Mark Terry

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Writer versus Writing

November 10, 2010
Since today has been rather unproductive, I think I'll continue that trend and blog.

In yesterday's blog both Eric and Erica (not twins separated at birth as far as I know) both commented about being able to envision writing for the pleasure of it without worrying about publication.

Which I think brings up a fairly interesting topic.

As a nonfiction writer, I find that I love the writing as much as I love being a writer.

With fiction, I love the writing, but am far more ambivalent about being the writer.

A lot of that has to do with my writing lifestyle--I make a living at it, I spend my days in my basement office interacting with Internet ghosts, my keyboard, writing, controlling my own schedule mostly, and getting paid for the privilege. The rewards are many and the headaches are, well, few and manageable.

The fiction writing lifestyle, on the other hand, has few financial rewards (for me), and the marketing and "being an author" thing are time consuming and slightly outside my comfort zone (and have been for a while). The rewards tend to be intrinsic, the financial rewards to-date unimpressive, and the social rewards, to my mind, wildly overrated.

My first real publisher, High Country Publishing... I remember talking to my lovely editor there and discussing the whole book signing, bookstore visit, bookfair thing and I was making it clear that I was not wholeheartedly delighted with the process (to say the least). She commented that one of their other authors just loved it and she finished with, "Some people just like to play author."

Bingo!

I like to BE an author. I love to BE a writer. I LOVE writing.

But this out schlepping the public thing, Christ, I feel a tiny bit like a door-to-door salesman. I know that's just a quirk of my personality. I've never had a job (amazing, when you think about it) except when I worked as a paperboy, where I dealt with the general public. I worked as a piano and saxophone teacher, but that wasn't the general public. Otherwise I worked as a cook at Burger King, in food service washing pots and pans or dishes, worked in laboratories, mail rooms, etc.

On none of those jobs was I out front interacting with the general public. Maybe I would have benefitted from a good round of being a waiter or bartender, playing the smiley-face schmoozing bit, let's-talk-about-sports-and-the-weather. I think it's a skill that would have benefited me in book signings and things (and probably life in general, actually).

But that's just me. I think there are people who don't particularly like writing, but love the being an author thing--they love that end of things. I've run across a few writers who seemed to hate writing (which baffles me, because if you don't like it, for God sakes, there are easier and better ways to make a living). I've certainly met a lot of people who like the idea of HAVING WRITTEN a novel, but can't wrap their minds around the idea of WRITING A NOVEL.

How about you? Do you love writing? Do you love playing author?

7 Comments:

Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

You describe my own attitude pretty well -- love writing, hate playing a writer.

I have observed that for some people, the whole reason they write seems to be so they can play the author in public. Frankly, I think they wildly overestimate how much people, in general, are impressed by the fact that someone is a writer, but they will go about posing, and bragging, and yapping about how they are writers -- or usually authors. An awful lot of those who go in for self publishing do so, I believe, because they want so badly to be able to play the writer.

This is not to say I don't take some pride in getting published, even as a co-author by a small press -- but presenting myself as a writer is not something I want to do.

12:39 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

I wonder if they have had different experiences than I've had at book signings. None of my book resembled the Stephen King/Mitch Albom thing where people line up out the door, or for that matter, even selling more than, say, a dozen books (a great signing for me). I've done some nice joint book talks and for the most part enjoyed them, even though they're a giant time suck. I like chatting with readers. I'm just not sure I like being the center of attention once my little spiel is done. I'm fine with public speaking and think I do it fairly well, but then you get into some odd conversations at times that make me uncomfortable. Maybe I enjoy talking about myself on this blog, but not so much out in public.

12:47 PM  
Blogger Natasha Fondren said...

In music, they say it's important to love practicing more than performing. I was one who loved performing the most. Even when practicing, I always visualized communicating with an audience. I practiced because (and only because) I wanted to show people how cool a piece was.

I'm the same way with writing. I highly doubt I would write at all if it weren't for readers--that's one of the reasons why I love how my writing path has gone, and I often wonder if I would have been a writer at all if it hadn't been that my first stories were bought.

I'm not as good at returning emails to readers as I'd like, but I love them passionately. I am so incredibly grateful to them, and I love interacting with them. I love the things they feel inspired to tell me after reading my stories. Also, and I think this comes from piano, I love being the center of attention. It's silly, but I do. When I get up on stage, whether it's to speak or play, I suddenly relax and feel completely at home, more at home than I feel or have felt anywhere else. I like making people laugh, or making them feel good, or feel accepted, or showing them something cool.

So even though I haven't had any public interactions as a writer, I'm positive I'll love it. I really do love people.

2:10 PM  
Blogger Erica Orloff said...

EXACTLY. If I could NEVER admit to a soul I am a writer, and sit here and make stuff up all alone, I would be wholeheartedly content.

Now, I DO love signings for kids. But that's it. I like WRITING much more than AUTHORING. :-)

6:02 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Erica,
I think kids have different expectations from authors than adults do. For adults I think it's more of a quasi-celebrity thing. With kids it seems like enthusiasm for the books.

6:06 AM  
Blogger Erica Orloff said...

Mark:
That is it exactly. With one more element. Kids seem so GENUINELY thrilled to meet me/an author. To them, it is a little like meeting someone "famous" or something. They love to tell me all about their favorite parts of the books, who they would cast in a movie of it, that kind of thing. But I have never met (yet) a "jaded" kid who sniffed that my books were not highbrow enough, nor have I met a kid who said, "When I retire, I'll crank out the great American novel, right now, I'm too busy making money hand over fist as a doctor/lawyer/CEO." NOR have I met frustrated UNPUBBED kid authors who have an attitude like "So what makes YOUR book publishable and MINE not."

It's a WHOLE different dynamic.

6:29 AM  
Blogger sex scenes at starbucks, said...

I love all of it. I love writing. I love schmoozing online. I love the fans and teaching newer writers stuff that I wish people had taught me. I love all the fabulous writers I've met, and, actually the agents and editors, too, who as a whole are a great group. I love conferences and conventions. I love all the geeks I get to meet when I go to SF Cons. I even tell regular people I'm a writer sometimes and hold my chin up when I say I wrote erotica.

But mostly, yeah, I love the sitting in my pjs and spending time in the world I've created. THAT rocks.

3:00 PM  

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