broadsideblog

Why There’s No “Bus Driver’s Block”

In blogging, books, business, Media on October 5, 2011 at 12:05 am
Painting The Writing Master by Thomas Eakins

Image via Wikipedia

When you tell people you’re a writer, and especially if it’s your sole source of income, the common reaction is one of envy.

Writing for a living seems to be something many people want to do.

Or say they want to do.

I try to be polite to those who say, carelessly, that they plan to “take up writing” after they retire from whatever professional work they are now involved with, as though (which it is, of course, for many people) it’s simply an amusing and relaxing hobby, like knitting or making birdhouses.

Too often, they quickly discover that writing well, often and consistently is work. Yup!

How many times have you gone to the “blogging”, “books” or “writing” tags, eager for inspiration and camaraderie, to find another whiny post pleading “writer’s block?” I’ve wasted many fruitless hours there only to find people posting (!) about how they have nothing to say or don’t know how to say it.

Enough already!

Bus drivers get into the seat, turn on the engine and drive. That’s their job. They don’t wring their hands about it or turn to strangers for guidance on how to do it or tell us they really don’t feel like doing it at all.

They don’t stand around the bus terminal waiting for divine inspiration or a muse to give them directions.

They just get on with it.

Yes, I’m being impatient and judgmental. But writing is work, and therefore requires discipline, focus, concentration, study, practice, reflection. None of which are cute, fun, easy or offer a guaranteed result of excellence.

Of course, I have days here my views fall off a bloody cliff. Tant pis. Nothing I can do about it but bang out another post and hope for the best.

Here’s a recent blog post that was Freshly Pressed on the value of blogging regularly.

Which writers inspire you?

Which blogs do you enjoy the most, and why?

Share the link love!

  1. Great post. I wholeheartedly agree. I think that the most successful writers may just be the ones who wrote no matter what.

    This is one of my favorite blogs. Always great stuff to think about. http://analyfe.com/

  2. Thank you Caitlin for the reality check…telling it straight. Honestly you are one of my favs.
    thanks,

  3. Hi – you’ve summed up the whole thing exactly! Writing IS hard work, especially trying to turn a dollar with it. I find myself working up against deadlines quite frequently – often having to juggle them, and when I get an editor wanting copy by a specific time on a specific day – well, they’re serious, so I have to be too. Publishing is a business. So is writing, at that level – the trick being to balance that against the necessary creativity (which is true of non-fiction as much as fiction).

    People who take it up as a retirement hobby don’t ‘get’ it, I fear. They just look enviously at your publishing list and wonder how you did it. The answer’s hard grind and professionalism, but – as you point out – it’s often only learned the hard way.

    Thanks again for a great post! Love your blog.

    Matthew Wright

    http://mjwrightnz.wordpress.com

    http://www.matthewwright.net

    • Thanks for the kind words…You know this life well. I rarely fantasize about another way to make a living, as I know all of them require serious work. Somehow, writing appears easy…when anyone who does it professionally, certainly freelance, knows what a daily hustle it demands.

      I dreamed of becoming an interior designer, then studied it seriously at school. I still loved it but came away deeply sobered by the very real demands of doing it for a living, not for fun!

  4. As always Caitlin, you hit every right note!

    My own favourite “I plan to be a writer when I retire” story is the one where a brain surgeon confesses that to a writer, who of course says, “And I plan to be a brain surgeon when I retire.”

    if you haven’t already read this month’s Vanity Fair, there’s a marvellous article about Hemingway in it which describes the author’s last home in Cuba….the magazine writer (in between being overwhelmed by the discovery of thousands of the author’s letters that were discovered and are now being published–remember ‘letters’?) wrote how Hemingway’s home so perfectly captured the lonely, isolating life of a true writer.

    Somehow, I don’t see a blocked blogger as being isolated!

    Keep up the good work.

  5. Robin, thanks!

    There was another VF piece recently about the latest whiz kid in publishing whose book sold for a huge advance and is now The Hot Thing…It laid bare many of the tricks of the trade and made much clearer (to anyone outside publishing) how that industry works, and does not, for most “normal” writers.

    I think people assume writing is easy and well-paid when it’s often neither. Once they discover that, the competition thins out quickly!

