I apologize in advance for the spelling and grammatical errors that will plague this post. I could explain myself. I could blame them on the fact that I’m medicated due to an emergency surgery that I had Monday, but in reality, I’m too lazy to correct them.
Cameron Crowe is my favorite director, and it’s probably because he writes cryptic movies with odd plots that bury themselves in the pit of my stomach. The above quote is taken from Say Anything, an 80s movie that my sister loved because…well…it was the 80s, and she later shared the love of it with me. Cameron Crowe has made it through life doing what he loves. As a young adult, he contributed stories for Rolling Stone magazine and went on a three week tour with the Allman Brothers Band and wrote about his experiences. It landed him the cover story for RS and he later used his experiences as fuel for the movie Almost Famous. (My absolute favorite.) Crowe was 16 when that happened.
When I was sixteen, I was obsessing over very early Fall Out Boy bootlegs, and the boy at school who was leading me and about five other girls on. I kept a journal and wrote quirky little short stories, and poems about the way the people of the world made me feel. I am not comparable to greatness like Crowe, but I doubt that while he traveled cross country and listened to one of his favorite bands play music, that he thought he was great. No, he was probably comparing himself to their greatness. He probably looked at Duane and Gregg Allman and thought how awesome they both were. I’m sure he thought they were Gods, and he was unworthy of their presence. We always think we are so much less than what we really are.
So why this post? Where am I going? What in the Sam Hill am I getting at?
It’s hard for me to not sound redundant when I write these posts, but my passion comes from my heart, and sometimes passion equals redundancy. Writing is my catharsis. It’s been that way my whole life. Some girl made fun of me at school for my hair? Write about how cruel she is. The Boy that is leading me on gives me the best kiss behind the bleachers? Write it out. Best friend does something funny? Pour it onto paper. I was journaling, and I was active on Xanga, LiveJournal, and holy hell you should have seen my MySpace blog. I’m embarrassed to announce that I took part in the FanFiction movement, but I’ll never tell you what FanFiction I wrote about 🙂 I’ve always had the urge to get it all out. Writing was never, ever, hard for me.
I’ll never get over the rules of the literary world. Rules of fiction? Yeah they exist, and that’s stupid I know. Contradictions at their finest.
When I wrote my first book, I never sat down and said, “I’m going to write and publish a book”. No. That’s not how any of this happened. I didn’t even know I was writing a book really. I just migrated from a journal to a Word document, and when I started to really get some amazing compliments based on a spinoff FanFiction story I had been working on, I thought about compiling those documents into a tale. When it was time to seek out publishing, I dabbled with trying to find a company to publish my work, but the rights associated with self publishing, along with the freedom that it gave me, seemed more appropriate to me. I settled on self publishing, bought the rights to some images for my cover, and signed up for Amazon Kindle, Smashwords, and Createspace accounts. A little hard work, some emails, and part of my savings later, my book was out there. That was easy right? I did my part. I wrote 75,000 words and published it, and that was good enough.
Rules. Let’s discuss these rules. No one knew who I was. No one took me seriously because I came into the writing world in the middle of it all. I came in the thicket of it. Everyone was doing it. Everyone wanted to break through the way JK Rowling or Colleen Hoover did. Everyone wanted to be the next big thing. I quickly learned that to be successful, I needed to send copies to bloggers and reviewers, make teasers and promote the shit out of my words, and make as many connections as possible, not just with other writers, but with readers. If I wanted to be anywhere virtually, I had to do this.
I also had to find a genre. It was suggested that if I write romance, I skip chick-lit because it was dying out. I didn’t even know what the fuck that meant. It sounded like gum. Erotica and New Adult were hitting the aisles of Target like crazy, and Young Adult Dystopian was also a good route to take. I also needed to write more than one book before I tried to find anyone to take me seriously. Debut authors and novelists, as well as new independent authors with absolutely no platform to stand on, would likely fail. I needed to find a better editor, (sound advice that I’m glad I took-love you Elaine), spend money on Swag and go to tons of events, and I also needed to always, always, always, be prepared to market because that was the only way I’d get anywhere.
