Friday, August 27, 2010

On quitting and writing and disagreeing with Stephen King

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I caught a discussion going on yesterday on twitter about this blog post. To summarize, a guy who's been writing for 15 years is hanging up the towel. He had one book published years ago, has written three more since that his agent has tried to sell to no avail. He says, in that blog post, among other things:

"Someone wrote – King again, I think – that a writer is a person who will write no matter what. In other words, if you lock them up in a cell without pen or pencil, they’ll write on the wall in their own blood. I didn’t believe that when I read it and I don’t believe it now. Even Stephen King comes to a point when the blood dries up. Writers are people. We – they – would want to play football if they were footballers, not sit on the subs bench; they would want to have a workshop, tools, and customers if they made furniture for a living; writers want to be read.
Fifteen years is a fair crack of the whip. As of now, I am no longer a writer of fiction."
And it got me thinking. I love writing. I do. But I don't think I'm one of those persons who would write stories just for myself. I might write journal entries. I might write poetry. But I don't know if I would continue writing novels if I didn't think there was a chance someone else might read them.
Some on twitter didn't think he should give up, saying the only difference between published authors and non-published authors is sticking with it.
I say - if it doesn't bring you joy anymore, don't do it. Life is too short. When I read his blog post, I can tell this isn't a decision that was made lightly. He feels like it's time to move on. And I respect that.
Anyway, today I'm curious. Do you agree with Stephen King? Do you think "real" writers write regardless if anyone will ever read it? And do you think at some point, the toll of rejection could cause you to stop writing? I'm pretty sure it would me. Who wants to live in misery all the time, feeling like they just aren't good enough? Not me, that's for sure. I get that it can take a long time to break in, and you shouldn't give up easily. But after fifteen years? I wouldn't blame you one bit.
~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career


Harmony said...

I guess I can see his point. I mean, 15 years of rejection is a LONG time. But it also makes me wonder if there were other things he could've done...

I don't think I could write thinking no one would EVER see anything I write. Right now, I don't expect people to see everything I write. But it's practice and improving my skills for when people do actually see it.

What really made my jaw drop, though, was the confession on twitter from several published authors admitting they don't love writing, they only "like" it and it wouldn't bother them if they stopped. With all the rejection and critisicm authors are faced with, I can't believe that authors can only like writing. Why put yourself out to so much, if you only "like" it? I know I couldn't. If I don't write, I get crabby. It's something I HAVE to do. Everyone is different, but that just surprised me.

Okay, my very long comment is now over. d

Kat said...

I do agree with Stephen King. A true writer will always write, whether their books sell or not. They may stop writing books, however. That's a commitment that is not necessary if the books aren't selling.

A writer writes in his head as much as he does on paper. I'm a writer, and am not ashamed to say it, and I write constantly. It's not nearly all "written down," but it is a constant stream of poetry and prose running through my conscious and subconscious. I will never stop writing. I will write in my own blood on the walls of my cell if need be. My cell is my mind and my blood is the spark across synapses. Always writing. Never stopping. Certainly never "quitting!"

Kate Fall said...

I wouldn't write if I didn't think someone else would read it. I can tell myself stories all day long without putting them on paper. That's daydreaming, using my imagination, escape. I love my internal stories. But they are worlds different from what I would write down. Imagining is for myself; writing is for others. And imagining is much easier because I only have to please me. Excessively long tangents on imaginary clothes? No problem!

So if I really, honestly thought nobody would ever enjoy my stories at any time in the future (not you or my kids someday or ANYONE), I would stop.

Jackie said...

I mean, I think there are two levels of writer here. I have to write. Sometimes I love it and sometimes I don't, but I HAVE to do it, and I want someone to read it but it can just be a friend, and that's pretty darn satisfying. But for some writers, well, maybe they love writing but they also love something else and they want to try succeeding at something else. I can understand that too.

Anonymous said...

There are several issues here.

First, the distinction between writing and trying to get published. I think writing is not really a matter of choice, as King says. Not everyone who writes needs to publish, but I think most writers would miss writing if they stopped. I wrote for years before I had any expectation of publishing.

Second, many writers take a hiatus from publishing and/or writing, and come back later. Never say never--this guy may be back, all the better for his break. He may need a rest, and the well may refill. If he needs a break this badly, he should take it.

Finally--if that break turns out to be permanent--well, I agree that writing is something one should only do for love. Because for 99.9% of us, the love part is the real reward; fame and fortune are certainly not guaranteed.

DeenaML said...

If this guy doesn't have any more stories in him that he is driven to write, then yeah, I could see after 15 years just going in a different direction. But if he DOES have another idea, I hope he writes it. Bc he has sold a book and he has an agent so obviously he is talented! And the book industry can change. I think overall, people in this position need to keep writing IF THEY HAVE A STORY THEY NEED TO TELL.

As long as my friends and crit partners keep reading my work, I'll keep writing!

Carmella Van Vleet said...

I've never really agreed with the sentiment that a writer will write no matter what. (In between college graduation and the birth of my oldest, I went YEARS without writing anything.) Of course, there are things I write that are just for me or someone I love. But I write because I hope someone reads and likes my work. If I'd given it a honest shot and got nowhere, I'd quit. Writers write - but they are also read.

I understand the need to stop because you don't love it anymore, though. This is why, to a large degree, I stopped writing non-fiction. Even though I'd written over a dozen non-fiction books and found a fair amount of success, I stopped enjoying the process. I've since moved to fiction and am falling in love with writing all over again.

Emily Marshall said...

Wow this is really interesting. I agree with you. When I first started writing stories it was with the goal of sharing them with other people. I would probably write something different (poetry) or something else more reflective if I just wrote for myself.

And I completely agree if something isn't bringing you joy there's nothing wrong with moving on to find something else that brings you joy. Life is definitely too short.