Friday, December 23, 2011

WritingTips 6

The Occupational Hazards of Writing

We are well acquainted with hazards of many occupations. Chemical plant workers are exposed to dangerous chemicals and the always present danger of explosions. The Discovery Channel has brought us the dangers of deep sea crabbing. We can just imagine all of the hazards of coal mining, logging (the most dangerous job in the world) and perhaps wild animal training.
Some of our more sedentary occupations have their built in occupational hazards. Office workers are exposed to chemicals in synthetic rugs and chemicals from printer and copier toner. And of course we can’t rule out the psychological hazards of office work such as being exposed to toxic bosses and/or co-workers. We can see how office stress leads to weight gain and even mass killings. Something is going on in America’s offices and it’s not being talked about at the coffee bar.

Writing has its own built in set of occupational hazards. Most people think of writing as someone lying languidly by the beach sipping a cool drink (perhaps in the south of France--whatever that means), and day dreaming about the next plot. Or some conger up the image of a guy hunched over an old type writer, with a pile of cigarette butts and crumpled papers lying about, grimacing and taking a swig from a bottle. I think the latter is closer to the truth. The hazards of writing:

1. Failed Relationships (What’s a relationship?)

4. Ill health

Writing is not easy. It’s even harder in today’s publish yourself digital world. In the old world of publishing, you got an agent to hold your hand (if you were lucky) and coddle you through the process. Then the editor and you battled to produce a “good” book, which of course meant sellable or saleable. Now it’s all about you and the reader in almost direct and instant interaction. Well the writing might not be instant, but the publishing is and so is the reader feedback when you are writing in the popular genres (romance, urban, vampires). If you don’t want instant feedback, perhaps write poetry or call your book literary. So you ask yourself:

a. Is my character believable?
b. Is there a big hole in my plot?
c. Are the scenes in a chronological sensible order?
d. Are there moments where my dialog sounds robotic and canned?
e. “Oh my god! I’ve used “nad” for and three times!” Yes grammar and spelling mistakes.

Of course it’s easy to correct those errors once your readers happily point them out to you with ratings of one * out of  a possible five ***** stars and comments such as “Did you use your pre-schooler as your spell checker?”

Being prolific and well ranked has some down side too. You’re churning out blockbuster after blockbuster, getting those five ***** nad (haha) AND making that paper. But your diet is pizza by the cardboard box load and maybe diet soda. There’s no time for the gym or sex. So we battle the bulge until fat wins the war.

So nope writing is not easy. I have a sneaking suspicion the only folks enjoying the South of France are the widows and widowers of famous dead writers. However as we head into the new year, let’s resolve to bring balance into our life.

1. Find time to get out of the house at least once every couple of days.
2. Hit the gym twice a week
3. If you must, write like  a maniac 330 days a year, but then take a month off.
4. Take a break between books. (Of course tell that to the muse who’s now the new spouse in your life making you feel guilty)
5. Watch your diet
6. Open the venetian blinds and let a bit of life in.

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