Every writer knows at least one person who has been writing a book for several years, if not for the duration of their entire life. Isn’t there a saying about that, in fact? There’s a novel in everyone?
I’ve met a lot of these people. One in particular has been working on the world’s greatest literary masterpiece for the last twenty-two years. Recently, she sent me an email to let me know that she was having trouble getting through my book because it was “so poorly written.” My response: “Which one? I’ve published twenty-one of them.” (It happened to be a book from my sole print published series, as print is all she will read.)
In that moment, I acknowledged an epiphany that had been tickling my brain for attention for quite some time. There are two kinds of authors in this world. The first consists of arm-chair worshipers of the printed word, so devout in their antiquated study of letters, they revere them to the point of not wanting to touch them. Words are sacred and must not be penned by anyone but the most worthy and preferably holy. And so, it’s best not to pen them at all.
And this is exactly what they do. They trudge through life with pen in fist, notebook under one arm, and a book bag filled with Nabokov and Tolstoy – not writing a single readable word.
The second kind of author is very simply: The writer.
I should make it clear that what I consider to be a true writer is also a gifted writer, that special person blessed by the inexplicable ability to take the alphabet by the balls and force it to make absolute and unequivocal sense.
The writer is not an individual concerned with the shiny laminated cover of a newly born hardback novel. This is not that scholarly mumbler who dreams of high-brow edits amidst coffee stains, tobacco and absinthe. This is not a Tolstoy reader.
This is the individual who can not wake without penning a dream, who can not go anywhere – anywhere at all – without a chewed writing utensil and a clean, promising sheet of paper. And if he or she is caught without them? This is the individual who will literally bother a complete stranger for them or even go so far as to purchase a new pen or pencil on the spot in order to write down a few precious, un-ignorable words.
This is the person with seventy-two journals lining their shelves, for whom the greatest known compliment in the world has nothing to do with clothing or hair or body shape but is that elusive kind word having to do with their written work. This is the fevered scribbler, the paramount paragrapher.
This is the Marquis de Sade, so possessed by the buzzing, incessant words in his tortured soul, he literally bled them out like demons, using his own red life giving liquid as the ink for the writing that spared him a worse death than any French prison might have cast upon him.
A writer does not write as a hobby. It is not a pastime. It is not something we do for lofty dreams of being recalled classically or included in tired English lessons.
Writing, quite frankly, is an obsession.
People often ask me what they can do to become a successful author. Knowing that they’re referring to “being known,” and to “selling big,” I tell them that if they are a gifted writer, it will happen. In this day and age of free press and the electronic book, there will be no other option. A writer will be so distracted by the need to tell their story – nay, their multiple stories – and tell them well, he or she will have no choice but to publish, and publish a lot.
You get enough well-written published books under your belt and guess what? You’re successful.
That other class of author, on the other hand? Will staunchly insist that despite your public success, you yet know nothing about the words you write. Because as they are worshiping those sacred words from afar – you have the words strapped down to your bed and are making love to them like mad.
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