On the eve of Thanksgiving, I thought I would participate in the obligatory blog post about something I’m thankful for. In truth, I have a great many things to give thanks to, and I could write a thousand blog posts about them all. My sons, my wife, my family, my friends, they number the stars in the sky, and they always shine brightest when its dark and the gloom feels like it could crush me. I’m also thankful for everyone who has supported me in my writing, and more importantly my dreams. The best way I can be thankful for this is to give something back, which in this case is just some simple advice about writing in this dense and saturated storytelling environment.
Before I started writing anything at all, I had this pile of dreams aching behind my eyes like some old war wound from a fantastical battleground. I always imagined it as some sort of jeweled heap, like a bunch of light was caged and hardened, then stacked like rocks at a quarry. They weighed me down. They destroyed relationships, friendships, and my physical appearance. Never expressing myself turned me into a completely different personality. I had no sense of self, and lashed out at everyone. I felt like Bruce Lee wandering the mirror maze in Enter the Dragon.
There are so many pieces of advice about craft, writing, and everything else. The air is thick with them. They’re smoke. Sometimes, you can pluck a strand out that belongs to you. However, most of the time advice is this indecipherable cloud everyone is contributing too. I’m not overtly successful or profitable. I do however speak honestly to myself about what motivates me, and what works with writing. One truth I have stumbled upon in my wayward journey thus far is don’t hoard your ideas and plans like a dragon in a cave. Get your writing out there. Don’t wait for perfection. Don’t wait for some high-priced agent with super reflective sunglasses to suddenly appear at your door. Don’t wait so long on your tales, whether they’re fiction or nonfiction.
A little truth I realized the hard way was that sociologically many of us have the same influences on our voice; therefore, we tend to create the same stories. If you’re thinking of a story, someone else is conceiving the exact same thing because they are victim to the same environmental circumstances as you. Your tale may be specific to you, and there might be inherent originality to it, but the overall idea you’re writing about is being shared by countless other voices.
Have you ever noticed when over the course of a few months three or four movies come out about the same subject matter?
We are all magnetized by the same fiery fortress. All our molecules were forged in the furnace of the sun. We can all see that same window-shadow in the top tower of the castle. How we write about it is different. Don’t wait for someone else to tell your story. Don’t hoard the gold for it never to be spent under the scales of your reptilian tail.
In writing there is always this silent majority you never hear from. Many are afraid to express themselves. They have no support in their family, friends, workplace, or community. No one has taken the time to tell them they can do it. I was lucky enough to have this support at times. Not having this community should not stop you from sharing your writing or voice. If you let time dictate these ideas and motivations, eventually, other people claim your voice, like you were up for bidding in some existential auction.
You need to get your voice out there before someone takes it from you. When I released The Greenland Diaries, a dozen apocalyptic stories came out that year. Many were similar to mine. It was depressing. It was disenchanting. I felt betrayed by strangers I didn’t even know. Do not sit on your stories waiting for a miracle. You cannot be a magician without trying a few magic tricks.
Today, thanks to blogging, self-publishing, and small presses, writers have every opprotunity to get their voices out there. You no longer need to wait on rejection letters for months on end. You can instantly put a small story out there for the world to see. How many people read it is up to you. It always has been. Content is king. The devil is in the details. Study writing, refine your craft, and build a community that can be honest with you. It doesn’t have to happen overnight, but it has to happen soon.
Do no let someone else claim your voice before you have a chance to speak it.