Don’t Be a Dumpster Fire

ImageYou don’t write to get rich.  You write because writing is a fundamental part of who you are.  Your odds of becoming Stephen King or Sue Grafton are longer than your odds of winning a multi-state lottery.

The basic idea behind any form of art is to express emotions.  You’ll notice I write a lot about time travel, science fiction, horror, and love.  I write about love and romance because I have a sentimental streak.  I write about horror because of panic attacks, and people are drawn to things that scare them (counterintuitive, but true).  I write about science fiction because I grew up watching the original Star Trek, and it’s like comfort food for me.  And I love time travel for some reason I can’t really explain.  Maybe I have a lot of regrets and want to right some wrongs.  Who the hell knows?  Or maybe I’d just like swap one-liners with Groucho Marx.  “After two days in the hospital I took a turn for the nurse.”

I also dish out writing advice.  You know where I get that wisdom?  Failure … sometimes epic.  Or, as we say on Twitter, #dumpsterfire fiction.  If you try to imitate bestsellers, your novel is going to be a disaster, a dumpster fire in kids’ lingo today.  And you’ll feel like one, too, after spending all that time and effort to produce something no one wants to read.  Believe me, I’ve been there.

Caveat: This does not mean you set your sights low.  No.  Aim to be the very best writer you can  be.  Every sentence you write should be exactly what you want to read.  Anything less and you’re being dishonest.

But if you’re trying to become Dan Brown or Suzanne Collins, forget it.  We already have a Brown and a Collins and a King and a Grafton.  Mimicking them is not going make you rich and famous.

If you want to get rich you need to be flipping houses and bootlegging whiskey.

Writers are artists, and we get paid the same.  Would you like fries with that?

Peace, from Keith

Copyright © 2013

12 thoughts on “Don’t Be a Dumpster Fire

  1. Are you trying to convince me to bootleg whisky? ‘Cause, I think my husband might go for that.

    Seriously, you are right, though. I think those who see writing (self-pubbing in particular) as a get rich scheme will quickly fall by the wayside.

    1. Jennifer,

      I am only going to try to convince you to bootleg if you want to get rich.

      And yeah, this post is a result of an odd conversation where I just couldn’t convince someone that she won’t see me on the Today Show or Oprah … ever.

      There’s something about writing that makes people think $$$. And I was the same way 20 years ago.

      I guess the point here is to write because it’s fun and you have something to say.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. Why do I write? Let’s see …

    1. Won’t get rich – not a problem. I’m the Finance Minister of a small Banana Republic.
    2. Will not be a famous author. Again, not a problem. Famous Banana Republic Finance Ministers tend to get noticed by the CIA.
    3. Failure. Well, I’m not Prime Minister (yet).
    4. Flipping houses. We have a very nice property investment plan in our little tropical paradise for the right sort of person. Did I mention that we will not extradite anyone, no matter what? Have I mentioned that bit about the property investment plan in our lovely, very, very low tax little tropical paradise?
    5. Bootleg Whiskey. Well, we do import whiskey through the Ministry of Finance – any sort you like, and with only with a very, very modest handling charge. But why drink whiskey? Have you tried our fine collection of rums? How about our renowned cigars?

    I guess I write to fill in the time between siestas, or when I get bored with all the lovely women who want to pay attention to me … well, I guess that’s just life, hard though it can be …

      1. Who said anything about Cuba? We don’t care about your politics. Have I mentioned our golden property investment opportunity and our low, low taxes in our lovely tropical paradise? And toilet paper is no problem, while you are enjoying life in your villa in our wonderful, non-extraditing, hardly any taxes worth mentioning, heaven on Earth, tropical paradise.

      2. People who have invested in the novel property opportunity at our lovely, low, hardly-any-tax-at-all tropical paradise tend to be wealthy. As we do not generally require extensive background checks for new citizens to our wonderful piece of Eden, I am not able to say how many of them are authors. However, I would not be remiss, I think, in saying that some of our extremely satisfied and gloriously happy immigrants are or have been published. The content of their books usually tends to be along the lines of their thoughts and ideologies, although I am informed on good authority that poetry and plays are also well represented.

