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#828743 - 02/21/02 11:06 AM writing
piqué Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/15/01
Posts: 5483
i'm opening this topic at fritz's request. fritz, what would you like to know about writing?
_________________________
piqué

now in paperback:


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#828744 - 02/21/02 11:25 AM Re: writing
Fritz Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/12/02
Posts: 68
Loc: Hatfield, PA, USA
Well, I suppose it is only fair that you would make me "work" for it. ;-)

If I read correctly, you make your living, at least partially, as a writer. I know there are many writing niches and professions, and I wondered what kind of writing you do.

Fiction, nonfiction, news, opinion, books, magazines, newspapers, creative, business or technical, advertising, ...?

I hope to change careers someday (when I can escape the golden handcuffs of what I am doing now.) Writing is something I enjoy, and I think I have a moderate amount of talent. But I don't really know what it would take to make a living as a writer.

I should say that I know there are books on this subject and I have not yet really done my "homework" on this. I am not asking you to tell me everything about writing as a career. I just wanted to hear a little bit of your experience of the writing profession.

Hope that is clear, and a reasonable question to ask.

Thanks!

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#828745 - 02/21/02 12:02 PM Re: writing
piqué Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/15/01
Posts: 5483
 Quote:
Originally posted by Fritz:
I wondered what kind of writing you do.[/b]


All of the following, at one time or another:

 Quote:
Fiction, nonfiction, news, opinion, books, magazines, newspapers[/b]


But my bread and butter has been non-fiction magazine writing and essays, much of it based on investigative reporting.

 Quote:
I hope to change careers someday (when I can escape the golden handcuffs of what I am doing now.) Writing is something I enjoy, and I think I have a moderate amount of talent. But I don't really know what it would take to make a living as a writer.[/b]


It helps to have one or more of the following:

Youth
Enthusiasm
Energy
High tolerance for financial instability, even poverty
A wage-earning spouse
A trust fund
A day job
A tough hide

I'm sure it won't come as a shock to you that as a career, there are few things tougher than being a writer. Everyone wants to be one (or so it seems at times) and so the competition is overwhelming. But there are very few good ones. If you are good, EXCEPTIONALLY good, and you have the street smarts (i.e. resourcefulness and canniness)to pull it off, you'll think it is easy street. But most of us struggle. A lot.

A good friend of mine who is on staff at a famous magazine and whose two books have won awards and have been made into miniseries' told me over lunch that he still has to write freelance magazine articles to support himself and be able to pay for the needs of his kids. Most of us teach to support our writing. That is the usual way of it, even for the famous ones.

 Quote:
I just wanted to hear a little bit of your experience of the writing profession.
[/b]


this is very unusual! my friends are sick of hearing about it--they have urged me to never return to freelancing full time, because our friendship could probably not withstand the strain. ;\)

seriously, i'd rather not go into my personal experiences. they are too painful. it would be like opening a vien. i don't want to discourage you too much, as there have been moments of great triumph. but overall i'd characterize the writing life as one big emotional rollercoaster, and the depths of that ride are deep.

what i usually tell my students, fritz, is, if you can do anything else for a living, do it. only make writing your career if you are incapable of doing anything else for a living. it is that difficult.

my suggestion would be that you continue to write, carving out a sacred writing time for yourself each morning or evening. take writing workshops to meet and learn from other writers. read the books (though most of those, and most writing classes are pretty useless).

you can honor the writer in yourself and give him a chance, without sacrificing your life for it. just make a little time each day, just like you do for the piano. enjoy it for itself, and not with the aim of having a career. over time, you will find out if what you produce is worth publishing or not. and when you get that six-figure contract, THEN you might think about switching careers. but if it were me, i'd still keep the day job. ;\)

a good book to start with is "writing down the bones" by natalie goldberg. i also really like her book: "wild mind, living the writer's life."

perhaps there are other writers here who might want to weigh in. those who have had staff jobs or done corporate or technical work have a very different experience of being a writer than i do.
_________________________
piqué

now in paperback:


Grand Obsession: A Piano Odyssey

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#828746 - 02/21/02 03:44 PM Re: writing
Jolly Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/20/01
Posts: 14051
Loc: Louisiana
Rule # 1 - If you write as badly as I do, you MUST have a good editor!

