“Keep on reading, thinking, doing and writing! Words keep introducing their friends to you.” ― Toba Beta, My Ancestor Was an Ancient Astronaut
“That afternoon he told me that the difference between human beings and animals was that human beings were able to dream while awake. He said the purpose of books was to permit us to exercise that faculty. Art, he said, was a controlled madness… He said books weren’t made of themes, which you could write essays about, but of images that inserted themselves into your brain and replaced what you were seeing with your eyes.” ― Steven Millhauser, Dangerous Laughter
I enjoyed a fun little writing exercise where I accessed a conversation with my “inner writer.” The exercise began with my inner writer speaking to me about when we first met. I found the conversation revealing, warm, comfortable, and even surprising in places. What follows is the transcript of our dialogue:
Inner Writer: “I came into your life in a truly apparent manner while writing that short story, “A Race Against Love” in Pat Urbas’ class in 1979. More accurately, however, the seeds of our relationship were planted in all the books you read leading up to that short story.
I realize you loathed English classes all the way through high school. All the while, though, I was teaching you a joy of words and writing which your teachers at that point in your life could not accomplish.
Me: Do you remember Marilyn and Kris’s reaction to “A Race Against Love?”
Inner Writer: “Of course! It felt good, didn’t it?”
Me: Absolutely! I was so into the creation of the “story world” and the interaction of the characters. Marilyn was the love interest in the story.”
Inner Writer: “Yes, but don’t discount the writing and her reaction simply based on that. It was a great story.”
Me: “I shouldn’t have changed the ending. I wanted him to die.”
Inner Writer: Understood. But Marilyn was your muse in human form and when she asked for a happy ending, she was teaching you about “market.” That does not mean you have to acquiesce to market, just be aware that most people want a happy ending.”
Me: “True. And the adjustment was simply an added paragraph written like an epilogue. That’s why I understand what I do today more clearly. I should trust you more.”
Inner Writer: “That’s a refreshing statement. It would be nice if you maintained that mindset of trusting me more. I will not let you down as long as you approach me in that manner.”
Me: So where do we go from here? With all the life concerns like time (not getting any younger), finances, crazy ex, children, relationships, exhaustion – how do we get together more often?”
Inner Writer: “You’re doing it right now.”
Me: “That’s not fair. This is a gathering of people where I must participate along with them.”
Inner Writer: “Yes. And you’re doing it.”
Me: “Ok. Ok. I get it. But…”
Inner Writer: “You know better. No ‘buts’.”
Me: “So you’re suggestion I make time for you again.”
Inner Writer: “You did it for Michele and her 31 poems.”
Me: “Hmm. Like Marilyn.”
Inner Writer: “Yep.”
Me: “But this writing was so much better – the Michele writing.”
Inner Writer: “Absolutely. I’m not knocking it, I’m encouraging it. If Michele spurs you to write, I’m all for it. But you need more than Michele. You have unfinished writing business.”
Me: “True that. I see. And today, I made myself get up at 5:00am to prep and write for this mini workshop. That’s what I should be doing every day.”
Inner Writer: “That’s my point. If you can rally yourself to this for others, you just need to get to where you do it for us.”
Me: “We’re a good team.”
Inner Writer: “The best!”
Me: “The things I want to write and the worlds I want to create…”
Inner Writer: “All go to the graveyard at the rate you’ve fallen to…”
Me: “Little harsh?”
Inner Writer: “Truth hurts. More importantly, truth opens the eyes to what needs to be done. For us, what needs done is fun!”
Me: “Damn straight! I’m enjoying this conversation, by the way.”
Inner Writer: “We have this conversation every time you let go. Every time you give yourself permission to write. Every time you act on that permission. Truly, you are your own best ally.”
Me: “I see what you did there.”
Inner Writer: “Yes, but did you feel what I did there?”
Me: “Yes, I am my own best ally. No one else can move me like I can.”
Inner Writer: “True. Michele can indeed move you, but underlying that fact is your permission to allow her to do so. And then, you and I are along for the ride!”
Me: “I see. So the external muse is merely that, external, albeit a powerful one in Michele, and the depth of the muse lies within us, you and me.”
Inner Writer: “Did you hear that? “A you and a me’ – yours and Michele’s major bonding statement. Do not underestimate her wealth of writing power simply because she’s external. She is as close as one can be to being your internal muse.”
Me: “So I should access her more often?”
Inner Writer: “Not more often, but incorporate her assistance whenever possible.”
Me: “Interesting exercise, this. I’m motivated to get up early to write again!”
Inner Writer: “That was the point.”
Me: “Got it.”
Inner Writer: “Anything else we wish to speak about?”
Me: “I’m sure there are many, many things I’d like to discuss, but for now I’m good.”
