Thursday, July 12, 2012

How to Be a Successful Writer by (Not) Snorting Meth by Aaron Ritchey

I used to balk at the idea that all writers had to be drug addicts and alcoholics, or sex addicts, or have a life-ravaging gambling addiction, or three rows of Oreo cookies in one sitting.  With a gallon of whole fat milk, of course.  Now, it all makes perfect sense to me.  It’s not so much that all those things nurture our creative juices—Samuel Taylor Coleridge only wrote half of “Kubla Khan” because when he woke up from his opium dream, someone interrupted him.  Stupid someone.

No, I think it’s because writers have to find some way to deal with the terror and emotional-Cuisinart that is the writing game, and many have sought out less than healthy medicators.   I’ve been talking to writers, interviewing writers, stalking writers, seriously, for about six years now, and I’ve met rock stars and I’ve met war veterans who have said that the writing game is hard.  Like, really hard.  One woman said that singing on stage in front of a hostile audience is easier than writing books and trying to peddle them.

So it makes perfect sense why a writer would start snorting meth to deal with the trauma.  That’s the problem, however.  Crippling addictions can, well, cripple us.  So don’t do meth.  Not even once.  Have you seen those ads?  I must be getting old because they terrify me.

So how do we handle the immense pressures of being a writer without getting loaded?

How about we do a little list – ways of handling the stress of writing without landing in jail or detox:

1.  Have writer friends and talk to writer friends about your trauma – this helps with both your writing and the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder you will get from writing.

2.  Know that we’ve all felt the fear and horror and trepidation you are feeling.  All writers struggle, some more than others.  If you ever have to choose between having Edgar Allan Poe’s life and Stephenie Meyer’s life, go with Stephenie Meyer.  Trust me.

3.  Walk through your fear to the other side.  There is another side.  Most of the time, when I’m afraid to do something, once I start, it’s not so bad.  Do this enough, and this gets easier and easier and easier.  And remember, to paraphrase Goethe, there is genius in beginnings.

4.  Measure success in trying, not succeeding.  Every word you write is a success.  Every query you send out is a success.  Frak Yoda and that whole do or do not stuff.  There is genius in trying.

5.  Copy other people.  Mimic them.  Dress up as them.  I find solace in spending my day as a cloned sheep every now and then.  Find successful writers and do what they do.  Probably shouldn’t plagiarize, but if there is a writer you love who writes naked under cherry trees, find a cherry tree, strip, and give me twenty (pages).

6.  Be gentle with yourself and take care of yourself.  The other day I blew off writing to watch Adam Sandler’s Mr. Deeds.  A bad movie that was good for my soul.  Love that Winona Ryder.

7.  Out of the list above in the first paragraph, pick one addiction, pretend you have it, and go to the appropriate 12 step program and take notes.  Addicts in recovery have to learn how to handle negative emotions, and the writing game is full of negative emotions—envy, resentment, frustration, and fear.

8.  And remember, writing is hard.  No matter what anyone says.  I’ve heard people laugh that writing is hard.  They think coal mining is harder.  I’ve not coal mined, but you get paid hourly to coal mine, right?  And you probably won’t have your coal mining judged by strangers, right?  And if you are actively coal mining, I would imagine you will get some coal, right?  Sounds like writing is harder to me.  Uh oh, I’ve just alienated coal miners.  I wouldn’t imagine coal miners have to worry about alienating their potential market when they are coal mining.  I’ve said enough.

Don’t do meth.  Follow my list.  And we’ll get to the other side of our fear together. 

About the Writer:  YA Paranormal author Aaron Ritchey has penned a dozen manuscripts in his 20 years as a writer.  When he isn’t slapping around his muse, Aaron cycles to look fabulous, works in medical technologies, and keeps his family in silks and furs.  His first novel, The Never Prayer, hit the streets on March 29, 2012.