Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Why Do I Write?

Writing is hard.

Don't believe me? You try not showering because you're too busy transcribing the activities of your imaginary friends who infuriate you with their stubborn insistence on doing it "their way." And don't even get me started on wrangling with serial commas, the many iterations of the word "lie", and remembering when to put the apostrophe in "it's".

And, let's not forget all the rejections, from agents and publishers. Oh, and negative feedback regarding your naked heart on paper. It's painful, frustrating, exasperating, and in many ways very unrewarding.

So, why do we do it? More importantly, why do I do it?

First, let me clear the air: It's not for the money. Making money of any sort with writing is slightly more unlikely than finding a diamond in your box of Wheaties. Sure there are those amazing success stories out there, but those are like the commercials that show the woman answering her front door to a check from Publisher's Clearinghouse. It's a rarity.

Besides that, though, I honestly don't care about the money. I didn't start writing in hopes of getting paid, I don't choose my topics with dollar signs in mind, and I sure don't sit around and try to pick out what the next big trend will be. Getting rich, or even making a living, off of writing hasn't ever really been on my radar. Sure, there are times I dream big. Who doesn't? But, at the end of the day, I don't care about sales or how much money my books make. If God wants me rich/famous/prolific, He'll make me rich/famous/prolific.

My job is to write.

And that's really why I do it. I write because, ultimately, it's what I'm supposed to do. It's part of my DNA.

That's also why I write for students. I feel like, in the grand scheme of the universe, my purpose is to tell stories that will encourage, challenge, and support kids as they make their journey through life. I need to be the voice in their heads that tells them, no matter how crappy their families or friends or schools might be, that they are valuable and they can be somebody. I want to be there for them on their journey, making them laugh, helping them cry, and pointing them towards someone bigger than themselves.

(For the record, I don't write Christian Fiction for similar reasons. Maybe I'll explain THAT decision in another blog post.)

So, it's not about fame, or money, or praise, or anything else like that. It's not even about the satisfaction of getting the story from my head onto paper and into someone else's heart.

I write to change kids' lives.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

This Post Not Approved For Adults


Hey, tweenager. What's up? (Yeah, I know "tweenager" is a lame word. I have to throw stuff like that in so the "adults" will think I'm relevant.)

My name's Isaiah. I'm 31, live in a trailer park, and eat broiled goat heads for breakfast on Tuesdays.

Ok, that's not true. But I wanted to say something weird about myself so that when you get to really know me, you won't think I'm actually all that weird at all.

See, you never stop fearing the weird labels. And by that, I don't mean labels that are weird, like Mr. Snooglepop or Captain Conundroid. No, I mean being labelled "weird."

But I've got a secret for you. Are you ready for this?

They only call you weird until you've left them behind and risen to another level. Then they call you a success. And, the truth is, nobody that society views as a success got to that level by being "normal."

So, go ahead. Sit by yourself in the lunchroom and read a book. Let them call you a nerd now, someday when you're a best-selling writer, they'll be jealous.

Go ahead and hide in a corner and draw pictures of zombies eating your friends. They may call you  a freak now, but they'll call you an artist someday.

Go ahead and pray before your meal, or carry a Bible to school. They might humiliate you or ostracize you now, but when you are able to face life's tragedies with a peace in your heart, they'll come asking you for advice.

Go ahead. Be the outsider. Be different. Be weird.

Do you know what popularity and normalcy get you? Prom king. Homecoming Queen. Most likely to succeed.

Do you know what weirdness gets you?

It get's you things those other fools can only dream of.

So, do it. Screw the bullies, and the mean girls, and the people who point and stare cause they're too afraid to be the target of the crowds.

You don't want to be in the crowd.

The crowd wants to be you.

They just don't know it yet.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Blessed Be The Gatekeepers

I know, I know, non-published authors really hate the gatekeepers. All those blasted agents, editors, booksellers, and book reviewers who meticulously scruitinize every single manuscript that attempts to make it into the world of publishing. It's like they are the guards posted on the watchtowers to fend off those starving travelers attempting to enter Shangri-La. Why, oh why, can't they just be a little more merciful? Why must they make it so hard to get published?

That doesn't just apply to those going the route of traditional publishing, either. Even self-published authors have a barrier between themselves and financial success, book reviewers and distributors. No matter what, there is somebody out there you have to get around or get through if you want to see your work succeed.

And the thing is, I'm actually glad about it.

Oh sure, there are times my inner artist yells and screams about the first amendment and about censorship. There are times I groan and moan about how freaking hard it is to get anywhere in this publishing world. There are times I stare at my phone, just waiting for my agent to call and tell me that I finally can move my gamepiece one square closer to GO.

But there are a few other me's inside me that are oh-so-grateful for the gatekeepers.

1. The dad in me. I have three beautiful kids, and I am thankful that there are editors, publishers, and book reviewers out there who wade through the crap so my kids don't have to read it. I'm glad that Publishers Weekly classified Colbert's book as Non-Fiction instead of Children's Fiction. Why? Because I read it, and it's hilarious, but it isn't for kids. Thank goodness one of the guardians in their tower was awake to catch that.

2. The man of faith in me. Because of my faith, I have some standards of what I want to read and what I don't. 50 Shades of Gray falls decidedly on the list of what I don't want to read. Yet, without book reviewers, I wouldn't have known that this book was erotica. It's a best seller, for crying out loud. Thankfully, one of the guardians had there gun cocked and loaded (puns intended) and caught that before I read it.

3. The intellectual in me. Let's face it, a lot of the books that don't get picked up are drivel. Not all, definitely not all, but a lot. In fact, if you peruse some of the lesser respected self-published books, you'll see just how bad they really are. That's not a jab at self published authors, we ALL write drivel. They have the courage to put their drivel out for everyone to see. Good for them.

And thank God there are gatekeepers, so I don't have to read it.