Seriously, I've done a few articles for trade magazines, technical type stuff. My hat is off to pique and others who make their living as a wordsmith. I've found that the time spent/pay ratio is quite low.

What little I have done, came at the urging of my staff. I tend to write all of the procedure manuals for my laboratory, so I kinda have a knack for making complicated concepts a bit simpler. A few years ago, when our trade mags were begging for articles I submitted a few. I had one accepted. Through the years that is usually the case - a lot more rejections than acceptance. If I had to make my living as a writer, I would most definite starve!

But it's still fun. \:\)
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Over 1,000,000 posts where pianists discuss everything. And nothing.

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#828747 - 02/21/02 04:28 PM Re: writing
Fritz Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/12/02
Posts: 68
Loc: Hatfield, PA, USA
pique, thank you for your reply. I will respond more a bit later when I have time...

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#828748 - 02/21/02 07:47 PM Re: writing
jgoo Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/23/01
Posts: 3974
Loc: Seattle, Washington, USA
I like to write! Infact, I'm in the middle of something right now. Too long to explain now and too little time. Maybe later. Its fiction.
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#828749 - 02/22/02 02:29 AM Re: writing
Shadorunnr Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/05/02
Posts: 125
Loc: Oklahoma City
BTW, if you substitue the word musician, for writer, in pique's post, the story is the same.
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#828750 - 02/22/02 01:56 PM Re: writing
Fritz Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/12/02
Posts: 68
Loc: Hatfield, PA, USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by pique:

It helps to have one or more of the following:

Youth
Enthusiasm
Energy
High tolerance for financial instability, even poverty
A wage-earning spouse
A trust fund
A day job
A tough hide
[/b]


So, if all I've got is enthusiasm, a day job, and a tough hide...I better not quit my day job. ;-)

Thank you, pique, for taking the time to post this. I do know that chances of making a comfortable living from writing alone are very very small. Perhaps it is more of a fantasy than anything. I think I mentioned my golden handcuffs -- I make a pretty good living doing what I am doing now, and with five college-bound children I really cannot afford a pay cut.

( What I really want to do is create the next "Harry Potter" and become rich and famous...where can I learn how to do THAT? \:\) )

Perhaps we will meet someday at a Piano Party (why not come to the Pennsylvania get-together this spring?) If so, I'd be interested in chatting more.

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#828751 - 02/22/02 06:23 PM Re: writing
piqué Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/15/01
Posts: 5483
 Quote:
Originally posted by Fritz:


What I really want to do is create the next "Harry Potter" and become rich and famous...where can I learn how to do THAT? \:\) .[/b]


dearest fritz,

you and everybody else. ;-)

there is no place to learn how to do that.

sit down every morning (or evening, depending on your personal biorhythms) and WRITE. in the words of the late jack kerouac: "i love being a famous writer. problem is, sometimes you have to write something."

you learn how to do it by doing it. not by fantasizing about doing it. it's hard work. most writers hate writing and love having written.

pennsylvania is not on my usual circuit, but i might (fingers crossed) make it to the one in seattle this summer. i'll be the one wearing the veil of mystery. ;-)
_________________________
piqué

now in paperback:


Grand Obsession: A Piano Odyssey

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#828752 - 02/22/02 08:11 PM Re: writing
Fritz Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/12/02
Posts: 68
Loc: Hatfield, PA, USA
I hated writing in High School and College. I was the last person on the face of the earth to graduate from college ('83) without having used a word processor.

Now, though, the freedom and flexibility of cut and paste, click and drag, bnackspace, etc. takes a HUGE burden off of my pea-sized brain. Writer's block, no more. Well, not nearly as much as before, when every sentence had to be perfect the first time it hit the paper.

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#828753 - 02/24/02 03:33 AM Re: writing
T2 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/18/01
Posts: 341
I just finished writing a 300 page technical document. I did it in about three weeks working like fiends with three other engineers. I don't particularly enjoy writing this stuff, but it helps pay the bills. And puts a couple more zeros on your income than a real writer.

