I wanna make lotsa munny, hunny.

Raining-Money

Man, things have changed. I remember the days when I would pick up a Wilbur Smith novel, read the back cover, and then make the purchase decision. It was neat that I could see his bespectacled, slightly nerdy face on the book cover somewhere, and I was amazed that he always looked younger than I imagined him to be. (Okay, my secret is out – I used to read his books). But I would read the book, make a judgment, and then move on. I stopped reading his stories after his first wife died, and I am convinced that she was his primary inspiration. Since he remarried, his stories have lost their African heartbeat and seem to lean gently towards a high-pitched Asian mysticism. So I stopped reading his stories. It had nothing to do with his neglected Mail Chimp campaign or that he wasn’t on Facebook.

Wilbur-Smith-6

Then I discovered other writers, and my reading world underwent a big bang. That was somewhere in high school, before the advent of the internet and Facebook and Twitter etc. Wilbur Smith didn’t have a .com after his name and he sure as Bulawayo was in Rhodesia did not tweet. After all, he was (still is) a writer. There were book promotions which entailed going to bookstores and meeting people and talking on a radio program or two. But Wilbur Smith the marketing specialist and writing guru/mentor did not exist.

Fast-forward 30 years: writers have morphed into the new creatures that fill our Facebook pages and our email inboxes. These creatures were once writers but have undergone a strange metamorphosis. They can help you write, manage your time, lead others, teach you to blog, have a happy marriage, sell more books, remove a wart painlessly… All at a price, of course. Sadly, these authors are fiction giants who have sold millions of copies of brilliant books. They have entertained me and challenged me, and still live in my house – in crates and on shelves and on a piano and in small heaps on the floor, and will probably leave my house when I leave this world. When the children dump them onto an SPCA fundraising table somewhere.

I thought the .com thingy that writers acquired was so that readers could know a little more about their favourite writers. But the author page now sells writing courses, mentorship programs, Holy Water etc. I get it that the publishing industry is difficult, but if best selling authors have to start moonlighting in order to a) sell their books or b) earn money some other way because selling gazillions of books does not adequately fund their New York Published life style, then why the heck do I want to be a writer, anyway?

It’s a little stale to state that it’s all about money. But perhaps it is. Money is numero uno and drives all sorts of decisions. Think about it: how many teens say they want to study for 7 years to become research scientists with fixed salaries that have to work 15 hours a day for that salary? Surely driving a Bentley and rapping about boodies and boobies for rappersgazillions of dollars and having sweaty boodies and boobies around you all day long is a better career option.

Many youngsters want to go into marketing because that’s where the money is, they’ll tell you. Ask them to explain what marketing is and you’re lucky if they don’t say something that includes a German car and holidays in Dubai.

We are brainwashed (deceived) into believing that money is important. We raise our financial needs by trying to live just like those we admire (how else do dumb endorsements of stupid products work?). If Wilbur Smith can go on safari for the largest portion of the year, the surely I can, too.

We judge the success of an art object by its monetary success. And we forget that art exists just so that it can be beautiful, challenging, emotive, horrifying or whatever else it is intended for. God makes Table Mountain and we string a cable car to take people to the top – at a price. Wanna go to a beach somewhere just so that you can watch the waves beat against the shore and really appreciate nature? Sorry, sucker. Pay up!

If Van Gogh had a choice, would he have opted for money in his life time or lasting fame (which he never experienced)? It’s a pointless question, but it does make a point (how circular is that?). If you want to earn a living from your writing, forget about writing. jacquesYou will just fall into the trap of trying to maximise your earnings from your writing.

Rather find a job that you can enjoy (sort of, anyway). Make sure that it doesn’t demand too much from you on a creative level (guess why I edit academic papers?). Decide that you want to write for the right reasons:

  1. you want to say something important in the best possible way
  2. your time spent writing is the best part of the day
  3. if 1) and 2) above do not apply, go to 4)
  4. You were never meant to write, so quit while you’re ahead and while they are still looking for marketers and rappers and pro-golfers and plumbers.

I’ll return to my intended point: writers must please write. Painters must paint. Do what you are supposed to be doing. Don’t maximise your income if it means you must minimise your artistic input and spend time in inane conversation with dull people who have nothing to do but sit on Facebook all day and like your posts. That is time wasted. Of course, this goes against everything you are told. But I am kicking against the system. Because I hate the system. It just doesn’t make sense. I think we are fooled into believing that a better website will sell more books, or stickier email campaigns that will snare an elephant on a trampoline will sell more books, or liking people’s yawn-fodder will sell more books. Crap!

Better writing will sell more books, writing more books will sell more books. When you stop thinking about selling and instead focus on writing, chances are you will improve your craft and you may even finish a book. At the clichéd end of the clichéd day, do what you want to do. You want to write? Knock yourself out. Nothing can stop you. It’s just writing. Whether it’s good or bad, it’s still just writing. You said you wanted to write, so write. Just be the best writer you can be.

However, if you want to be a NY bestselling author, you’re at the wrong blog. Go to the NY bestselling author sites and see what they have to say. They’ll promise you all sorts of free stuff and blah blah. Then they zap you with the real reason they’re your friend: they want to sell you something. And it’s probably not their latest novel, because they’re busy with other things right now, and it don’t include sweating over an empty sheet of paper.

buy-me

Don’t buy my books, because I won’t buy yours just to return the favour. Don’t read my blogs in the hope that I will read yours and comment. Because I probably won’t. In fact, I’m hoping no one will read my blogs. I’d prefer this to be a place where I can vent without having to consider others and be held accountable. Besides, this blog is already way over the recommended length (500 words) so no one will read it. Oh, woe is me!

