Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Miserable Lot of Complainers We Are

Writers. We're a miserable lot.

It's true. We are. We moan and groan and complain and whine. It's what we do best. Well, other than write, that is.

We complain about the publishing world and form rejects. We complain about why people won't read our stories. We complain about markets going under. We complain about long waits and then complain when we finally hear back from a publication we have so impatiently waited on.

We complain about editing and rewrites. We complain when someone says you should workshop your stories. We complain when an editor actually takes the time to give out constructive criticism instead of sending that aforementioned form rejection. And, why? Because it wasn't what we wanted to hear.

Do you see a theme here?

Wait. It gets better.

We complain about a lack of originality but then don't do anything about it in our own writing. We complain about copycat writers but then turn around and copy them.

We complain about writer's block and them bemoan people when they tell us how they get out of that horrid gray area in most writers' lives.

We complain about guidelines. Double space or single space? Justified or ragged or tabbed? Do we have to use William Shunn's template for submitting stories? (No, but I recommend it—it truly has the professional appearance.) Bios or no bios? Contact information with the introductory letter or on the first page of the story? Headers? Funny—we complain about these things but then don't follow the guidelines, get rejected and then complain about why we got rejected.

Nag. Nag. Nag.

You see, writers are a truly miserable lot. And we love the company. So, let's go complain to all of our writer friends. Or anyone who will listen for that matter.

But, wait. There's more.

The biggest complaint I have heard recently is, believe it or not: How did that person get published? I write better than that person. I can't believe he/she got accepted and I didn't.

Oh, my head hurts.

What gives, people? Seriously. What gives?

Here's some advice from your Uncle AJ. Stop complaining. It doesn't get you anywhere and it makes people want to avoid you. Seriously. Stop complaining. To add to that, stop comparing yourselves to other writers. You are YOU—not King, Barker, Ketchum or Wilson. If you want to write like them, by all means, do so, but please, stop complaining when you can't capture their style. You HPL fans—he's hard to emulate, but it can be done. However, if it doesn't add up, don't whine about it. Try again. And KEEP trying, if that is what you wish to do or how you wish to write.

I like to view comparing ourselves to other writers in a similar way that Rick Warren views ministry. Bear with me here for a second and don't turn away.

"There are two reasons why you should never compare your shape, ministry or the results of your ministry with anyone else. First, you will always be able to find someone who seems to be doing a better job than you and you will become discouraged. Or you will always be able to find someone who doesn't seem as effective and you will get full of pride. Either attitude will take you out of service and rob you of your joy."
--Rick Warren
A Purpose Driven Life

Okay, now listen to me for a second. If you take the above quote and apply it to your writing then you may get more out of it than you think. For the longest time I wanted to write like—you guessed it—Stephen King. But, you know, I'm just not King. I am me. I write like me. It's that simple.

A couple of years ago I really sucked. I mean sucked big time. I had great ideas but when I put them to paper the stories were essentially ruined. Getting published was not even close to a reality.

After some long, thoughtful soul searching, I figured out that by trying to be like King I was actually hurting myself. Then I set out to discover if writing was something I wanted to pursue. There are so many great writers, both professional and amateur and I wondered if I even had a prayer in the market world. Again, I was comparing myself with others. No. No. No. No.

When I decided to be me and learn about the craft of writing I started to grow. I started to get that feeling that the stories don't suck half as bad as they used to. Now, the stories only suck about a third as bad as they used to. I'm happy about that.

There is always going to be writers out there that are better than me. Always. There are always going to be writers out there who are better than you. There's no need to get discouraged about that. There is this gentleman I know who is a much better writer than I am and every time I read one of his stories I think, 'Wow, this guy is good.' That gentleman is Ian Rogers. If you haven't heard of him, you are truly missing out. Look him up. But, I don't let that discourage me. In fact, I analyze a lot of his writing and look at the things at which he is very good at. Some of those things I apply to my own writing. It's a way of learning for me. Ian is just one example of someone who I KNOW is a better writer than I am. There are many, many, many more.

Ah . . . but there are those people I feel I write better than they do. But, I never say it or really think about it. Instead, I like to try and help them in the manner that I have been helped. Encouraging them, pointing out things that I have seen in my own writing that I see in theirs. It's amazing to see some of these people blossom right before my eyes. It's amazing to see them take to something and really work it until they get it right. They do NOT complain. As a matter of fact, one of these guys lets out a Yahoo or a Yippee every time he is rejected. His enthusiasm is contagious and his writing has improved ten fold in the less than a year I have known him. And that has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with him, his drive, determination, enthusiasm and willingness to constantly get better and better with each passing story.

Most of those folks are better writers than I am now!

What does it all boil down to? It's simple. Complaining isn't going to get you anywhere in the world of writing. Writing will get you where you want to go. Working on writing will get you where you want to go. An enthusiastic attitude will get you there. Not so much, however, complaining.

As I said before: Writer's are a miserable lot. We really are. But, if we stop complaining about the state of things in the writing community and start doing something about it, then maybe we wouldn't be so darn miserable.

For now, I'm AJ and I'm out.

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