Excuse my language, but are you fucking kidding me?
Did Ernest Hemingway have swag? Do you think he spent money on pretty little bookmarks with pictures of characters and quotes from his book? Do you think Oscar Wilde thought about pulling his published works because they didn’t fit into the genre of the time? Did Cameron Crowe quit directing movies after Elizabethtown because he didn’t take home an Oscar that year?
The answer is no.
No, no, no, no…NO.
It’s taken me almost a year to realize that. Mark Twain had haters. So did Faulkner, Orwell, and Kerouac. They all had people who told them their work sucked, but they didn’t reevaluate their stories and words and change who they were. No. They kicked ass and carried on, but they worked HARD for that. Hemingway worked his ass off to do what he loved, which was to tell tales. His dream wasn’t to have a bunch of his quotes printed in pretty fonts and sold on Etsy. He just wanted to write. So he did.
This industry…it scares me. There are people who plop into it wanting only success. They make their connections and impress other authors, publishers, and readers with cute little Instagram pages and sultry words. It’s like they fall from the sky and revel in their rankings online. Then there are indie writers who have been doing it for years and are okay with the beauty of .40 cent royalty and a 3 star review. I feel trapped sometimes. I feel like I need to go toward these leaps and bounds and sell myself. I’m not wired that way. If my words and stories aren’t enough of a platform for people to make their own opinions of me or my work, then something is truly wrong with this industry. Isn’t the point of writing a book, because you had a story you needed to tell? When did it become lost and become more of a vessel to success, or fame? I want people to read my books because they want to. I want them to read the story because it sounds like something they’ll like. I don’t want them to read it because it was recommended by a well known Twitter guru or a “famous person”. Read my books because you want to travel to a land of fiction. Read because you like to read. And in essence, write because you want to write.
I’ve decided to go back to me. I’m embracing the way I do things. I love my short, choppy sentences and witty phrases. I love slow burns and character building. I like dark, haunting things that don’t make a lot of sense. I enjoy cliffhangers and really horrible endings. I like to wonder where characters end up ten, or twenty years from now. I love my crappy teasers and lack of knowledge when it comes to the “rules of fiction”. I’ll make relationships with people, not connections. I will make a splash by jumping into the water myself, not because someone pushed me. I am not writing for the internet, I’m writing for me. Maybe I don’t rank high on Amazon, but in my small hometown, people love my stories and they support me more than I could have ever imagined.
I’m not saying I don’t question where I am, but I very rarely check Amazon to see the “stats” of my book. If one of them ever got up there in rankings, you’re damn right I’d celebrate, but…that doesn’t dictate whether or not I continue to write or not. That doesn’t dictate my success. Rankings, followers, likes, none of that dictates what I write about or how well I’m doing. Yes I understand that in today’s world I have to market a little…I respect and understand that, but I’m a writer first. And I’m going to do things my way.
There are no rules to writing. It’s art. Create it how you want, as long as it’s been created for the right reasons, then it’s a masterpiece.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a million masterpieces I’d like to go create…and I’m doing every single one of them, for me. But I’d love to share them all with you.
Success is what you make of it. Work hard. Don’t take the easy way out, and don’t expect to make it because someone else did. Be kind, be honest, and stick to your guns. If you don’t like something, don’t change your mind because everyone else likes it. Dare to be different. Let your ego reign in private, but be humble elsewhere. Say thank you. Support your supporters. Above all else, do something because you have a burning need to do it, not because you want or hope to gain something from it.
I’ll leave you with this; Jerry Maguire was at the top of the totem pole. He had it all. He was winning. But the second that he was booted from the top, he became anxious and no one wanted to be associated with him except for people he would have rather not associated with. He came back strong, because he worked hard for his passion, reevaluated his plans and how he treated people, and wasn’t afraid to work for what he wanted. He pursued his dream of doing what he loved, and that my friends, is what success is really about.
But Jerry Maguire is a movie. I know, I know. But hey…it’s a Cameron Crowe movie.