Always Writing

I’m laughing at myself. Well, chuckling, anyway. I’ve often railed against the foolish comment, “A writer writes. Always.” For one thing, “always writing” is a physical impossibility — you also have to eat, sleep, work, do at least a minimum of household and personal chores. For another, spending all your time writing gives you nothing to write about because you are writing, not living. (Though some people would argue that writing is living.).

Of course, if you accept a broader definition of writing that would include living, thinking, outlining, researching, learning the craft, promoting, then yes, a writer spends much of his or her time writing. But still, that does not have the same meaning as “A writer writes. Always.”

So why is this amusing me today? Well, I’d planned to spend the past few days going through all my grief blog posts and my email responses to messages from fans and supporters to glean what bits of wisdom I can for my new book on grief, and I’ve only managed to get through part of the correspondence. Haven’t even started rereading the hundreds and hundreds of blog posts I wrote on the subject of grief.

Apparently, while denying that a writer always writes, I’ve been always writing.

It turns out this is a good thing. I’ve forgotten so much of what I’ve said during the eight years I’ve spent writing about grief. (Not surprising since most of it was stream of consciousness more than long thought theories.) Even though it’s painful visiting the past, many salient points have been buried beneath all those words, and those points need to be considered for inclusion in the book.

For example, in response to a fellow who said he didn’t know how to forgive himself for the things he’d written to his mate during an argument. I wrote, “Don’t forgive yourself,” which shocked the heck out of him because the advice goes against everything we are taught and everything we believe.

I’d completely forgotten this exchange, and yet, it’s true. Why should he or any of us forgive ourselves for things we said while in a living relationship? The only thing wrong is that his mate died. If death hadn’t intervened, they would have made up, and life would have gone on. But life didn’t go on. Death did. We so often think we are the villains of our life, and yet death is there off to the side, waving its bloody hands and yelling, “Me. Me.”

Well, here I am, adding more words to an already overloaded gallery of words instead of tackling the dreaded task of revisiting my grief. But what else can you expect from a writer who seems to be always writing?

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

How do you juggle the promotional aspects with the actual writing?

RRBookThree SecretsI haven’t been juggling the promotional aspects with the actual writing. I’ve been concentrating mainly on promotion. I have a one-track mind, and for now I am focused on figuring out how to get my books to really take off. I don’t see why millions of people can’t enjoy my books (though so far, they don’t seem to agree). What writing I do falls under the category of promotion, such as blogging and keeping up with my chapters in Rubicon Ranch, the mystery serialization that several of us Second Wind authors are collaborating to write online. You can find the ongoing story here: Rubicon Ranch.

Here are some responses from other authors about how they juggle promotion and writing. The comments are taken from interviews posted at Pat Bertram Introduces . . .

From an interview with P.I. Barrington, Author of Isadora DayStar

Promoting and writing? That’s the REAL trick of publishing today. Writing takes time, but for me at least, promotion is constant and at times overwhelming!

From an interview with Beth Groundwater, Author of “A Real Basket Case”

Promotion is something that is ongoing, and which ramps up around the time of each release (every spring and fall for the next two years, at least). I try to focus on the writing and editing I need to get done each week first, then work on promotion later in the day or later in the week after I’ve finished the writing I need to do to meet my deadlines. I have to be very organized and give myself weekly goals to stay on track..

From an interview with Dale Cozort, Author of “Exchange

I tend to do marketing in blocks of time rather than trying to do it at the same time as writing. I have writing days, editing days and marketing days. That fits my somewhat obsessive personality. I’m not sure if it’s the most effective way to get things done.

From an interview with Christine Lindsay, Author of Shadowed in Silk

The marketing and promotional aspects are awful. I love talking to people and making friends, but it’s not easy to always be talking about myself. The phrase “I must decrease in order for Him (the Lord) to increase”  is running through my head quite a bit these days as I try to do my part in the marketing of my novel. It’s not just me that it affects, so I must do my part. But I hope I never sound pushy, but that I encourage someone in everything I say or write.

What about you? How do you juggle the promotional aspects with the actual writing?

(If you’d like me to interview you, please check out my author questionnaire http://patbertram.wordpress.com/author-questionnaire/ and follow the instruction.)

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

What advice you would give to an aspiring author?

My advice to aspiring authors varies depending on how cynical I am about the book business on a given day.

When I’m philosophical, I tell aspiring writers:

A book begins with a single word. Many novice writers get intimidated by the thought of writing an entire book, but all you ever need to write is one word. I know that’s not much of a goal, but in the end, it is the only goal. That’s how every book all through the ages got written — one word at a time. By stringing single words together, you get sentences, then paragraphs, pages, chapters, an entire book.

When I want to be encouraging, I tell aspiring writers:

Write your book. Rewrite it. Edit it Re edit it. Study the publishing business. Learn everything you can about good prose, story elements, promotion. With so many millions of people out there who have written a book or who want to write a book, the competition is fierce. A writer does not attain maturity as a writer until he or she has written 1,000,000 words. (I’m only halfway there.) So write. Your next book might be the one that captures people’s imaginations and catapults you into fame and fortune. Not writing another book guarantees you will never will reach that goal. It also keeps you from doing what you were meant to do.

When I’m cynical, I tell aspiring writers:

If you aspire to be a writer, write. That’s all it takes.

If you aspire to be a good writer, write — and read. Read how-to books about writing and read good books to absorb good writing.

If you aspire to be a bestselling writer, write, read — and gather luck. Less than 1% of 1% of writers ever attain that status.

