All Hope Abandon, Ye Who Enter Here

Yesterday my blog turned two hundred posts old. As milestones go it’s not earth-shattering by any means, but it did get me to thinking about some of my early posts, (the ones that actually had a focus anyway, when I started this blog I was just doing it for fun.)

One of them was a sort of introduction to myself and why I was a writer. I mentioned in the post that I had written six long-form works of fiction and even though I wasn’t published yet, I had made a promise to myself that I would keep writing until I was published or I died, whichever came first.

And as I recall someone was actually encouraged by that. Which got me to thinking. Are you people insane?

Wait, don’t answer that. I really don’t want to know what medications you’re on. Just, you know…keep that to yourself.

But I mean, seriously. This is not a good thing. Writing is not a wonderful Mecca of muses and money. (See what I did there? See that alliteration? I’m just a tiny bit proud of that.)

Writing is hard. And there’s no promise that you’ll get anything out of it.

By my estimates I’ve spent close to two thousand hours writing at this point in my life. I’ve worked very hard on books that will probably never see the light of day. I’ve banged my head against the wall trying to get wordcounts for stories that just didn’t end up working. And for all of that I have yet to be paid one cent for my work.

And then there’s the depression. I saw a statistic recently that said that writers suffer from depression more often than people in any other profession, and I can believe it. I’ve gotten over a lot of it now, but in those days when I was trying to get an agent for my first book, and I kept getting rejection after rejection I felt lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut.

I would ask myself, “What are you thinking, Albert? You’ve read all those hacks that turn to putting their work out online. You know it’s all garbage. That’s what you’re writing: garbage. You call yourself a writer?” And so on.

And then came that fateful day when I threw up my hands and said, “I don’t care if what I’m writing is garbage. I’m going to keep doing it, and keep doing it, and keep doing it, until I’m published. Or dead.”

My point is this: this may not be a good thing. I may get to the end of my life with millions of words to my name and not a single one of them in print. I may die, having written nothing but garbage.

I tweeted recently about how writing is like a drug, and quite  a few people got a kick out of it, but it’s really true. It hooks you in and makes you feel all happy at first, but then comes the realization that this thing is slowly taking over your life. You tell yourself you can stop anytime, but in reality you’re stuck in a quagmire of your own design.

So I’m writing this as a warning. There’s no hope for me. I’m already too far gone. But you should get out while you still can. There are no riches here, no deep sense of fulfillment. Nothing but the all-consuming flames of passion.

Turn back. Do something else, anything else.

And if you can’t…well, then you’re a writer.

May God have mercy on your soul.

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21 responses to “All Hope Abandon, Ye Who Enter Here

  1. Too late. I’d die without my drug of choice. It keeps me from being depressed, gives me a reason to keep living. But sending manuscripts out to indifferent agents and publishers is a sure way to drive yourself into smashing your head against a wall until the blood runs down your face. I hope I’m not writing garbage, but if I am, at least I have the good sense to self-publish and let others judge.

  2. I guess much has to do with expectations. I have no plans to write something that will be published in the traditional format.
    My blog is my book. I put a lot of effort into each page that I post. My happiness and satisfaction increase with each page I add.

    • If you don’t need to make a profit then that’s fine.
      But one of these days I’d really like to quit my job at Walmart, and as philistine as it sounds I would need to make enough money at this writing thing to support me and my diabetic wife. Again, not knocking those who don’t need to make money, but one day I’d really like for this to be my job, rather than it just feeling like a job.

      • Me too Albert!!! and I am getting there. Have you ever considered slef publishing? I did it an dI have sold alomost 75 books already all on my own. I have my books on the shelf at two independent books stores in Indy, plus I set up at festivals and sell them. They are available on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com, in the list of available books in the nationwide bookstore data base and on the wholesalers book list. I use social media (Twitter, FB, my blog and e-mail) to promote, as well as had a launch event (only family came, but they bought!).
        Now I am scheduled to do workshops based on my book at one of the bookstores the book is selling at. And, with no credit to my promotional efforts, I have sold three copies on Amazon.
        Even if I never sold one copy, holding that beautiful, bound, fresh new papaer copy of my book is enough reward to make it worth the while. (I know there is a pic of me as the “proud mama” when I opened the first case of them in my archives. Would be November sometime).
        I am working toward leaving my full time work for someone else job too! And I am getting there. Also try ways to leverage your writiing, like offering
        e-books, promote with giving a free chapter, etc.
        You can do it on createspace.com for $0.00. No cost to you at all. (there is and upgrade option that is a one time fee $35.00 which then gives you a larger royalty/markup on your book. The only limit is you cannot sell your book ONLINE for less than amazon is selling it. But you can set your own price for a brick & mortar store or when you hand sell.
        It is so simple to do (once the hard parts are done, like writing, editing, indexing, etc.). And the price is RIGHT for us $0.00 investment authors.
        And I am addicted. I write EVERYDAY, something. Can’t stop and do not want to. I never doubted that I would be a published writer and I came from a very poor family where the thought of that was ludicrous.
        100% commitment=SUCCESS. You just have to keep after it 100%, and you are, so you will!!! 🙂
        I need to get the link to the guy who has the fast fiction challenge you are in….I will have to revisit your blog about the hotel pic and join the fun! Have a great weekend!!!! AmberLena

  3. Great post! I was just chatting with a friend about writing and writers block. Here’s a big fear with writing, but I think once you do it for pleasure the words just flow.

