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Why Do I Do This?

January 20, 2014

Tags: Writing Life

Been having a tough time getting started on my new novel, a blatantly libertarian science fiction tale that essentially shows a new way to solve a very old problem. So what's the writing problem?

After more than two years of dodging health bullets and writing and restarting again and rewriting again my Joe Torio Mystery ROPE PAPER SCISSORS, I ended that particular 340K marathon flat-out exhausted. I'd bore you with all the medical/migraine/ADD crap, but it bores me. Suffice it to say, if I owned a car with as many mechanical problems as I have health issues, I'd junk the damned thing. It would embarrass me to try and sell it.


So, to stretch the metaphor a bit, I took that rolling junk pile and ran the Indy 500 with it. Won it, too, at least as far as I'm concerned. I love ROPE PAPER SCISSORS, and the reaction I've gotten from those who have made it through all three volumes helps me sleep with a smile at night. So why not jump into the next Indy 500 with eager confident glee?

Well, the frame is cracked in nineteen places, the tires are bald where they aren't patched. The one new tire on the machine comes with all kinds of use warnings, the fuel it uses is about all out, and we stopped trying to repair the rust spots and upholstery some years ago. In other words, writing a novel takes a lot out of me.

Writing a novel is sitting by yourself doing homework while all the other kids get to play. Writing a novel is filling your head 24-7 with characters, scenes, lines, twists, and feelings, feelings, feelings. Writing a novel is focusing one hundred percent on stuff going on inside your own head, ignoring as best as possible all the other parts of your body as well as friends, associates, and relatives begging for your attention. Writing a novel is to become more than human and in the process end as less than human.

It costs.

To many writing a novel seems like such fun. The author gets to command his or her own hours, frolic in fantasyland, go to all kinds of neat places and deduct it from income taxes as research, and get paid for it, meet celebrities, and be treated like royalty at genre conventions.

In actuality it's more like being a condemned murderer on death row, sitting alone in a tiny cell, only his writing materials and books available to him, interrupted by appeals, lawyer visits, being dragged in front of hearings, guards dicking over you while you attempt to get your thoughts organized and down own paper before they drag you away for the final time and throw the switch . . . only to wake up back in your cell to do it all over again.

For me, writing a novel is not fun; It's important, meaningful. My novels are my children with all of the work, pride, disappointment, and heartbreak that entails. But when I look at my children, and I do read my own stuff, in my own mind I justify my own existence on the planet. I like what I write. Correction: I love what I write. In the reading of it, what it cost to create it fades in memory. Yes, I am my favorite author. If someone else was writing the stories I write, I'd be spending all my time reading instead of writing.

With full awareness of the costs, the demands, the heartbreak and drudgework, today I continue on the new novel. Why? Because if I don't write it, no one else will, and there will be one less Barry B. Longyear novel for me to read.

Wouldn't it be interesting if, instead of simply copulating in a moment of passion or lust, the creation of a new human being baby had to be planned and approached like creating a new novel? You know what the cost is going to be, the sleepless nights, rarely getting to do anything that doesn't involve the new baby, the beating your head against a stone wall trying to get the baby to understand, to function, to speak, to take that first step, to be interesting, to laugh and sing! With all that in your mind as you contemplate the results of copulation, erectile dysfunction would become a world-wide plague.

Free idea, gang. If it rings your chimes, write it up. I won't ever get to it. Instead I'll be writing on this #$@%*! libertarian science fiction novel that has been festering in the back of my head for the past twenty years. I need to get out of my head and done before they come to drag me down that corridor and strap me into Old Sparky.

Comments

  1. January 20, 2014 1:04 PM EST
    The market could certainly use more non-didactic libertarian fiction. I look forward to it!
    - Martin L. Shoemaker
  2. February 3, 2014 9:58 PM EST
    Barry, I'm sorry to hear about your health issues. (I've had a few myself, but that's neither here nor there.) I'm extremely pleased to hear that you're still plugging away at it, beating your head against that archetypal brick wall, waiting for the damn thing to fall down.
    Somebody's got to do it... why not us foolish ones who call ourselves writerrs?
    - Al Bouchard



What About This Blog?


For writers & readers. For writers, this is stuff I've learned, am in the process of discovering, and stuff that is imparted to me by other writers. For readers, I believe the more one knows about what goes into the writing of a story, and into the life of being a writer, the more one appreciates an author's writings.

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Barry B. Longyear is the first writer to win the Hugo, Nebula, and John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer all in the same year. In addition to his acclaimed Enemy Mine Series, his works include the Circus World and Infinity Hold series, Sea of Glass, other SF & fantasy novels, recovery and writing instruction works, and numerous short stories.