        If a future citizen is an author, whether actually earning a living at the craft, or whether it is the deepest yearning of their soul to do so, or whether is is simply something one does because they cannot help themselves (which covers a number of things), our lovely, warm, welcoming paradise, encourages all forms of the Arts. We even have a lay away plan! If at the moment, the situation is not such that you are immediately able to take up citizenship in our heavenly nation, we offer a payment plan! In a very short time, with our oh-so-flexible payment schedule at our National Bank (or which I am president), you too can become One of Us – a Lotus Eater, able to spend your days in the sublime bliss of Creating. No plan is too big, no plan is too small! Whatever your circumstance, we can accommodate YOU in your entry into Paradise!

    1. Kelli,
      I’ve been thinking about this for quite a while now, but a conversation over the weekend finally prompted me to put it into words. A lot of writers go overboard trying to “simulate” the success of a bestseller, when I know they’d be much happier writing for themselves. It’s a “been there, done that” life lesson. Thanks much …

  3. David Appenzellar

    I think I would believe in the concept that you can achieve what ever level of writing and fame you want. But your writing has to come from the heart and who you are. And in doing so I would imagine that one may share a lot about who they are, what is importsnt to them, how they have came to be the person they are. And in doing so may open windows to the soul where people might be shocked at your thoughts because they don’t come out in normal conversation.
    And reading has been something I have done off and on and a range of what I have read. Maybe if say you haven’t read the New York Post list of top books you wouldn’t see a need that style of writing sales. I think of the movie Coal Miner’s Daughter and how my mom could relate. I still think a story of my mom and her 4 sisters on a farm in the 40s and 50s is a story that needs told and others could relate and learn from. But it has to be in my voice and not copying what sold Loretta Lynn’s life.
    Time travel had intrigued me. Growing up near historic places made me wonder about life during those times. The books in 9th grade AP English exposed me to writers and times and how they captured the essence of life. I got the answer right about the green light on the river in the Great Gatsby but I still argue with myself that although a writer may have all types of symbolism I don’t think they purposely write that in. And even as a Christian I still think reincarnation a possibility and therefore we have an affinity for other times. Regressive hypnotherapy has interest to as would I go back and where.
    Keep writing and having faith. Perhaps a lot of getting published is like a second full time job hunting editors and publishers and timing. But if you are writing when do you become your own horn? But I fully believe to that the time you spend helping others and motivating people to take to writing will have its rewards. God is a very generous one and no deed goes unnoticed. This brings up a question for you. Does your writing consist of pen and paper or do ypu use the computer or laptop and also have the benefit of spell check and grammar check using Word?

    1. Well, I write on a laptop because — as silly as it sounds — I don’t like my handwriting. Every time I keep a hand-written journal I wind up tossing it in the the “circular file.”

      To the main point, though: Since you said you wanted to write, I’d urge your writing about your mom’s days on the farm in the 1940s. That would be very inspiring, and would be within your comfort zone. (Writers too often try to stray outside that comfort zone at times.)

      Just don’t try to be someone else: I’m sure you have favorite writers, but there’s no need to mimic them. They have their voice, you have yours. Success in writing comes from connecting to others, usually on some emotional levels. But don’t worry about that at this point. Write those things that are meaningful *to you*. The rest will fall into place.

      Coincidentally, genealogy and history are two of the main reasons I’m fascinated by time travel. I’m not a science fiction writer per se. I’m more of a fantasist, curious about what happens to ordinary people who’re put in extraordinary circumstances.

      1. David Appenzellar

        Thanks for the advice and info. And on your last note, do you ever wonder while walking the halls of a nursing home of the lives these people have led? Oh they have had homes, treasures that meant a lot to them, friends, and drove cars we’ve only heard about. And so many don’t even having anyone visiting snd end up with a bed, closet and two dresser drawers. But I can sense their life and puts mine into perspective too.

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