Thursday, July 21, 2011

Writing What You Love

by Allison Pang

“Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for.”

— Ray Bradbury

I wasn't always a writer. I know some authors say that they've been writing since they could pick up a pencil, but that was never me. I certainly did a lot of reading, and I told myself a lot of stories - but they were silent. (For some reason when I played with my dolls or whatever everything just sounded out in my head. Probably looked a bit creepy.)

I wrote here and there in middle school and high school. Off and on in college. I played around with the idea of becoming an English major, since I thought that's what you had to be to get published. The internet had barely arrived when I was in college, so I didn't have the resources available today. I didn't know anything about agents or query letters and no real idea of where to begin.

During one of my Creative Writing classes, we had to read aloud from one of our favorite authors, and I read something by Charles de Lint. I got a lot of blank stares and some giggles. (de Lint writes some of the most beautiful Urban Fantasy out there, btw. I highly recommend.) But at that moment I realized I was in the wrong class, and I decided that I didn't have what it took to become a writer. The stuff I wanted to write wasn't taught or it was made fun of and I figured that was that.

So I stopped writing. I did make a half-hearted attempt to get into grad school for English, but it's just as well they rejected me. (It was more of a "What the hell am I going to do with the rest of my life?" panic moment than any real wish to continue with my education anyway.)

I didn't touch the keyboard for probably 12 years after that. (With one small exception - the beginnings of BoD did show up in the early years, told from Charlie's perspective...all well and good until the floppy disk got eaten. >_<)

I don't think I felt like there was anything missing at the time. My soul didn't wither up and die because I wasn't creating things. I figured I was just going to be one of those people who didn't have a vocation...until I started playing Play-by-Post games. PbPs are online role-playing games - i.e. think D&D but in written form. You have characters and play with others and have to write up your responses based on your interactions and the game-master's instructions.

I wasn't that great of a player, honestly, but I was good at the writing part of it. The games spun off into short stories with some of the other players, spurring me into an obsessive need to get the words down. I loved the story I was writing with my friend. I loved the characters. I loved where I was going.

And I realized that I wanted to get published so badly I could taste it. But more to the point, I'd fallen in love with what I was writing. Which made it all the more painful when my friendship with the other writer died and my dream of collaboration with her was shattered. I suppose it's possible to love something *too* much. It took a very long time for me to be able to let it go.

In the meantime, I'd been writing bits and pieces of what became A Brush of Darkness. Funny thing is that while I enjoyed writing it, I didn't have the same all-consuming obsession with it that I did for the collaborative piece. Maybe it's a bit like having that first boyfriend - through the haze of memories, nothing can really compare, because god dammit, he was the first guy to ever kiss you and therefore it was meant to be. (Even when you realize later that the relationship wasn't nearly as good as you thought.)

Sometimes I wonder if I'm just flirting with the stories now.  I got burned once and I'm afraid to commit? Or I'm just waiting for that one turn of phrase to sweep me off my feet and into the heady rush of all-encompassing adoration. For an author, it's sort of an awkward thing to admit.

On the other hand, I do think that being too in love with your story makes it difficult to make the hard choices when it comes to editing. You can become blinded to the flaws and inconsistencies, (much like that first boyfriend, perhaps). But even if you're not in love, you really do need to be in heavy like with your writing, because at the end of a run of edits, *all* you see are the mistakes and how much you suck because you used the word "just" ten times on one page.

Eh. I'm in the middle of post-edit burn, so I'm a tad cranky with word-love at the moment. Think I'll settle for a "Friends with Benefits" relationship with the next book. :)


  1. Well I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who looks at my piece after edits and things "OMG, why did they even accept this!? No one is going to read this crap. And if they do, they won't like it...or me. Hell, I don't even like me." And then I drink coke *thatmaybelacedwithvodka* and the world gets better again.

  2. I think that there's a balance to be had. There are parts of my work I love and always will. Parts I don't, that I now know I could have executed better.

    But I think a relationship with a book is a lot like a relationship in real life - I have to respect it. And if I can respect the work, then it has life.

  3. D.F.Krieger--*thatmaybelacedwithvodka* LOVE IT! Mine's usually got Captain in it, but I SOOO get you. I think we look at the edits and feel like failures, when we should look at the edits and feel "Yay, I'm worthy of their time effort and help!" Not easy to do, but the spike in our soda does chase the mean voices away.

    Allison--I get you too. Love the stories with all you got, love the characters as well, and then back off to a safe distance and when the edits come, remember that we're word whores, not word wives. ;-)

  4. "... all well and good until the floppy disk got eaten."

    Ah the floppy disk. A 5.25 disk? I imagine you frisbee-ing that thing in a fit of @$%* rage.

    Oh, and you didn't miss a thing by not becoming an English major -- save for the utter loathing of other people telling you how to interpret an author's intentions.

    ~waltzes off to join DF & Linda in the *thatmaybelacedwithvodka* Happy Hour~

  5. Thank you. Right now I'm in a place where writing is like a tired marriage - all the passion was there at the beginning but now we just pass each other in the hallway and nod. I want writing to reach out for me in the middle of the night, tickle me awake and keep me up for hours again.

  6. Linda - I think that's a very good technique for finding perspective with edits and crits. The fact that somebody took the time to point out the mistakes, rather than patting you on the back and telling you you're a good little writer, means they see something in your writing that is worth the trouble.

    If we're sticking with the relationship analogy - it's good to remember that all long term relationships have cycles. Passion, apathy, and sometimes active dislike - but love still underlies it all, and if we hang in there, the passion will be back.

  7. Damn - did I miss the *thatmaybelacedwithvodka* Happy Hour??

  8. Jeffe--we'll have *thatmaybelacedwithvodka* happy hour whenever you show up.