Friday, September 8, 2006

Writes great! Less posting! Writes great! Less posting!

(Ah, warped pop cultural allusions, such fun.)

People have asked me on and off why I've been posting less and less. Basically, while on the one hand I've made (daily) writing more a part of my schedule ("rule of life"), on the other, I've decided to channel most of my energies into "real writing." I want to start getting an oeuvre for submission to magazines and possibly even shaped up into a book of essays. I've got too many stories, poems, essays and reviews not to try for something more substantial. Partly motivation comes from nearing publication of the co-authored book Fr. Ramón and I have written about Providence University. It will be published, God willing, this fall -- and then, like magic, I can call myself a "published writer"!

Of course, the name is one thing and the life is another. Being a "writer" is leagues removed from being a writer. How many people have I heard say, only more breezily than humbly, "I'm a pretty good writer," only to hear the subtext, the unspoken Morse code, "I am literate and have written items before"? Too many (counting myself). I'm a pretty good cook, considering I've never burned down a house or poisoned a man, but I'm not a cook... because I don't cook!

The two steps I realize I must take are 1) making writing a DAILY DISCIPLINE (though I haven't decided if I want a word amount or a time duration to be my bar), and 2) compiling and improving my "juvenilia" into publishable materials. The first step is simply a non-negotiable rule, an axiom of writerly existence: you have to write every day. "." In fact, let's just call this "The Rule." Now, I admit I don't yet live by The Rule, but it's a steady burning ruby flame in my writer's attic of a mind. The bad news is that living The Rule is hard, very hard. The good news is that grasping the value of it -- the necessity of disciplined, consistent writing production (not to say quality[1]) -- is a major step in itself, and shouldn't be taken lightly. (The news that isn't really news is that loving living The Rule everyday is impossible, otherwise all those "good writers" would be right. There are days you just don't want to see another word on paper – but The Rule still stands, a tappin that crop in its hand, a tappin its shiny old boot on the attic floor.)

I finally "got it," the Good News of The Rule, about five years ago shortly after I'd enrolled in Long Ridge's "Breaking into Print" program (yes, I got the diploma and had a great time!). As part of the curriculum, I was reading an article, by a freelance writer, about the craft of writing, or to be more precise, the fact that writing is a craft. Once I saw that -- that writing is a craft, a skill, an operation, much like shoemaking or carpentry -- light and air and hope and little cooing doves all rushed into the attic. A man don't just "pick up" carpentry and he don't just "be a writer" neither. And while viewing writing as a craft, a sort of dainty manual labor if you will, certainly takes a lot of the shine off writing (the same shine that leads people to say they're good writers, as if they'll just sit down and "punch out" an essay or a story), it adds eons of hope for the would-be scribbler. Seeing the value of The Rule, even if you haven't yet learned to live by it, assures you, "You too can do this. All you have to do is do it!" (Having some natural verbal talent and being very, very well read doesn't hurt though.)

The second step, compiling an oeuvre, includes "strip mining" my blog for segments I can work into shape. The next big step will be 3) finding niche markets and establishing a contact routine (cover letter templates, envelopes, publisher lists, etc.). The good news is that while I haven't posted as much in the past XXXXX, I have been writing, if not smoothly at least fairly persistently. Hence, "Writes great! Less posting!" Cute, eh?

Pray for me. I certainly ask St. Francis de Sales to do so!

(Incidentally, since things in Hong Kong worked out pretty well, albeit dramatically, and since I have yet to receive any large sums of money at home, I take it all my readers would rather pray for me than anything else. How fine a discovery!)

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