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Let’s be real here: if you expect anyone to pay to read anything you’ve written, you must think very highly of yourself. And good for you. For us, that is. Confidence is often mistaken for ego, and self-reliance is often dismissed as self-indulgence. But that’s okay, because if you have faith in yourself, guess what? You have a very healthy ego. Nothing wrong with that. The desire for fame and fortune is an extremely human attribute (or foible, depending on your point of view). But as with any other volatile element, you can’t let your ego explode and blow up your agenda. This means accepting constructive criticism graciously, not pushing your work where it’s obviously not wanted, and not boasting that your stuff is better than anyone else’s. It’s just the best work you are capable of producing and sharing with the public, per your own high standards. If someone dismisses that as being “egotistical,” chalk that up to your insensitive critic’s own hubris. That’s what I always do, anyway.
The question of whether creative writing can be taught (as opposed to technical writing or even journalism, both of which require formal training) remains open to debate. But one thing is for certain: you will learn a lot about life, the world and yourself via the act of writing. And readers will in turn learn a lot from you. You will also learn a lot from their feedback to your work. It’s a very symbiotic relationship. Every worthwhile piece of writing expands consciousness to some extent, even if it’s awareness of something relatively trivial. Of course educators write all the time. The written word will never go out of style, at least until we all start communicating telepathically. Meantime, live and learn. And then write it all down and share it, so others may benefit from your knowledge and wisdom, and vice versa.
The best thing about writing is that you can do it by yourself, with very simple equipment. You don’t require a degree or expensive tools to make it happen. You just need solitude, concentration, and honesty with yourself. Since these days just about everyone types down their thoughts electronically, you don’t have to worry about wasting paper with your rambling on the page. It can all be instantly edited, deleted – or saved for posterity, even shared with the world with the press of a button. Though by that point, you should be sure it’s worth broadcasting. Meantime, you are free to fool around with form, format, content, voice, genre, etc. It can not only be really fulfilling to just let your imagination free in this way, but it can also be fun.
Writing is still our best of communicating when we can’t talk in person. For many, it’s also a more concise and reliable way to express complicated feelings or ideas. Words are our friends. They can also be our enemies when abused or misused. Most social media platforms require writing. Twitter is nothing but writing. Some even make it an art form, since the challenge of expressing yourself in forty characters or less can result in a form of virtual street poetry. The more you hone your skills by writing to others, in any medium, the more accomplished a communicator you will become, even if it’s not for fame or money. But eventually you may discover it could be, and meet some very interesting people with common interests along the way.
I’ve often compared writing to being a werewolf. It’s like a curse with no cure. Every now and then werewolves feel compelled to howl at the moon and go on a murderous feeding spree. Writers aren’t quite as big a threat to society (since nobody reads anyway, right?), but we also do things we can’t help, or even explain. And one of those things is writing. In the end, we don’t have to justify this obsession with writing everything down, channeling emotions and imagination into poems or novels or stories that hardly anyone will ever read. Sure, it sounds crazy. Except to actual writers. But then crazy people don’t always know they’re crazy, do we?
This last reason to write goes back to my initial advice to all aspiring authors: “quit now.” If you don’t, that means you can’t help it. And you don’t owe anyone but yourself an explanation.
New Orleans, LA