Expectation vs. Reality for writers
A beginners guide to writing and storytelling
Every time I watch the Charles Bukowski documentary "Born into this" I think:
What if I'd not studied chemistry but lived as a writer?
What if I had parents who were writers or artists?
Would I have become a writing hobo or sold my soul to a patron?
Why did I not follow Hanks way?
For me, the romanticized way of a writers life is full of drinking, womanizing and traveling. Writing on my days off, when I withdraw from social life. Getting published, read and criticized. Debating my words and opinions without explaining them. Attending talk shows on TV and radio and doing fun stuff with other like-minded people. Being invited to reading publicly all over the world and meeting interesting people. Always reading, always having new ideas and collaborating with artists.
That's my expectations of a writer’s, an artist’s life. However, my life as a writer looks very very different. Why is that not my life? Why am I not even pursuing this life?
I am no nomad writer
Before I got married, I tried to live and write as a (digital) nomad. I traveled here and there. However, I did not find a place where I got inspired to stay longer and write. Strangely, there were only few places that inspired me and made me write or where I had good ideas - but maybe it wasn’t the place but the fact that I wrote daily at that time that inspired me. However, the instability of the situation as a “nomad” did not help me to find peace. All seems exciting in the beginning, but the deeper meaning of all things lie in the reflection thereof. For that you need peace - and peace is found in a “home” where you can be yourself, reflect, read and discuss. Extracting deeper meaning and communicating a simple truth - that is what excellent literature is all about!
Writing high on poetry
Alcohol or drugs never inspired me. They brought out the worst of me as they were amplifying my baseline feeling. It can be fun when you are with fun people, but it can turn against you when you have issues. You won’t find answers or turn the initial feeling. I never found a special insight except loneliness and desperation when I was drunk or high. I never drink heavily alone. I never get high alone. Only discussing with similar-minded people and traveling to exciting places can keep my interest high. Books can inspire me, some chats and ideas. I could not easily write a novel on the road. Just poetry, situations kept and enclosed in words. Feelings and associations only accessible to me - for you, they are probably nothing, just lame banality. Therefore, I keep these poems for me. For now.
Café storytelling on the clock
Writing and storytelling is easiest for me in a place I feel comfortable - and is not at home. At home, I cannot concentrate easily (but I can if I have to): I start cleaning, cooking or surf the nirvana. A place that is not especially interesting and where I cannot do anything else than write or read, is the perfect place to write. A café. The train at night. Or I mark a certain time and do a 2 hour writing marathon with loud music (becoming merely background as soon as I am inside my story work). Like, from 9-11pm. Start and stop with a timer.
Publishing isn't for the faint-hearted writer
By now, I never got a novel published. Just a few short stories. I even won an award! But I am not a household name and I probably will never be. Probably I did not get published because of bad writing. Maybe because my storytelling was boring. or it just was not the right idea at the right time. I won't write crime or sexy vampire novels to please the crowd. Sometimes they tell you why they did not like your manuscript. Most of the time, they don't. I do not take it personally - they want to make money, publishing is a business after all. Asking a “household name” to have a book written seems fair enough - a “name” also started at a point where they had to fight their way up - but probably not as a writer. Like the music industry, it seems also the writing industry is shifting towards self-publishing which has more pros then cons (in my humble opinion).
When you are writing for a publisher, it may not all be sunshine and roses: they might want to change your writing or storytelling (happy endings to please the crowd?- Never!); they might create a book cover that is not to your taste; they might market it in a way you disapprove (How is “The Brothers Karamazov” a crime novel?). Or they do not market it at all! They provide the costly business like editors, cover designers and all that comes with printing and selling (if you like it or not). So, if you do not want to learn how to self-publish, you play by their rules. Or you do not play at all.
Self-Publishing - total independence as a writer
Nowadays, you can self-publish for free via Amazon (Kdp). In reality, you should at least pay for a professional editor. If you suck at creating a good book cover, then that should be outsourced as well. If you prefer a printing company that produces better-quality books (and hardcovers) you better use BoD or Ingram Spark where you pay a “small” fee for your self publishing (and subsequent changes). I always recommend to get your own ISBN, if you take the one your are given "for free", your work is always connected to the above mentioned companies as the publisher. Most of the time it probably does not matter - it only matters when "money” is involved. When you have your own ISBN, you are the sole publisher of your work with all the creative freedom you like!
When you are able to edit, format and upload, and create your own cover, then you can self-publish for free on kdp. You can get cheap reviewer's copies or print samples to check the quality. You can change and upload as many times as you like for free (BoD and Ingram Spark ask additional fees). The finished book is not as pretty as with the above mentioned companies and they do not provide hard cover books, just ebooks and paperbacks.
In my humble opinion, it’s the content that counts anyway. A reminder: do not judge a book by its cover!
success equals money - or contentment?
When you think of success, you usually only see the outcome: the star! What it actually takes to get there, not many are willing to do. Instead, they give up! Hustling, selling yourself, lack of sleep, no hope and no money. Success, after all, is just one of many possible outcomes. It could also be the mental asylum or living on the street, to name a few.
As an author, you rarely find fame. you might be on an podcast, give an interview or hold (self-organized, Facebook,...) readings. Self-marketing is tough. What is called “successful” might be a matter of interpretation. “Luck” kicks in when you throw yourself out there and increase the possibility of being found. An effective marketing strategy and experience help a lot. Until then, it is a lot of trial and error, persuasion and help by big-hearted people.
Growing an audience with storytelling
Growing an audience is like growing a plant. It is not the plants fault, when it does not grow.
I write because I love writing, good storytelling and I want to share it. Talk about my ideas. Discuss contemporary topics. Everything else becomes a bonus. I am never envious of other peoples success - because they either deserved it or got lucky (right time, right place) - I am happy for them either way and it could mean for you and me that we will be successful too.
When we work hard enough, or get f*cking lucky!
Helping INDIE ARTISTS - call to action!
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