I suppose I would rather write about, oh, I don't know. Taking a wild tuk-tuk ride. Through the streets of Bangkok, where the air is a yellowish broth of humidity and exhaust fumes. Where drivers of these overgrown three wheeled gas-powered golf carts dart erratically in-and-out of traffic to the terror of their passengers. The driver turns to give me a warm but toothless grin as he accelerates, switching lanes. "Bangkok very traffic." I wish he would look at the road. I nod politely, grasping the metal cross-bar until my knuckles turn white.

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#828754 - 02/25/02 01:07 AM Re: writing
Steve Miller Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 3290
Loc: Yorba Linda, CA
This coffee room is a great idea! I'll take mine black please, and I brought my own cup.

I like to write, but I harbor no delusions that I am any good at it. My hat is off to Pique and Penny (and others on the board, I believe) who write for a living. I am quite sure I could not do that.

When the mood strikes me, I write like crazy - mostly letters and posts to boards like the Piano Forum. Other times, it seems as though there are things I want to say but I can not get the words out.

How do you writers - working against deadlines and the need for a paycheck - deal with this?

Thanks!
_________________________
Defender of the Landfill Piano

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#828755 - 02/25/02 01:33 AM Re: writing
piqué Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/15/01
Posts: 5483
steve,
when it is your job, you produce. you don't have the luxury of waiting for the muse to visit.

i'm not saying that is easy, but with practice, and self-discipline, you do it because you have to.

having said that, to anyone who wants to get serious about writing it is also important to produce work every day, whether you feel creative or not.

it is very much like practicing the piano. you develop a daily habit.
_________________________
piqué

now in paperback:


Grand Obsession: A Piano Odyssey

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#828756 - 02/25/02 12:51 PM Re: writing
T2 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/18/01
Posts: 341
Writing is a creative process that works, almost as if throwing a switch, even when you feel tired or worn out. It works when you need it to because it has been disciplined to work over many years.

When I get stuck I seek out the advice of a mentor. But usually, I'm faced with the problem of having many more ideas to write than time alows. Thus time management and focus become primary issues.

Frankly, I don't know how I would ever finish any writing without deadlines. I would much rather be sipping a latte, swinging my boys around by their feet or working out a piece on the piano.

T2

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#828757 - 02/25/02 01:31 PM Re: writing
Penny Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 2943
Loc: San Juan Capistrano, CA
T2, I know what you mean! Without deadlines, I'm no longer a writer but a first-class procrastinator!

Anyway, about the "creative" aspect, I must comment:

Here's a secret. At least when it comes to newspaper journalism, the writing is very much formula. Give me a small set of facts, and I can carve out a "stereotypical" story that almost any paper would publish. The trick in standing out is to throw some snappy phrasing, and suddenly you're a genious! But the bare-bones of any newspaper story has been done to death a million times over.

My first newspaper job in 1988 required me to write up to five stories a day! Eek! We journalists certainly do "pay our dues," kind of like young doctor interns but without the big pay-off lingering in the distance.

Steve M., you are an incredible writer! You have missed one of your many callings, but I'm sure your family has been better off financially because of this "lapse."

I echo many of the things that Pique said. There are many sacrifices to be made in this career. Most of the newspaper journalists I know are either divorced or married without children. Those who have families eventually fade into freelancing or switch to public relations or become stay-at-home parents. It's a very cruel industry with lots of side-effects because of the stress. However, when I'm on a really hot story, there is nothing like the high.

At one point before I had children, I made a brief forray into public relations for a comic book company (sounds fun, doesn't it?). But I was MISERABLE! My husband, who is not American and didn't (at least back then) value journalists like we free-speechers do, said, "Go back and be a journalist!" It's who we are!

If you've got the fire in you, I suggest starting at a small weekly newspaper, then scout internships. If you need to return to school to get a degree, do it. Normally, I don't recommend degrees in journalism. I say work on a college newspaper but major in something that actually TEACHES you something. Have some knowledge about the world on which you will report. The writing comes by practice, practice, practice. But, if you are making a stab at a second career, then it might behoove you to get a master's degree in journlism. Some good schools include Columbia University, Northwestern and University of Misouri.

Best of luck to all budding journalists, and ...


you've been warned! ;\)

penny

[ February 25, 2002: Message edited by: Penny ]

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