Friday, February 13, 2015

Writing: Daily Grind or Enjoyable Pastime?

Why do you write? Do you feel it is a calling? Do you have a story you want to share with others? Do you just enjoy the sheer thrill of sitting at the computer and creating something? Would you like to be paid for your writing? Are you dependent on your writing for income? These and many others are reasons writers give for why they engage in this activity.

Lawrence Block, whose novels about alcoholic ex-cop Matt Scudder I particularly enjoy, used to write a recurring column for Writer's Digest. These columns have been cobbled together into a number of books, one of which I especially like: Telling Lies For Fun & Profit. And in one chapter, Block addresses why people write.

Some people do it for fun, never hoping to be published. Block calls these people "Sunday writers." They enjoy the mental exercise writing offers, but have no realistic hope of their work getting published. They haven't quit their day job, nor do they have any such intention.

Contrast this group with the serious writers, the ones for whom publication of their work is the ultimate goal. James Scott Bell has repeatedly said to this latter group, people who hope to produce publishable work and even--gasp--make some money out of it, that they need to write a certain amount on a regular basis. He encourages them to set a word count for the day or week and keep their rear ends in the chair and their fingers on the keyboard until they reach it. This, he implies, marks the serious writer.

I'm not sure where I fit into this spectrum. I don't write every day (sorry, Jim Bell), but I do want my writing to be shared with others through publication (sorry, Larry Block). I've worked out my own schedule, although from time to time I have to rethink it (and justify it to myself). The lesson here seems pretty clear--what works for one writer doesn't work for all of us. So maybe we should figure out what works and concentrate on that.

Do you fall into one of these categories? Or do you have your own reason for writing and your own lifestyle to go with it? I'd like to hear.

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5 comments:

Patricia Bradley said...

when I'm under deadline I write every day. When I'm not I still write most days but I feel free to do other things.

Patricia Bradley said...

Oh and I probably won't buy Lawrence's book. I think I have every article he ever wrote. Lol

Richard Mabry said...

Patricia, your approach to writing is pretty much the same as mine. As for Block's books, I like his Bernie Rhodenbar stories and his Matt Scudder novels. His books on writing are extremely entertaining as well as informative.
Thanks for leaving a comment.

Gail Kittleson said...

This is a great topic, Richard. I'm kind of eclectic, I guess, when I consider the options you pose. I do feel a call to write, and definitely want readers. Also, being paid for all these hours would be pleasant--but so far, not being paid doesn't seem to stop me!

I think these answers may have to do with age and recollection: thinking of all the years I didn't write b/c it seemed I had nothing of value to say motivates me to go at it regularly now. For what it's worth!
Thanks!

Richard Mabry said...

Thanks, Gail. I don't think there's a "one size fits all" solution for writers, and I simply wanted to present these two viewpoints to make people think.
Like Block's "Sunday writer," I don't write every day (because life gets in the way). Despite the advice of Jim Bell (whom I respect greatly and from whom I've learned a lot), I don't attack writing with a weekly word count.
But it's nice to have my work published and read by others. So, different strokes for different folks. And eclectic is fine. I appreciate your comment.