Monday, June 29, 2015

8 Really Stupid Reasons To Be a Writer

The last time I posted here I wrote about ten compelling attributes of a writer, and as promised, this time I'm going to write about 8 Really Stupid Reasons To Be a Writer. Let's get started.

1.  Your sole writing credential is that your first name is Tom, John, or Stephen. Or your last name is Clancy, Grisham, or King. You wouldn't like it if they wrote books just because their names were similar to yours, now would you? Having the same name as Tom Clancy, John Grisham, or Stephen King (or even Tom Grisham, John King, or Stephen Clancy--makes no difference), does not mean you should be a writer (although I'm sure many great writers do have either those first or last names). It doesn't guarantee NY Times bestseller status, though. Believe me, if sharing a name with a famous author would help, instead of Deborah Dee Harper, I'd be writing under Harper Dee.

 On the other hand, don't let it stop you if you happen to have those first, last, or convoluted variations of famous authors' names if you can write. Nobody has a lock on certain names, but as a courtesy to famous authors everywhere and to avoid a lawsuit, I'd avoid using the same names if for no other reason than you don't want them mooching off your fame and fortune! And let's face it, if you can truly write and your name is the same as, or similar to, another writer's name, just make sure readers know which one you are when they buy, glance at, or borrow your book. It's common courtesy. Readers will thank you, the famous authors will thank you, and your attorney will thank you.

2.  Your mother/father/wife/husband/child thinks you can write. If my mother thought I could fly an airplane or perform brain surgery and I knew darned well I couldn't, but did it anyway, would you hitch a ride through the friendly skies with me or lend me your brain for eight to ten hours? (Hint: The answer is "Are you nuts?".) So if you can't write (and you know it), don't. Your strengths lie elsewhere and the world is missing a great pilot or brain surgeon because of it. Don't rob the world.

Turns out dolphins aren't the only slippery creatures in the sea. I used to think I could do what these sea lions do--relax on the rocks, look all blubbery, and doze in the sun. But then I watched some of them fall off their sunny spots in their sleepy, slick-as-a-whistle stupor. Seems that some sea lions (famous sea lions that shall remain nameless) don't want you coming back up onto the rocks once you've taken the plunge and knock you back into the cold ocean.
Don't let that happen to you.
3. Your guidance counselor in tenth grade suggested you should write books for a living based on an essay you wrote in fourth grade on why dolphins are slippery. But let's face it: some guidance counselors will tell kids anything they can to either 1.) get them out of their office, 2.) get through the day, 3.) not hurt their feelings, 4.) not tee-off their dad who's on the school board, or 5.) gain tenure. And let's face it. Some of us are one-hit wonders. I painted a mural on a big slab of cardboard in fourth grade featuring a raccoon family. It wasn't bad for a fourth grader
using an old box as a canvas, even though it looked more like a family of a heretofore undiscovered masked mammal species. But it wasn't enough for me to take up fine art. My fleeting fame lasted through the end of that week when we needed to tape up the box to store Christmas decorations, and I haven't painted anything since. (Side note: my younger sister, Shelley Newman Stevens (www.goldenapplestudio.comis a fine artist. I've often wondered if she just hitched a ride on my raccoon coattails. Hey, Shelley! You owe me... something.)

4.  You enjoy reading and occasionally think to yourself, "I could do that!" Maybe you could. But I've looked at famous gardens and thought the same thing until I tried to do it. It's not just the hard work of preparing the soil and drawing up plans and buying, planting, and taking care of the plants. It's not even the buying up of hundreds of acres of land on which to plant your garden or deciding which gardening boots (the flowered or striped) you need or what color designer gardening trowels and other sharp things you'll need to... do whatever. It's that my heart wouldn't be in it and it would show. My strength in gardening lies in my ability to look at beautiful gardens, not create them. Sometimes our strength lies not in writing books, but rather in buying and enjoying them, then telling others how good or bad they were.

5.  That said, if you read my last post on compelling reasons to be a writer, you'll recall I mentioned that great writers are great readers. So yes, great writers do read. But great readers do not always write. I love to read the Bible, but I wasn't chosen write His Word. Stick to those things at which you excel.

6.  You'd like to wallow in wealth. Let's examine this for a moment. Yes, there are authors who are rich. Very rich. Very, very stinkin' rich. (See #1 for some prime examples.) I should know. I once received a royalty statement that showed I'd made seventeen cents ($.17) in just one three-month period. Yes, you read that right. Seventeen cents. Now I don't tell you this to brag. I know not everyone can haul in that kind of money every three months. It takes long years of study and hard work. But if you do study, work hard, submit, edit, and rewrite for most of your adult life and on into your retirement and up until the day you take your last, labored, gasping breath, sacrificing everything else along the way, perhaps you, too, can achieve this level of recognition and monetary gain.

7. This one is important, so pay attention. I simply don't need the competition. Every single time I walk into a Barnes and Noble or Books-a-Million or even the Walmart magazine/book aisle, I realize there are just too darned many books out there. But here's the problem. I want to add my books to that unbelievably huge pile of already-published books. So I figure (being the genius I am) that the only way to stop other authors from taking up precious shelf space is to discourage them from ever writing in the first place, thereby saving them the hassle and giving me a break.

8. And finally, to end this on a friendly note, be assured that if I had any secrets to just how I made that seventeen cents, I'd share them with you. Alas, I don't. I can only assume it was talent, skill, and the fact that I wrote under the name of Harper Dee.

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