I had begun to compose a long, rambling blog entry (as opposed to my usual short, concise ones? it is to laugh… about embracing amateurism and how it is not actually this bad word that Americans seem to think it is. However, in the end, I was simply repeating bits of MAKE’s interview with Jack Hitt.
But that’s not the only thing I was doing. As I tried to rationalize my choice of embracing the label “amateur writer”, I realized that I was starting to sound a) like a dilettante, b) like I was making excuses, c) like I didn’t believe in myself or d) all of the above. Which is exactly the opposite of what I’d set out to accomplish in the first place.
Recently, I was thinking about being an amateur, and what that really means. Basically, it means “not a professional”. I am an “amateur writer”, because while I write stories all the time, I sure as hell am not making a living at it. I am not “amateur” because I’m bad at it; that word association is inaccurate and I’m not even sure when people started equating the two. I had started thinking of my acquaintances who are professional writers, and wondered “maybe, in all this social media that asks for a bio or a profile, I should be specifying that I’m not a professional writer?” I suppose this is where the distinction of “author” vs. “writer” comes in. And ultimately where people start making comments like “well, to me ‘author’ means someone who has been professionally published and blah blah blah” and then another person gets out their dictionary and informs them of the actual accepted definition of “author” (it’s basically the creator or originator of *anything*) and then there is an argument over evolution of words in the English language and eventually the commentary gets way off topic until there’s a wank-fest over Gatekeepers of Publishing and the High Price of E-books (this is not an invitation to start that topic, btw).
I had mentioned to my husband my recent attitude of being okay with just putting down writing for the moment. I started to tell him how it stressed me out to stare at the blank page (similar to how it stresses him to hit the red button on his recording programs or the multi-track recorder and then have no musical inspiration) and that led me to comment that perhaps I shouldn’t even bother with trying to write for the professional market, or at the least, not try to sell my work through traditional channels, but self-publish instead. After all, I know the odds of selling enough to make a living. I know how many authors have to work long, long days to meet short deadlines if they are fortunate enough to get multi-book contracts and I started to think there was no way my fucked up hands could manage writing 2-3 books in a year (I know lots of authors don’t have to meet such deadlines, but I also have seen the blog posts of several who DO and what they have to go through to meet that). It takes me hours to get through meeting minutes or a blog post. How could I manage entire novels with any sort of speed and/or typing accuracy?
And my husband told me that, basically, I should stop putting the cart before the horse.
I often shake my head at aspiring authors who worry about submissions and advances and book tours before they’ve figured out what’s happening in chapter 3 of their masterpiece. And here I was, doing the very same thing (in my own way).
I have not given up, and I still believe that there is an editor who will have an interest in what I write. I give props to those who circumvent that route and go solo, doing the copy-editing, artwork and formatting on their own, followed by intensely promoting their work so it actually gets eyeballs on it. But for now, it’s not my plan to go that route. I just have to get myself back into that mental space that allows creative writing to happen. I spent 2 days in Houston this week, for follow-up tests and a visit with my neurosurgeon, whose fellows agreed that my MRIs look clear so far. I still have disease in my lungs, with no treatment options as yet for that. But so far, the cancer isn’t growing in my spine. Just having that weight off, finding that I can now move forward somewhat gives me some peace of mind so that my mind can wander just a bit. And maybe invent some new stories worth reading.