  6. I always hope it will be otherwise, but you speak the truth about stick-to-it-ness!

    One of my favorite quotes about inspiration versus perspiration in writing comes from Steven King:

    There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer station. He lives in the ground. He’s a basement guy. You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in. You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you.
    –On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, 2000

    I wrote a little more about muses on the blog I maintain here if anyone’s interested:

    https://musewearflipflops.com/blog/muses

    Today’s my first time on your blog. Looking forward to lots more posts!

  7. I’m reading “Academically Adrift” right now, a depressing book for a college professor, but one point that comes through loud and clear is that writing, not as a living but as part of a professional life, is one of the most basic, common threads that must be learned, and often is not, for any college student. College grads are far more likely to succeed if they can write in the right genre for their professional life–and face a much steeper uphill battle if they cannot. Anyway, I require students who want to be writers to start and maintain a blog that they must update at least once a week–partly because I want them to have the “bus driver” attitude you describe. Don’t just think about writing and wait for the muse–(mixing metaphors here, but I’m a bicycle commuter)–get on the bike and ride. Anyway, favorite blog (of those that are not mine) is yours. Another favorite, even though I’m a writer and like to read, is a photo blog–something to be said for visual literacy too, and I find as a writer that pictures and images often prompt my writing: http://gardenmuse.wordpress.com/

  8. I am thrilled to have found your writing through our mutual friend Mr Write. And wow, you are so right and you did not mince words, I like that. I have been writing all my life every day (well since I was about 8 and got my first diary, not riveting reading tho) and never published a thing, nor have I run out of things to write. I have never sent anything to anyone to be read though because i am a scaredy cat. Even blogging is very new for me and wonderful – people are great out there! No whining on my blog! So thank you and I shall push the little follow button so I can read again .. c

  9. Thanks for such a thoughtful comment…How depressing indeed!
    When and why did writing become so deeply devalued that no one bothers to teach it properly?

    I am always about three to five posts ahead, i.e. have them written/edited/revised and ready to post, (and I am blogging 3x a week as it is.) I find ideas through a wide array of sources, from visual blogs (I love! Design Milk daily), reading Freshly Pressed and other blogs, reading a wide variety of newspapers and magazines (and some online), internationally (I’d urge you to urge them to read some Canadian newspapers and magazines, and British ones, online to get a wittier and more diverse array of voices and insights.)

    I also have something every writer MUST have or develop, and especially women. The confidence (yes, it’s ego) to think I have something worth sharing. BUT not the endless hand-wringing and overly personal which seems to be a default — like only referring to people we have no idea or and don’t really care about: family, pets, boss, etc. LINK!!!!

    The key to good writing that’s personal: it must be detailed and specific enough to be quirky and authentic but the issues or ideas discussed have to be sufficiently universal to be appealing to thousands of other readers. My ideal reader has no specific age or gender, just someone who enjoys thinking and laughing and ideas…

    Maybe I could do a Skype class with your kids?

  10. Love this post–and the link! I totally agree. I hope to write more as a job–at least part time at some point–and blogging has been a great learning tool. As mentioned in the link, blogging has trained my mind to be more alert for potential topics, and I constantly feel like I’m preparing new posts to the point where actually typing the first draft only takes about 20 minutes (and then editing…). It’s a habit, really, that could probably break down easily if I allow myself to decide that I’m “blocked.” So I don’t!

    Along with yours, one of my regular blog reads is http://bennisinc.wordpress.com/ — another inspiring and disciplined entrepreneur.

    And crgardenjoe–I love that you make your students maintain a blog! Fantastic! That would have been excellent for me as a young writing student (not my professors’ faults–blogs didn’t really exist when I was in school).

  11. Jean, thanks. Blogging, if you do it consistently and carefully (which IS work, even unpaid and enjoyable) will sharpen your writing and observational skills. One thing blogging is very good for, in my two years’ experience of doing it, is learning to see stories everywhere…and telling them tightly.

  12. [...] was a great post on one of the blogs I read regularly, Broadside Blog. Its author, Caitlin Kelly, is a journalist [...]

  13. I totally agree – writing is discipline and hard work, not just creativity. It takes practice and patience to geta balance of both!

  14. [...] am reminded of an excellent post by a blogger I respect. She was talking about the writing habit and how important it is to just write if [...]

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