Here are some responses from other authors about advice they give to aspiring writers. The comments are taken from interviews posted at Pat Bertram Introduces . . .

From an interview with Polly Iyer, Author of “Hooked”:

You’ve heard it before. Keep at it. Period.

From an interview with Sandy Nathan, Author of Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could

You’ll make more money as a brain surgeon.

From an interview with S. M. Senden, author of “Clara’s Wish”

Write from a place of knowing. Bring your experiences to what you write; be willing to invest a piece of yourself in your writing so it will be real to the reader.

From an interview with Tom Rizzo, Author of “Last Stand At Bitter Creek”

Read—not only for enjoyment. Treat your reading as a study lab, taking note of how the writer lures you into the story, how characters are introduced, and what makes you like or despise them. Reading soaks the brain with ideas and possibilities. And write, of course. Don’t wait for inspiration. Just write.

What about you? What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

(If you’d like me to interview you, please check out my author questionnaire http://patbertram.wordpress.com/author-questionnaire/ and follow the instruction.)

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Speaking of Writers . . .

Today was my day at the Second Wind Publishing Blog, and I posted an article entitled: “What Do You Call an Unpublished Writer?” If the truth be told, it’s a reworking of a bloggery I wrote over a year ago, but back then only a few people read it, so it’s practically brand new. What is also new (or rather eternally fresh) is that particular question, and it got me to thinking how only in the arts do people categorize themselves by their aspirations not their jobs. How many self-named actors in Hollywood or New York are restaurant workers with a few bit parts on their resumes and a head full of dreams?

It seems that writers, even more than actors, struggle with this identity. When do we become writers? When do we become authors? When can we call ourselves professional writers or novelists? It seems there are many steps on the path to becoming a writer, or at least to being able to call ourselves writers, and we have all sorts of definitions to prove that we are writers and other lesser beings are not. A writer writes — always. A writer has a compulsion to write. A writer . . . well, you get the picture. I have never been able to use such adages to define myself. I don’t write always. I don’t have a compulsion to write — it’s a choice.

I do know one thing, a writer does write some of the time. If a person has a novel in their head but nowhere else, that person might be a storyteller (not a bad title in itself) but not a writer. As for the rest of it, does it matter? Perhaps on the internet, where we are whatever we say we are, it makes a difference, but when we are alone with our words and our stories, we are simply being. Not being writers, but being the creat(e)ures we were meant to be.

A Writer Writes. Always?

A writer writes. Always.

Or so they say. (Whoever “they” are.) Many professional authors write for six months a year and spend the other six months promoting. This does not make such writers less than those who doggedly sit down every day and churn out a quota of words. A writer writes, of course. But always? So much goes into writing — thinking, outlining, researching, learning the craft — that it’s hard to tell when a writer is not working. 

I’m one of those writers who carry on imaginary conversations with my characters. I always plan to jot  down these conversations , but I usually have them when I am out walking, and by the time I get home, most of them are out of my head. A lot comes back when I sit down to write, and some of those conversations end up in the story.  Are these conversations writing? Of course not. But they are part of the writing process.  It is the process, the focus– getting into the story and staying there, keeping it in the back of our minds when we are doing other things, filtering our lives through the mesh of the story — that makes us writers, not simply word counts. 

Does writing this article count as “a writer writes; always”? Probably not. But I am writing, and writing this blog helps me focus my thoughts. Is editing considered writing? I don’t know. Still, I’ve been going through my finished manuscripts once more, taking out all the bits that fail to support the focus of the story, and  now those novels are better focused on the theme. But that editing cuts into my writing time. Does researching book marketing techniques count as writing? I doubt it, but writers who intend to be published one day need to know how to promote their book. All these things that take me away from my work-in-progress help focus my life around writing. Help focus my attention on writing. 

Maybe a better way of describing a writer is” a writer writes, and when a writer isn’t writing, a writer is focused on writing.”

A Writer Writes. Whenever.

“A writer writes. Always.” Says who? Disregarding the physical impossibility — besides writing, one has to eat, sleep, work, do at least a minimum of household and personal chores — this adage simplifies what is a complicated process. Sure a writer writes, that is axiomatic, but every writer is different, and each must find his or her own way.

Writing, like life, is about strengths and weaknesses, and if you don’t find yours, you miss out. Perhaps you are naturally disciplined, in which case you are one of the always writing writers. Perhaps you are naturally undisciplined, in which case you should be one of the always writing writers. But most of us fall somewhere in between: disciplined when we need or want to be, rather lazy the rest of the time. Sticking to a writing schedule doesn’t make a writer, it’s what you write and how you write it that makes you a writer.

Unless you’re a published writer (if you are, will you introduce me to your agent?) or have firm expectations of being one, there is no reason except desire to adhere to a strict writing schedule. Perhaps if you are new to the game it would be a good idea to write at the same time every day for a while to get you in the habit of writing, but once you’ve completed a novel, you’ve proven you can do it, so what’s the point of forcing yourself? It should be fun, and it’s not fun doing something you have to do just because it’s time to do it. The one caveat is to make certain you write enough so you don’t lose the ability or the interest.

I know this goes against all the advice you hear, not just about a writer always writing, but also about needing to act like a professional in order to be a professional. You’re not a professional, and when the time comes, you will act like a professional, but until then it’s important to learn to write, to live so you will have something to write about, to think about what you want to say.

And it’s important to write, because a writer writes. Whenever.