  4. Jennifer, I hate to disillusion anyone, but even if writing is a pleasure (for the most part), the words don’t always flow. It can be a major, sweat-inducing job to get them out at all. Flow is a blessing when it happens, but it doesn’t always happen. Writing is hard work, and if a person doesn’t want to do hard work, then the words will never flow. That’s the difference between writers and people who just think they want to be writers.

    • On the good days the works flow like honey. On the bad days they scrape out one rusty letter at a time.
      The trick in writing is to make both days read the same.

  5. If the zombies don’t get me, the writing will . .

  6. Hmmm. Apparently, responses sent from gmail go to you directly rather than here. Anyway, to “The trick in writing is to make both days read the same.” My response is: Absolutely, Albert. You have to make the writing good, even when it’s a bad writing day. That’s what editing is for.

  7. This was a funny post Albert. Enjoyed it thoroughly.

    As reverse psychology, it works wonders as well.

    I grew up wanting to be a writer, but never quite “got” those authors that said they write for the sake of writing, because they can’t not do it; but I always wanted to be able to say that. I always wanted to claim I write for the sake of writing, publishing be damned. Now that I write daily, I can say that with no qualms I might be a “poser”. Publishing be damned.

    What makes things so great about mediocre writers like me in this day in age is self-publishing. The gatekeepers sell plenty of bad writing, so who are they to know what’s good and what’s bad? Self-publishing is the way to go in my estimation. The pros don’t know a good book from a bad too many times to be trusted.

    Happy Writing!

  8. I have been reading your posts since I saw you on “freshly pressed”…you know..that little explosion you had? Yeah, I was part of that troop. I always enjoy reading what you have to say. Today’s post struck me because it rings so true.

    Writing is one of the truest love/hate relationships. It can be magical one day and make you want to stab your writing utensil through your eye the next. I currently write for a magazine and a radio station and don’t get paid for either one. Frustrating? Yes. But I still do it because I love it and keep the hope that some day all my work will pay off in one way or another.

    In the meantime, on those days when you feel like you just can’t go on anymore, and yet can’t stop yourself, remember that published or not, you ARE still making a difference every day in the lives of the people that read you. What you do matters. It may not be a paycheck, but sometimes it can fill that little satisfaction void we all feel from time to time.

    • It’s wonderfully kind of you to say so. I’m not really having an “I hate my writing today” day, but I have been thinking a lot about writing and the sacrifices it requires.
      In a way I’m glad I didn’t know when I started what I know now. I probably wouldn’t ever have taken the plunge. But I’m glad I was ignorant back then. Because truly, even without being paid, this is a great gig.
      Thanks for the encouragement.

      • I understand this. Just ask the bags under my eyes as I attempt to juggle it all. Worth every second…most of the time. 😉

  9. I may have already mentioned this to you — while I can’t remember crap, you can tell it’s factual cos I keep repeating 🙂

    I started writing (not counting blogging, which I considered more an outlet for my other creative things AND a kind of social networking before people bandied about that term, when I started in the mid-90s) about 6 years ago when a friend was trying to write The Great American Novel. I ended up writing a short novel. She quit after a couple of weeks.

    I’ve tried to write a couple long pieces (screenplay & novel) a year but not every year (sometimes only 1 project was finished–the screenplay for kids failed and I completely gave the novel a pass last year).

    I don’t consider myself a “writer” but I’m certainly verbose. It’s work and sometimes, when I’m in a fugue state, it’s badass.

  10. This was brilliantly well-said.

  11. If you want to get published, if you want to make money at writing, you’ll do it. Eventually. You already know it’s a hard gig to break into, but that will keep you frosty, making sure you’re consistently doing your best.

    Yes, we have sold our souls. Better to the pen than elsewhere.

  12. I reached post 204 last week. I started July 31 last year. Mostly humor and cartoons. It took me 35 years hawking my cartoons and now I have 2 mags that publish them. One pays the other doesn’t, but I now have an “I’ve been published track record. ” That should interest some publisher out there.Do short stories or poems. Enter every contest you can. They pick “winners” and publish anthologies and charge you $60 for a copy. It is a a vanity thing for those who cannot get published but get a dozen or so under your belt and you have a track record. Try the trade mags. Even if you do not write the subject. Write something you know about. Golf, furniture, travel, coins. anything. You get paid nothing to several hundred dollars. In the mid eighties I had a local newspaper(the type they give away at the grocery store stand) publish a weekly editorial on politics(local, state, national) for two years. I did not get paid but it gave me enough notoriety to run for office. I lost but got 26 % of vote and did that with no money, 6 helpers and that newspaper. Try local newlsetters of various organizations like writing for the chamber of commerce. It ain’t the novel but there is a joy in being published in something some where. It is a start. Good luck.

  13. Writers and depression. That can either be writers get depressed or the depressed people write a lot… I don’t know. It’s one or the other. Love your posts.

  14. Totally not disillusioned. I have great respect for writers. I know it can be difficult, I know the words just don’t flow … always.

  15. There should be a support group for us writers who are addicted. Not a writers group where we will be enabled but a recovery support group. But I can see how that would go. We’d be asked to keep a journal on how it makes us feel and the next thing we know we are all writing life stories on how writing has ruined our lives. Then we’ll start critiquing our works together. It’s a nasty cycle.

  16. You say so much of what, at least thousands of writers may not say out loud, but think and feel about writing.
    Many times I have thought of giving it all up.

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