The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 266
A Strange Day
It’s a strange day when I’m quoting Wolfgang Puck:
“Cooking is like painting or writing a song. Just as there are only so many notes or colors, there are only so many flavors - it's how you combine them that sets you apart.”
But I love that quote!
What sets your writing apart from the rest? Is it even important that it does stand apart from the crowd? Maybe it is enough for you to simply write? It’s all right if that is all you want. Writing simply for the enjoyment of writing is a worthy goal and pursuit, or so it seems to me. If the only person you have entertained with your writing is you, it’s been a good day in my humble opinion.
I started writing as a means of releasing so much “stuff” trapped inside of me. It became a way for me to communicate with others online. I wrote a book, but not for a moment did I think anyone would buy it I wrote articles, and somewhere along that timeline I came to realize that I had a serious passion for writing. It became something I simply had to do.
And so here I am today, quite happy with my decision.
Let’s find out what our colleagues are interested in today, shall we?
Odds and Ends
From Li-Jen: I 've got a few questions to ask.
“Are you particular about the newspaper you read? If so, why? Any favorites?
What are your tips and tricks on researching for the article you want to write about? What are the interesting things you have found out during the process of research, in general?
What do you think about social problems these days? Any opinions on how to make a change?”
Well that was an interesting array of questions, Li-Jen.
I loved the old days when I would sit down on a Sunday morning and read the News Tribune. I haven’t done that for a long time. Now I scan the various online newspapers throughout the day, trying to catch the major stories . . . but it’s just not the same, you know?
I have no tips, or tricks, for researching an article, other than this one: make sure you confirm your facts through at least two respected sources. The online world is filled with false information, so make sure your facts are actually facts.
The most interesting information I found while researching for one of my books with general information about the Vietnam War. I was in college during that time, and I thought I knew about it, but it turns out I had much to learn. Currently I’m researching World War 2. No, I don’t have a fascination with war, but I do have a fascination with human beings. I want to try and understand the war mentality. I want to understand what it must feel like to be in a war. If I can capture those feelings perhaps I can become a better writer.
What do I think of the social problems these days? How much time do you have for my rant?
No, seriously, it would be so easy to say “all you need is love,” which I believe, by the way, but I also believe that man is at least partially violent in nature, and I also think that greed will always be a major influence in our everyday lives. We cannot eliminate greed by simply loving. We cannot eliminate war by simply loving. These things will always be with us. Corrupt leaders will always be a part of the social and political landscape. All I can do is my part to make this a better world.
Thanks so much for the questions!
More on Deadlines
From Liz: “As always I was interested in the answers you gave. If you don't set deadlines, do you set yourself a target of how much time to spend writing each day?”
Liz yes, that I do! I write each day from about 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., give or take a half-hour. I wouldn’t call it a target; for me it’s just part of my daily schedule.
More on Publishing
From MizB: “Short mailbag today, more on publishing than writing. That brings up a problem, to really push one's work or to self-publish and let it be. Sometimes a work gets published that becomes a cult classic despite all its handicaps. If we were all that lucky....”
Not really a question from MizB, but an interesting observation which all authors must face eventually. How long and how hard do you push for traditional publishing? When do you just throw up your hands and say “that’s it, it’s time to self-publish?” To me, that is purely an individual decision. After my second novel, “Resurrecting Tobias,” I just gave up trying to find a traditional publisher. I really thought that book was going to be picked up by someone. It wasn’t, and when it wasn’t I was deflated and soured on traditional publishing.
But that’s just me . . . you will have to decide where your breaking point is.
When to Quit
From Brian: “Thanks, Bill, for your answer to my question if you set self-deadlines. (You don't.) I suspect that one reason that you accomplish so much writing per day—original, on assignment, comments, whatever—is that you have a strong sense of when "that's enough said".
And that is very true, Brian! I discovered very early on that I needed to learn to just walk away from a piece and declare it “finished.” Otherwise I could tinker with it until hell freezes over and never publish another writing.
Short stories get one edit. A novel gets three edits. An article may only get an original writing, depending on how I feel about it when I finish it . ..and that’s it! I just publish them and I’m done with them after that. It is then time to move on to the next project. And actually this is something a mentor talked to me about many years ago regarding my alcoholism: just let it go, Bill, and quit chewing on it forever!”
I’ll tell you a secret, Brian: I am never satisfied. I never think my writing is as good as it could be. If I could just make this sentence better . . . if I could just tweak this paragraph . . . maybe I should add a clarifier here . . . it is endless if I allow it, and if I allow it nothing will be accomplished.
Back to Your Flavors
I will let you go, now, so you can return to your writing and your own unique flavor. Cherish it, my friends. Your writing is uniquely you, and I happen to think that is very cool! My favorite flavor, by the way, is Reese’s Peanut Butter in ice cream. I have it every night, thank you very much, which probably explains why my belly is growing.
Someone asked me the other day how many times my blog has been read. The answer was a few thousand, and this guy expressed dismay that the number was so low. I guess it is . . . but whatever! I told him if you added the blog to HP to my books, the number is closer to two million. He seemed to think that was much better.
Whatever! I'm just a writer, not an accountant!
2019 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”