Monday, November 10, 2008


I went to Wordstock with one set of objectives, and left with another. Isn't that always the way?

My plan was to go and be inspired to finish writing what I set out to write, and learn how to shape it so it would sell.

Somewhere along the way I started to shift, and wonder if I even wanted to bother writing another word. At all.

The person that spoke and said he'd spent 10 years writing a book and tossing 3,000 pages? Not inspiring.

How about the one that said 8 out of 10 books never make any money? Not motivating.

Or the guy that said the system is entirely backwards - the book buyers for the big sellers determine the industry. They are in communication with the publishers, and what they decide will sell, is what trickles down to what writers can write. Not encouraging.

But the last panel discussion I listened to was "Writing About Addiction." I thought, Well, there's a subject I have no intention of ever writing about, but I went because it was moderated by Cheryl Strayed, and Cheryl rocks. Period. The three panelists all shared their backgrounds, and inspiration for writing about the gritty side of life.

I was mesmerized - particularly by Tony O'Neill, the author who spent 10 years as a heroin addict, and completely disappeared from society. This author said he's spent his whole life breaking the rules, and his writing career has been no exception. Everyone told him he needed to write a recovery memoir and punch up the "aha moment" when he knew his life had to change. He didn't do that. He never had an "aha moment." That wasn't his story, and he wasn't going to write it, no matter what "sells."

And the audience couldn't get enough of him. His flaws so exposed, his pretenses non-existent, his humanity so evident. He was just a man telling his story - not a story anyone I know can even relate to, but we can anyway, because he's a writer, writing about what he knows.

And so today I put my butt back in the chair and I continue to write about what I know, and let that be enough.


Angie Ledbetter said...

Amen, Sistuh. And kudos to Tony O'Neill and others who refuse to follow "the rules." I have a dear friend who is a maverick in every imaginable way, including being a rule-breaker. She's now writing her fifth and sixth books!

Anonymous said...

You go girl.

Jerri said...

Butt in chair = finished work.

Keep it there.

Kathryn said...

Exactly, Cary. Follow your own path and it do it your way. Too many voices out there to divert you from your own.

Anonymous said...

Glad you're back on track!

Deb said...

I'm so glad to know that after all of that you're still writing. It's not so helpful to listen to the gloom when our hearts have so much to say and that's definitely where the listening pays off in currency that really counts.

Maddy said...

Tricky. My brother is published and as a journalist he told me that every journalist 'has a book on the boil.' He told me many other relevant things and I'm not sure how many to share not that I don't try to be a good sharer, more that I don't want to clog your comments!]

I'll share a couple in any case.

Remember that a significant percentage of published books are not really worth reading and certainly were never worth writing [I like that one in particular]

Also, 'any idiot can write a book but it's an entirely different matter to get it published.' [I don't like that one so much but I suspect it's true.]

Lastly, 'read and write every day.' Done and dusted right?
BEst wishes

Wanda said...

As Brene Brown says, "the audacity of authenticity."

Terry said...

I just recommended his book to a recovering addict today. Who knows?

kario said...

Love your open mind. You just never know where it will lead you, do you?


french panic said...

Praise all rule breakers! I read an inspiring interview with novelist Rawi Hage recently (and blogged about it) that seems to be along the same lines as what Tony O'Neill was saying.

It's easy, sometimes, to get bogged down with writing "rules", or hearing the "experts" yammer on, when it all just comes down to 'just write.'

I'm happy that you were re-inspired!

Amber said...

Oh man, wow! I wish I had seen and heard that.


Michelle O'Neil said...

Rules are meant to keep us in line. Frankly I've had enough of that too.


She said...

Keep writing about what you know!!! I'll keep reading!