The new anthology Lawyers in Hell, with my story “With Enemies Like These” has just been released. If you buy a copy from this link I can get paid twice (once from royalties and once from Amazon as an affiliate):
One of the first questions about writing is “why write?” There are many reasons to write, of course. You have to write that thesis if you want that degree. That piece of equipment needs a manual so people will know how to use it so someone is given the task of creating one if they want to be paid. And those texts, emails, and, yes, blog posts won’t write themselves.
Here, however, I’m going to focus on fiction writing. Why take the time and effort to sit down (or pace up and down the hall, or however one does it) and craft a story?
So what are the reasons for writing? Fame? (Twenty years writing fiction with a handful of professional sales so far and I’m still pretty much unknown. There are easier ways to fame.) Fortune? (The most I, personally, have made in a year from writing is about $1000.) Attracting members of the appropriate sex? (Have I got some disappointing news for you….) You get a few, a very few, who are successful by those metrics, sure, but mostly you get folk who labor away for a little it of extra pocket money (or a modest living if they’re lucky) or the occasional fan letter. (Science fiction and Fantasy have an advantage over many writing genres in that there are frequent conventions where fans of their style of writing get together and authors and fans can meet each other.)
So why do it? It’s a lot of work for very little of the typical rewards.
One thing to remember is that the storyteller is as old as humanity itself. Telling–and with the invention of writing, writing them–is just something people do. Even traits that are ubiquitous across the human species are expressed more strongly in some than in others. Some have a stronger drive to tell stories in much the same way that some people have a stronger competitive drive.
In the end, I think that you aren’t a writer because you write. You write because you are a writer. Making money, winning fame, making friends and influencing people are often rationalization more than reasons, a justification for the mental and emotional effort that goes into writing.
That said, writing, storytelling, isn’t the only drive and, as drives go, it’s fairly far down on the totem pole. Yes, I have a drive to write, to put stories down for other people to read, but I also have a drive to eat, to live in reasonably comfortable surroundings, to procreate (and the things that go with that), and so forth and if writing gets in the way of that, so much the worse for writing. Other people might have the drive more strongly and are willing to live a hermit’s life in a drafty attic somewhere while scribbling away the story they have to get out of their system only, once finished, to have it replaced with another story that they simply have to get out of their system.
And so, while I think to a great extent writing and storytelling is what you are more than what you do that it’s not also a craft and a skill to be learned. There’s a big difference between a group of friends telling “no fooling, there I was…” stories at the local watering hole and someone writing a novel that sells hundreds of thousands of copies. Some of that difference is just plain luck. Some of it is inborn talent. And some of it is learned craft. I’ll look at that a bit another time.
There are many out there but this one is mine.
And so the question becomes, why “The Writer in Black.” First, I mostly plan to post about writing here and things that tie into writing and I tend to wear black a lot so. . . .
Some years back I picked up a black shirt and pants and liked they way they looked on me, however, friends told me that if I wanted to be attractive to young women I needed to dress in brighter colors. Being irredeemably heterosexual and a young man with a fully functioning set of hormones this was an important consideration and, so, I put aside what I liked and went with what others told me I “ought” to wear in the hopes that I would have more success getting dates with the ladies.
It didn’t work.
Still, over the years I did manage to marry (an event that continues to amaze me to this day) and so the pressure of “winning” in the dating game was off but by that time the “wear bright colors” advice had stuck so thoroughly that I never even considered switching.
So the years passed until someone introduced me to music of styles of which I had not previously been aware, groups like the Cruxshadows, Nightwish, Within Tempation and the like. I really liked that music and went looking for more. One of the results was that I was introduced to Gothic subculture which included, among other things, a lot of people who wear predominantly black and dark colors.
On seeing that, I thought, “you know, that looks pretty good” and I started wearing darker clothes of my own. And wonder of wonders people started saying things like “that’s a good look on you.” Things progressed with growing my hair out and tying it back and later dying it, then adding the Cowboy Hat and Western style shirts. Some people, of course, did not appreciate my new look but I decided that I really didn’t care. I liked it and that’s really all that mattered.
Oh, my wife was a bit hesitant at first but it wasn’t long before she was spontaneously complementing my look.
Once my look “matured” into its more or less final form I noticed something. When I was a child, there was a TV show that my family watched avidly: Have Gun, Will Travel. In a fit of nostalgia, I found the videos of the first season and watched them (and found that it was as good as I remembered–Yes, Hollywood, you can tell a good dramatic story in a half hour format). The series featured Richard Boone as Paladin, “The Man in Black” (a reversal of the common stereotypes of the time where the “good guys” wear light colors and, often white hats). My own look had moved very much in the same direction and so I started thinking of myself mentally as “the scientist in black” or “the writer in black.”
And that brings us to where we are now.