The Joy (and Torture) of Putting Words on Paper
Ask anyone who is a serious writer, and that individual will tell you that in many ways it is a very demanding and often lonely vocation or avocation.
I added avocation because one of the mantras writers’ groups try to impress on members is “don’t quit your day job.”
No question now that some writers’ rewards have been quite substantial, both fiction and non-fiction.
Many people want to write. That’s fine. A common remark among retirees is that “Yep. I’ll retire and write that book I’ve always thought about.” Nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all. More power to them.
That’s why for the last few years, I’ve taught fall and spring classes in Lamar’s Continuing Education. The writing program was put together by a writer friend of mine who lives over in Lake Charles. At first, I wasn’t too sure about conducting writing classes, but I decided to give it a shot.
Believe it or not, I have been known to make perhaps one or two smart decisions in my life. Marrying my wife was the smartest, and teaching the class wasn’t a bad one either.
You see, writing is sort of like boxing. When you’re in the ring, there is only one person to save your skin, you. Same with writing except the beatings you take from it don’t bruise your skin or black your eye, only your psyche. And believe me, psyches taken longer to heal than a black eye.
Training as a boxer is lonely and demanding. Writing is lonely and demanding. I doubt if there is a successful boxer or writer out there who won’t admit that more than once, he considered tossing the whole idea in the garbage.
But he didn’t. He hung there, clawing and scratching, fighting the odds, and finally won that first fight or published that first piece of writing.
It’d be nice if at that point, you could say, “Well, that’s it. I can sit back and enjoy what I’ve achieved.”
A boxer can’t; a writer can’t unless the book is a mega-hit like Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind,” or Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
In all honesty, when my first western, “Panhandle Gold”, was published by Avalon in 1991, I secretly expected I might be able to retire.
What a joke!
Dumb me finally figured out that while there was a market for the type of western and mysteries I wrote, the demand was not sufficient for me “to quit my day job.”
My westerns are historical, like those I enjoyed years ago. The mysteries are light whodunits, retro of the forties and fifties.
These are some of the ideas I try to pass on to my writing classes. In doing so, for six weeks twice a year, I have the privilege to talk and discuss writing with other writers.
I’ve kept up with some of the writers with whom I’ve helped with their craft. They come from every walk of life. One gentleman is in construction, and he recently placed in the top ten percent of the screenplay competition at the Austin Screenwriters Conference. He interviewed with several Hollywood producers. I haven’t had the chance to contact him, but he could have a contract by now.(hope he doesn’t forget me)
One very talented woman gave me the good news a few days ago her book was going to the publisher, while another, one of her critique partners, has completed her novel. It is satisfying to know that I contributed a tad to some person’s success.
While some from the classes continue writing, sadly, many give up. And I can understand why. They write to be published, but after numerous rejections, frustration, then aggravation sets in. Finally, they just throw up their hands and say the heck with it.
You’ve got to be bull-headed about it, convinced of your own capabilities, and the likelihood of success down the road.
A friend of mine, now deceased, Bill Johnstone, wrote for seven years without being published. “I got mad,” he said. “And swore I wouldn’t quit.” He didn’t, having published well over three hundred westerns, horrors, and action adventures.
All it took was guts.
If you’re interested in the writing schedule for this year, take a look at my blogspot or email me at email@example.com or go to www.kentconwell.blogspot.com. Look for my Aug. 21 blog.
Or call Rhonda at 880-2233.
Oh, yeah, my first class begins September 14.