy it, lost in worlds that they could never even imagine. Sure, we writers have our days when the enjoyment levels are low, but I think we’d all agree that the pleasure far supersedes the pain.

I’d been writing full-time for about four years straight before my first story was published. Soon after that came my second, and third, and then a novel which then turned into a series. But out of those four plus projects how many others had been rejected?

Countless. Over four year’s worth, but I still couldn’t stop. And truth be known, I don’t think I’ll be ever able to stop, whether anything else ever gets published or not. If something keeps me from writing for one day, I feel less whole until that next time I’m able to write again. If I’m unable to finish what I set out to write in any given day, I’m distracted until I can finish it. As a real writer, everything inspires me. I can find the story within everything, whether I’m trying to or not.

Curse, a gift, or something else altogether, it’s something that I hope never leaves me.

To all you future one-timers out there, I honestly wish you luck with your endeavors.

But to all those real writers out there, especially to those ones who are as-of-yet “Published” and sitting on top of mountains of rejections but still never ceasing to smile, I know you won’t give up, and I look forward to reading your work in the future.

Until then, the pages go on and on and on and…

Jason J Sergi, Author of The Hero of Twilight, Book 1 in The Road To The Golden Griffin Series.

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