If you have read this far, your seriously need a life, or medication for your compulsive need to finish something you started. For the record, this is a blog and not a packet of biscuits. Only packets of biscuits have to be finished.

And writing your current book.

 

 

 

If it doesn’t work… uh, let’s try it again.

zim dollarZimbabwe’s currency woes are old news. When we complain of the rising price of tomato sauce and toilet paper, we actually have no idea what we’re moaning about. Not too long ago, three eggs cost one hundred billion Zim dollars (too many zeros, so we just write the words out in full). Then the Zimbabwe dollar became extinct and US dollars bought the eggs.

Now President Mugabe plans to resuscitate the failed currency, but it will be known as the ‘bond note’. And this is new news, as reported by Peta Thornycroft in The Telegragh. You can read the whole story here.

 

Guaranteed Cure for Writer’s Block! (1074 unedited words can’t be wrong)

I hear it all over the writerly place: The muse has left me, I have nothing to say, I’m uninspired… I have the equivalent of writer’s pox – all variations of the malady aka writer’s block. When I hear those words, in whatever form they vomit forth from a miserable creative, I cringe. Because I know that the disease doesn’t exist. writers-block-Peanuts

However, there are similar conditions which are diagnostic possibilities that need to be ruled out, including laziness, losing the plot, not honouring your characters or the story, losing the plot, a Hemingway headache, losing the plot, and the only really valid excuse – death. Dead writers have writer’s block, make no mistake, and they have my sympathy.

[Unless, of course, they have received the divine promotion to the position of heavenly scribe – which is where I’m aiming. I cannot think of a better way to pass the timelessness of eternity than to sit in the throne room of Almighty God, and write stories to entertain the masses. Surely there will still be art and music and literature in heaven, so I have applied for the post of scribe. I will sit at a little school desk with a pad and a blue pen. And I will scribble away for 10 000 years. Then I’ll mess about with some paint (maybe Van Gogh will give me a few pointers) for a century or two, and I’ll go back to the writing.]

Where was I? Oh, The Block.

I used to think that I had writer’s block until I realised that it was merely a case of laziness or losing the plot. For me, it’s usually a toss-up between the two. And the cure in both cases is the same thing: sit down and write. That may sound circular i.e. how can you sit down and write if you can’t sit down and write? Well, you CAN sit down, so start with that. It’s a really good idea to move onto the next phase of the process, which may entail picking up a pen OR switching on your computer. I write better with a ballpoint pen. I triedchewed pen doing my first drafts on the computer, but it’s a bit iffy trying to chew the mouse while you’re thinking. And ballpoint pens are a dime a dozen. Literally (which usually means metaphorically, and that’s true for me because I live in South Africa, where it costs more than a dime for one, never mind a dozen – and we don’t have dimes). Computer mouses (or is it mice, somebody – please!) cost a little more, and you won’t find a spare one in the kitchen drawer or under the bed or between the couch cushions or in the car’s glove-box… Well, most people don’t have them all over the place. And if you have real mice in those places, your problem is far more serious than any writer’s block can ever be.

Now we move onto the most important (dare I say pivotal?) part of curing writer’s block – which is quite unlike curing ham. And here it is (ta-da): you write. Yes, it’s that simple. Okay, so you have no idea what to write after the murderous thief climbed out the window with the sack of blood-splattered jewels over his shoulder. Then don’t write about what you have no idea about. Write about something else. Let your imagination give you another scene in the story. Perhaps you have had something tip-toeing about in your brain for a while, but it’s still in the future of the story. Don’t let chronology cramp your style. I can pick a book up and open it anywhere I please and read the page. No one is going to prosecute me or judge me and God is surely not going to send me to Hell. Guess what? That counts for writing, too. You can write any scene you like whenever you like and in whatever colour ink you choose. Scary thought, isn’t it?

You’re a writer, (aren’t you?), which means you are the freest [huh, I don’t think I’ve ever written that word before – it looks weird and I just want to add another ‘e’] agent in the universe. Even the angels don’t do as they please. And painters have to worry about paint drying too quickly. But we get to create worlds as they suit us. Amazing thought just struck me (all the others weren’t so amazing): God made the grass and plants and fruit before He made the animals and man. Otherwise their first day on earth would have been a hungry one. Imagine Adam reaching the first evening and thinking that the grumble in his stomach was just the way life was going to be. So God even does things in order. Phew, makes me a little hesitant to say “Write your scenes in any order”, but I just said it.

Seriously, though, sometimes one scene wants to be written before another, despite the logical chronology. Sometimes we need to gain a new perspective of where the story is bobby ewingheaded, or why it is headed in a certain direction. So, forget about Bobby Burglar and write a scene about his wife at home in bed, wondering why he is taking so long to buy the late paper. She might be watching reruns of Dallas and trying to imagine what Bobby Ewing looks like now. Perhaps the dogs across the street are howling while an ambulance siren wails a few blocks away. Now she is scared, and she wishes her Bobby will return, even if he doesn’t look anything like JR’s baby brother. Her Bobby is always so kind and makes her feel safe.

Guess what, your initial scene just found the route it has to take. Bobby is going home to his loving wife. And there are a few logistical issues: jewels, sack, blood, and did he remember the paper? But first he fenceneeds to stop off at the fence (dealer in stolen goods – however, perhaps that will be next door to where he lives. After all, didn’t a famous poet say that good fences make good neighbours?)

Writer’s Block? Rubbish! I sat down and wondered what I was going to write about. Granted, I didn’t write about much [although, my goodness, I certainly used enough words to say nothing], but if this wasn’t a blog and somebody was actually going to read this… I could easily slice it and dice it and make it relatively palatable.

Your turn!

What on earth made you read this far? Did you actually think I had the answer, or are you just passing the time while your Writer’s Block mutates into Writing News Bulletins for South African news channels?