Monday, July 02, 2012

Review: You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One)

I just finished You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One) by Jeff Goins and I liked it.

I didn't love it, which is fine. I don't think it's the kind of book a person loves. On Writing by Stephen King? That one I loved. But I love King.

This is a short book. It's a fast read. The impact isn't in the time it takes to read it but the time it takes to do the things in it. It was more focused on what I'd call technical writing but that's not right. Writing for magazines, websites etc. Me? I mostly write fiction. I used to write management type posts for a management blog and met some fascinating people in the online management community. Rosa Say is someone I met and whose first book I love: Managing With Aloha. If you're in management now, or hope to be in management in the future I recommend this book without reservation. If I ever got to Hawaii I would be star struck if we met. I'd love to, but am afraid of how foolish I'd look.

I'm supposed to be reviewing You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One) and am talking about everything but. Here's the problem. I don't DO the kind of writing that he talks about a lot. I don't see myself shopping myself out to write an article for a magazine. I realize I'll have to do that at some point if I want to be published. I'll need to find a magazine that carries the kinds of things I write. I could also try my hand at writing the kinds of things they carry. That's the biggest stumbling block I had with the book's advice come to think of it. Early in the book Jeff Goins suggests, I believe, that I write for myself. And then, not a chapter later, he says to describe my audience, and then later he says to figure out how to write for certain people. Granted all of these things are necessary, but they're also contradictory. If I'm writing for me and people like me I know my audience. It's me and people like me. But if I then want to pitch a story about birds to a bird magazine (Is there such a thing? I'm sure there is.) I'll need to read that magazine, read their submission guidelines and write the article for those readers. At some point I'm not writing for me any more. I'm doing what I'm told and cranking out widgets but widgets made of words. I'm not ready to be that kind of hack yet.

I don't mean any disrespect when I say hack. I work in management currently in retail. I'm as hackneyed as they come at that job. I never argue politics or religion when a customer is holding forth on either. I nod sagely, collect their money, try and sell them more with add-on sales, and wait for the next person. I GET what it means to do what you've got to do to get along. But I'm naive enough, new enough to writing to think, "I don't want to do that." Translation: I'll probably not make any money at it because there's no money in writing for people who ARE willing to do that.

There were important things in there though. Things I highlighted with my kindle and will share with you now. They're the gems of the book for naive fiction writers like myself, and technical writers who want to write something people will read so they'll be more than just writers, they'll be published authors.

"You’re ready. Ready enough, anyway." (Location 571: Kindle version)
"The fear of something is always scarier than the thing itself." (Location 277: Kindle version)
The first quote is one I've said to parents who are talking about their first kid. I say to them when they say, "But we're not ready." That they are ready. They're as ready now as they will be later. Nothing can truly prepare you for the changes that'll happen. You're ready enough. You've got jobs. You've got a home. Now, go make that baby! I think the same could be said of writing. You're ready enough... go write that baby!... then go sell it. I guess that's where it sort of falls apart. Not supposed to sell babies are you? You know what I mean.

The second one is true as well. I wanted to ride a motorcycle. I wanted to know HOW to ride a motorcycle but I had an irrational fear that it'd fall on me, pin me, cook my leg as the muffler sizzles my meaty calf into a low carb snack for the carrion eaters that would find me later. My best friend got me into a motorcycle class for my birthday and at the end was a skills test and voila! I had my license. He helped me face my fears and surprise! The fear was worse than the lessons or the riding. I enjoy riding now. Writing is the same as riding. Don't be afraid. Hop up on that bike and write baby write!

I recommend the book. Even the end which is more about whoring yourself out as a writer, and if you want to be an author you gotta do everything but kiss your johns, just like in Pretty Woman, according to this book, even that part's got good advice in it... even for fiction authors.

Go get it. It's worth your money and your time.
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