“Pros are pros because they do it” is horrible ableist and classist language, not motivational speaking.
AMBER LOVE 25-APR-2016 Yesterday on Twitter, I made the conscious decision to quote a tweet by prolific, successful author Joe Lansdale, someone I used to admire for his approach to life and work. Lansdale has a specific routine about the hours of his day which are dedicated to writing and other hours marked for his practice of martial arts. I always thought that was a pretty cool balance and thought, maybe, just maybe, it’s possible.
As author Adam Christopher said and as I’ve heard Stephen King say, good writers also schedule reading time as part of their work day. Just because you’re reading something you enjoy, doesn’t mean it isn’t part of the work. Awesome! Experienced veterans of the business sound like they’re giving permission to take things that were hobbies and incorporate them into skill building hours for people to become better writers.
- the time of writing/thinking/plotting
- time to attend to your body
- time to stimulate your mind
WHAT ARE THESE SUCCESSFUL AUTHORS NOT ADDRESSING:
To be addressed: Necessities like food, day job, family, taking care of the house and car, walking the dog, cleaning the cat box, making all kinds of annoying calls to doctors or agencies, banking transactions, etc. are all things that need to be done, but often are unexamined when people discuss “work hours.” One thing for sure, King goes in to details about his dirt poor life growing up and before he sold his first book – you can check it out in his On Writing book. He, like J.K. Rowling, are motivational and inspiring, not insulting when they talk about getting their big break.
Why? Well, there are plenty of women and underpaid people who can lecture you about it. The “chores” are things that are often unpaid and often the burden of women. About every six months there’s another study released backing this up which gets picked up by major publications. This work is the stuff that needs to be done before writing.
AFTER YOU’VE DONE THINGS REQUIRED TO LIVE:
Do you know The Spoon Theory? Perhaps you’ve seen people say they are all out of spoons and you didn’t know what that meant. It’s not about having a pile of used dirty spoons in the sink. It’s a metaphor whose history is written on ButYouDontLookSick.com. My friends who also suffer from invisible diseases or conditions also refer to the amount of spoons they have left for getting through their day. It’s entered our language. If it takes a healthy person “one spoon’s worth of effort” to do a task, it may take someone else “eight spoons” because of exhaustion, pain, ability or lack thereof, or mental processes.
When successful authors answer the question, “how do you handle writers’ block?” there are countless answers. I’ve seen authors say they don’t believe in it while others will offer a list of helpful tips like taking a walk, working on something else to redirect the brain (The Shower Principle – the best ideas come to you in the shower when you’re not thinking about the task), or whatever else works for them.
I’ve asked guests of Vodka O’Clock whether they believe in creative block. I’ve heard both sides of the debate. What I never had before was a professional say directly to fans that there’s no such thing as creative block because it means you’re lazy, undedicated, and don’t want the writing/creative career bad enough otherwise, you’d be at your workspace making it all happen. This is precisely what occurred yesterday on Twitter in the Lansdale conversation with him and the off-shoots of his supporters which sprouted other professionals in literature and comics to have their own threads. While Lansdale may not have used the word “lazy” himself, he did say it was a lack of dedication which honestly, is not any better in terms of phrasing.
People need to be dedicated to survival before writing. I found several people to unfollow, let me tell you. People I used to admire for “making it.” The thing is, they were all white men and that might not be a correlating factor, but it was an observation I found rather interesting. It could mean something, but might not.
Fortunately for me, my Twitter friend @outofmyplanet took the role of internet champion that day. She challenged Lansdale and his legion of followers directly while having conversation threads with other women I follow on Twitter like @TiredFairy and @amaditalks.
WHEN THEY DON’T PAY IT FORWARD
What saddened me really wasn’t that this one famous author had these feelings that creative block doesn’t come from depression and anxiety episodes can be cured by just “wanting it badly enough,” but that I saw my peers agreeing. I saw people who know me well, who have been in writers’ workshops with me, say they agree that the way to success is dedication to the craft and never once recognizing privilege of financial class, education, opportunities, and knowing the right people.
None of my author friends have ever offered to introduce me to their agents, for example. I’ve also had to quit any workshops that aren’t free, for another example. I also went to college back in the 90s so my internship experience is totally worthless and not going to get me in the door anywhere.
Opportunities are absolutely necessary to launch any career.
Fortunately, because of Twitter and some after parties of conventions where I didn’t have badges, I met a few people like Thomas Pluck and Neliza Drew who have helped me considerably. That took a lot of effort and kindness. I had to drive several hours to upstate New York to crash the Bouchercon party; I had to stay in someone’s hotel room where they didn’t ask me to pay for half; and I do whatever I can for them because I believe in their work too.
Let me share links to my entries where I “used up all my spoons” and tried to accomplish things that would have been normal or easy for other people:
On the day of this Twitter debate, I was on day two of dealing with another bug bite and stress reaction with my skin. All it takes is one bite and my body kicks into overdrive spreading itchy welts, bloated and tight skin, hot sensations, and overall feeling pretty miserable because I imagine taking a sharp blade and cutting out my soul so it can be free from this body and continue our existence, I don’t know, maybe in a robot or something. In other words, few spoons.
MORE LACK OF UNDERSTANDING
First of all, someone with the ability to tweet in 140 characters is nothing at all like the effort it takes to build a world and fictional characters and draft a plot in 200-300 pages. Telling someone if they can tweet, they can write, is incredibly dismissive and insulting too.
What it also implied in this conversation with the Lansdale supporters is that @outofmyplanet (who’s real image is shown in her current avatar) is an “angry” black woman. The tweets specifically tried to make her sound like a typical woman being irrational and ya know she’s black so she must also be “angry” like she’s chasing them out of her Twitter yard with a belt. It was grossly insulting.
I take particular offense to comic book writer Cullen Bunn’s “make sacrifices” if you want it badly enough remark. People can make some reasonable choices such as not going to the movies and using the two hours for writing, sure; but people cannot and should not sacrifice things that are required to live in order to write.
My goal is not to “correct” an author like Lansdale into getting them to believe that creative block is very real and does in fact exist, but rather something that I think would be more meaningful. My goal is that people can keep their belief but answer fans more politely or follow a path that would be motivational not condescending and offensive.
Instead of saying, “Pros are pros because they do it,” or “You’re right. You can’t do it,” one could say, “You need to identify what is holding you back. Address it and know that your project will be there when you’re ready.”
Below is a Storify which is not a fully complete collection. This conversation went on all day so I mostly selected @outofmyplanet’s tweets and dumped my own tweets at the end so you can see how it all began. And don’t forget to click the “next page” button to keep reading.