Monday, July 22, 2013

Dammit, Jim, I'm a Writer, Not a Bricklayer!

By Aaron Michael Ritchey

This is the reality of my life. Last month on the PPW blog, I wrote a rousing post on Indie pubbing, giving my stories to the world no matter! It was all so full speed ahead, take no prisoners, damn the torpedoes, or in the words of that lovely workaholic polygamist Dagny Taggert, GET OUT OF MY WAY!
This month, not really feeling it. My current work in progress is too long, too unmarketable, too dripping with tears and complications. All my query letters are going unanswered. I’d rather take a physical beating than email silence from the traditional publishing industry. I’m working with an editor at a small press, but I don’t have a contract yet. Writing feels like a chore, not just a little chore, but like cleaning out the Augean stables. Marketing, even worse. More like when Hercules had to shoulder the world for Atlas to get the apples of the Hesperides. My website is out of date and lonely. I’m off track shopping projects around. Things feel bleak.
I’m so not Hercules at this point. Nor very Atlas Shrugged. I still can mix metaphors, so I got that going for me.

Do I still show up and write and do the marketing stuff? Yes. Do I do it overjoyed and inspired? Hardly. Writing is a vocation, like being a priest or a monk or a nun. It takes stupid amounts of self-discipline. Writing is less divine act of sacred storytelling, more bricklaying. Does the bricklayer lay bricks with joy and inspiration in his\her heart? Some days, probably, other days, it’s just mortar, baby, just one brick at a time.
I was talking with a friend about all this, when it hit me. I’m impatient. I want glory, fame, truckloads of greenback dollar bills, right now. I don’t want to march anymore like a good little writerly soldier. I wanna' fly to Olympus on my very own gold-plated Pegasus. I want Harry Potter amounts of success, and I want it yesterday. I want adoration, damn you.

So I say all that, loudly, in public. People stare, and my friend says, “What would that give you?”
Big pause. Even if I could quit my day job, live the dream, write full-time, would everyday still shine like diamonds, which are forever? No. Would I be able to write all the books I want to write? No. What would change? Maybe I’d get some adoration, but I’d also get packs of critics chewing on my heart.

So I go back to the basics. Writing is its own reward. Writing is hard, but it’s the hard that makes it good. My job is to write stories and get them out into the world. Which means laying one word next to another next to another. Which means sending out the emails to the abyss the traditional publishing industry is becoming, a void where query letters go to die.
It’s so not sexy. It’s so not my dreams of riches and praise. It is what it is. What else should I be doing with my time? Yes, if I didn’t write, I could get caught up on movies, but I’ve been watching a lot of summer movies, and mostly, they are all very explosion-y. Are they worth the precious minutes of my life? Not really.

Writing is worth the time I spend on it. In the end, writing is a gift to the world. Might just be a small gift, but it’s still a gift.

About the Writer: YA Paranormal author Aaron Michael 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. Most recently, his work appears in the steampunk anthology The Penny Dread Tales Volume III and in the latest issue of Electric Spec.


  1. This was perfect. Sometimes I just need to hear all this from someone a little further down the road, a little more experienced that it's not easy. Quit expecting it to be and be sure to stay grounded in why I do choose to write. I adore you for this post. How's that? Thanks.

  2. Great post! I like your bricklayer analogy. (And awesome title, BTW.) It's so easy to get caught up in the drudgery part of writing and let it get us down. The same thing day in and day out, will I ever get out of this writing hole, will anyone ever read my words, and worse, will anyone ever care? As writers, it's not for us to clamor for an audience (although of course we all do) but to clamor for the stories that are meant to be birthed into the world through us. And that becomes a culmination of doing the work, day in and day out, and finding joy in that process when you can.

  3. Hurray! I'm adored! And yeah, find joy along the way. Okay, I'll go look for Joy. Where did she go? Ha, if I can't blind you with my brilliance, I'll sicken you with puns. Thanks for commenting!

  4. Aaron, you once again have inspired me. I find myself nodding along with your points. It's true. People get lost in the search sometimes and forget that the end goal is merely to be right there, maybe at a nicer desk in a nicer house, but what does that matter when it comes down to your words and your computer? Well said, my friend.

  5. Aaron, this post is full of wisdom. Dammit, Jim, you are a writer. I would suggest that, yes, writing is your gift to the world, but it's also a gift to yourself.


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