Inner Writer: “Remember, I’m here anytime you call on me. I even ask you to join me. Most often I’m ignored.”
Me: “Wow. I want to do something about that.”
“But my way of writing is rather to think aloud, and follow my own humours, than much to consider who is listening to me; and, if I stop to consider what is proper to be said to this or that person, I shall soon come to doubt whether any part at all is proper.” ― Thomas de Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium Eater
“I wonder what the retirement age is in the novel business. The day you die.” ― Yasunari Kawabata, Beauty and Sadness
“Yes, I hate orthodox criticism. I don’t mean great criticism, like that of Matthew Arnold and others, but the usual small niggling, fussy-mussy criticism, which thinks it can improve people by telling them where they are wrong, and results only in putting them in straitjackets of hesitancy and self-consciousness, and weazening all vision and bravery. …I hate it because of all the potentially shining, gentle, gifted people of all ages, that it snuffs out every year. It is a murderer of talent. And because the most modest and sensitive people are the most talented, having the most imagination and sympathy, these are the very first ones to get killed off. It is the brutal egotists that survive.” ― Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit
Posted before, but it bears repeating…
“Genuineness is often sacrificed in order to showcase the author’s control over the form and subject matter, the end result technically sound but emotionally cold.” ― Jennifer S. Davis
Time can lend life a larger, more interesting aspect when you step back and take a good gander at it. I often mention I’ve been on my “writing” journey for 17 years from the moment I was conscious after a near-death surgery in 1999. The truth, and for me the more interesting aspect of my life, is that my writing journey truly identifies itself in 1979 when Professor Pat Urbas told me, “Mike, you should consider writing as a vocation.”
I’ve tended to dismiss this “beginning point” simply because I did not pursue the “business” side of writing until I almost died. Yet, those 20 years leading up to the operating table taught me many wonderful things, like self-expression without the intrusion of critics. Yes, I was a closet writer.
I truly own nearly 40 years of writing experience. That number boggles my mind. I’ve been paid for my writing for nearly 15 years. I’ve been in publishing for over a decade. That’s a lot of knowledge!
I discovered what I love and I love helping people get their books from their mind/heart to the page. That’s what I do. With this comes the struggle.
My mentor got to a point in the mid-2000’s where he got irked at people sitting with him and picking his brain for hours … for free. I’ve come to a place where I understand his frustration. I spent the largest portion of my life in love with writing. I’ve actually taken writing on as a vocation as Ms. Urbas suggested.
There’s a threshold at which you arrive when you take on the business of “intellectual property.” I own a knowledge that others appear to believe I can give away for free. I would love to be able to do so but I am as yet not independently wealthy. I teach what I’ve learned to others to feed, clothe, and house myself and my family. If I sit for hours answering question after question after question of what I’ve learned in 38 years with no compensation, my family and I would be homeless, ragged, and starving.
Charging people for intellectual property is tough, especially if you’re a giving soul. Pricing is also tough. But the most strenuous hurdle to overcome is, without a doubt, explaining to someone who does not know anything about the business. I want to explain about the hours, days, weeks, months, years, and decades I’ve put into acquiring this knowledge. The thousands upon thousand of dollars going to conferences, classes, paid consulting (yes, I’ve had to do what they’re doing).
What I’ve found is that people don’t want your sob story. They don’t possess an experience level to even understand what I’m talking about much of the time.
I’m left with the uncomfortable transition to charging for what I once gave away for free. I have decided that I will schedule a half-hour interview with prospective clients so they may get a sense of who I am and what I do. I want to educate and assist. This way, they may decide to work with me or not, and I them.
Most people today are accustomed to someone working in a building trading hours for dollars. They do not understand the value of intellectual property, that is, until they need it. Then, far too often. people want it for free.
I’ve been a sucker many times, sitting for hours teaching people things they need to know. But did I truly help them? My assessment is no. They only nabbed a snippet of a large and complex industry which eats writers up and spits them out as discarded refuse at an alarming rate. There was no structure. No plan. No milestones set. No follow-up. In essence, we wasted their time and mine.
I’ve made my peace with my consulting transition. I’ve had people get mildly indignant about me charging for consulting fees, but they would only have wasted their time and mine. I’m interested in helping those who truly intend to invest themselves into writing as a vocation. Everyone who writes does not necessarily do this. Many people simply want to write for themselves. Nothing wrong with that at all. I desire to work with writers who aspire to get their work out into the world. That’s my happy place. It’s my passion. It’s what I do.
If you or someone you know needs help getting their book written, contact me at: Author@MichaelRayKing.com. My consulting page on my website is located at: MichaelRayKing
I help people get their books written…and I love doing it! 🙂