Two nights ago I hit a couple of bookshops on my rounds. I've found that not only are they great places to spend my money, they also almost always spur me to think and to write. Just being among the stacks of books makes me fool good and seeing all of the stuff in print spurs me to wonder about what I want to write, how I want to proceed with what I am currently writing, and force me to consider what kind of writer I want to be.
This latest trip especially had me dwelling on that last point.
What kind of writer do I want to be?
When I was younger all I wanted to do was write for a living. I didn't want to get rich doing it, but I wanted to be able to work full-time as an author. Frankly, I didn't care what kind of work would get me to that point--all I knew was that I wanted to produce prose for a living.
Initially, I wanted to write pulp fiction for a living. This meant that I'd create fantasies of one type or another. I'd generate worlds and outlandish characters and oversized plots. And there's nothing wrong with that. It's what some of my favorite writers did and it's no surprise that I wanted to follow along those lines. My initial modest successes were in producing and selling this type of thing. For a while--a brief while--I figured that I was on the right path and that soon I'd be able to sit behind a keyboard all day to make my daily bread.
I figured wrong, of course.
I've had a lot of writer friends over the years, and I honestly have never known anyone who wrote full time for a living. I've known people who wrote and didn't work, but most of those cats were being supported by someone else--usually their parents. And I've known people who were squeaking by on the starvation sums they were gathering from their fiction while their families suffered because of their stubbornness. But absolutely none of my friends have ever done well enough from writing to pay the bills and keep the debt collectors away and the lights on and the table supplied with food. It was never easy to do for anyone and I've always had to maintain a day job, even in the years when I did relatively well with writing.
And now it's even more difficult than before.
After selling scores of short stories to dozens of markets and hundreds of pages of scripts to many comic book publishers and a number of novels to several book companies, I knew that I'd likely never make the transition to full-time writer. Only a very few folk make that kind of dough from their prose.
But standing in those shops and peering over the thousands of titles always makes me wonder again what kind of writer I need to be. Should I continue to pursue the path of pulp fiction? Should I change direction and pen mainstream work? Or do I toss fiction aside and work on non-fiction? All of these thoughts have occurred to me.
Likely, I'll stick with the weird fantasies and hard-boiled fictions that have always fascinated me and spurred me to action. I'll continue to gravitate to the sections of the bookshop shelves that hold such volumes.
But, man, I am going to miss the bookstores when they're gone.
|Like the glaciers, they're melting away.|
|And soon they'll be a fading memory...|