Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Why I Write

I enjoy writing for money, it’s everything Noah Berlatsky describes in his October 9, 2013 Salon article, "Why Unsuccessful Writers Give the Best Advice".  In it, he contrasts himself with Ta-Nehisi Coates, a celebrated writer who'd recently been profiled in The Atlantic, quoted as saying that in his writing Coates never achieved "that perfect thing that was in my head, so I always consider the entire process about failure."

Aside from those times I write to be paid, I am far more often compelled—best word to describe it—to write great quantities of made-up stuff that, having a life of its own, strongly resists shaping itself for any other audience but me.  It’s embarrassing, but enormously satisfying.  I certainly rewrite my creations as necessary, but I’m not preoccupied with perfection, really, only clarity.  Nor even in my compulsion do I experience the existential struggle Coates describes.  I just need to write.  It would be nice to be paid, but fulfilling my needs is welcome compensation.

I will say that if I only wrote for money, I could say I write because it’s expedient to do so.  The writing for myself, out of compulsion, is what makes me a writer.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Love Your Work!

I have never yet paid to enter a writing contest.  I can’t escape the feeling that any such contest is rigged.  For starters, the contest exists simply to indulge the contest organizer’s tastes while disingenuously demanding the hopeful entrants pay for it.

This sounds mean-spirited, I know--and that's not my style.  There are many contests that charge entry fees which many writers consider reputable and worthwhile, though it does seem to me that the purest, if impractical contest would be funded by any group who in turn would vote their own winners.  There may actually be a few out there that work like that.

The only contest I've entered repeatedly is L. Ron Hubbard's Writers of the Future Contest (WOTF).  It's free, popular, is judged by well-known, serious writers, and is respected and reputable.

But about that "reputable" part...  

The contest is owned by the Church of Spiritual Technology, an entity of Scientology, and more than ever lately tales of physical abuse and other bad behavior continually flow from the ranks of  this cult, yet the contest keeps itself completely separate from Scientology as L. Ron Hubbard seems to have intended.  The "meta" problem here, though, is obvious.  As Scientology sinks to ever deeper lows, can anything associated with it not be tainted?  Of course, much charitable work is done by enormous corporations who simultaneously wreak havoc on the environment, etc.  A cynic might observe that no good work doesn't have a connection to a suspect source of support.  One can't "buy American" because there's always some component parts created in an overseas sweatshop, etc.

I may continue to enter WOTF.  I'm Scientology's worst enemy.  I'll take take their money and put it to good use.  Here's a picture of Algys Budrys, a celebrated writer who commented on my story entry years ago, standing with Rachel Denk, with whom I had a pleasant phone conversation when I got lots of press for simply receiving an honorable mention in a WOTF contest.  Budrys had nothing to do with Scientology as far as I know, Rachel, as a contest administrator, may still be a Scientologist, I'm not sure.

Monday, January 14, 2013


To be a writer is to be a leader, and to be a leader you have to have followers.  Everyone has their own ideas, but not all ideas are created equal.  When you consider leadership, consider conflict resolution.

To be a persuasive writer you have to learn to be a diplomat.  To convince anyone of anything you have to beguile them with your charm.  Or at least write clear sentences and meaningful paragraphs. (Perhaps paragraphs are passé.... Think PowerPoint® bullet points.)

Write it down and they'll read it.  Lead and they shall follow.