September 2019 marks the twentieth anniversary of Jay’s decision to become a writer. His gift to you all this celebratory year is DO IT – Twelve hard lessons on learning by failing, succeeding by accident, never giving up and saying FXXK WRITING all at the same time. You’re welcome!
You always need a why to write. Cash. Glory. A fuck you to your 7th grade teacher who thought you wouldn’t amount to anything. Whys matter.
But whys are mercurial and bleed into new shapes over time. So, here are twenty rungs on my ladder of why – see if you can detect a theme (hint: a big dumb ego is helpful until it is not.
1999. A desperate need to create art as a means to combat loneliness and recover a sense of control and fun that had been lost when I’d abandoned music.
2000. Get a publication. Prove not only could I write a short story, but someone out there told me it was worth something.
2001. Get paid. To have something sprung from my guts and heart be worth some filthy lucre.
2002. Write a novel, to see if I could.
2003. Write a good novel, because that first one was trash.
2004. Become a horror writer . . . despite all signs it was career suicide.
2005. Get better quicker thanks to Odyssey Writing Workshop.
2006. Become a short story machine. Produce volume to find quality.
2007. Overwork my short story machine, burn out making volume and some quality.
2008. Recover story machine, learn from successes and failures without burning out again.
2009. Write novels to create a career.
2010. Fail at becoming a novelist, trade that dream in for making it as an ebook production engine.
2011. Switch to thrillers, as the ebook thing was madness.
2012. Delusion. Refuse to admit the reality of failing to generate a career as a novelist-
2013. None. Life collapses.
2014. Cash. write short stories for anyone paying, but only as a side hustle.
2015. Focus on history writing as it paid better, short stories occasionally appear for fun.
2016. Offered modest book deal from publisher, grab it, write two novels in one year .
2017. Promote! New series gets great reviews, pretty good sales
2018. Nothing! New series stalls, promotion makes little dent, sales drop.
2019. Fail. Series cancelled, so write two novels to revive career and for shits and giggles, and the challenge of becoming a better writer.
2020. Write for fun until anything sells and pulls me toward the next success.
Any lessons derived by my career whys are purely coincidental!