It was this time last year when I took account of my life and found some things lacking. About twenty years and 150 pounds ago, I had an inkling of how my life would go. I wanted to wake up in distant lands, see the known & hidden places of the world, and somehow make a mark that lasted more than my expected life cycle. Little did I realize that every 18 year-old full of piss & vinegar has such grandiose notions and few really make it. But off you go anyway…You see some sites, visit some places, meet some people, and then wake up on a 9-5 commute before you settle your hangover. As Frost said, way leads to way…

Back to last year.
I realized that of all the things I’d wanted to do, one was still with me after 20+ years like a rash without ointment. Writing. I sat down last year and wrote this sentence on my computer screen.

John Duffy, Writer.

Yeah, I was drunk…but I got the message buried in the bottle. If I was going to be a writer then it was time to make me a writer. You can’t make me one, neither can a publisher, agent, critic, reader, or a thousand plastic compliments. I have to make me one.

Over the past year I’ve picked up a few lessons that I thought worth sharing.

1.) Writing is tedious difficult work. Hemingway once quipped, “Write drunk; edit sober.” The former is easy, the latter…not so much. Taking a critical eye to your work is as important as letting your critical eye sleep while you bang out a rough draft.

2.) Writing is predominantly an inside job. The TV show “Castle” offers a glamorous spin on writing that gives a schmo the impression that a laptop and good hair a Writer do make. I tried what I call the “Latte Literati” gig of sitting in a coffee house and playing Writer for the world to see. Trouble was, I couldn’t see it, even if all the caffeine junkies could… Writing is tough enough for me without an audience. Hell, the reason I can fly through this blog most of the time is because I have trouble believing the “Ego Counter”.

3.) Inspiration can’t be found, it must arrive of its own accord. I go places and work hard at keeping my eyes & ears open. It’s tight to pay attention to the world around you when you sometimes feel the world inside you is a dumpster fire. But I try. Sometimes inspiration arrives. Sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve learned to have faith that it will always show up…when it wants to.

4.) Reading is fundamental to Writing. I glance over my blog and other writings and notice a stagnation buried within. Thinking back to when I wrote whatever piece is stagnated I realize that at that time, I wasn’t reading much and I wasn’t “moving around” much. Reading is a simple way to see the world. If you can’t see the world, who cares what you have to say about it…?

5.) Thorns have their place. I appreciate the compliments people feed me, but after that, I enjoy a cup of strong critique to complete the meal. Only I can make me a Writer, but others can help make me a better writer.

6.) Grammar matters.

7.) Keep the story moving with action & words. Perhaps I feel that way because I’m too lazy to wrestle adjectives or hold down an adverb for three seconds. I don’t know. Show, don’t tell…

8.) I need to meet more Writers. Networking seems incredibly important. I need to work on my “networking” skills more.

9.) A Writer will write. Whether it’s a comedy skit, jokes, a restaurant review, or a newsletter for work; a Writer writes. If I’m not actively pursuing “Writing Gigs” then I’m not living a Writer’s life. For me, it is that simple.

10.) This may seem harsh, and contradictory to #8, but a Writer has to clear the clutter from their mind, their desk, and their life. That last one is the toughest.

11.) I’m not the Story. When I enlisted the assistance of a pro editor I was stoked. I felt as if I were doing the hard work…shelling out money, staying up late to do rewrites, discussing the why, when, & what of my work. Then I got my first edits back. Cut this, slash that, add here, delete this, rework this piece, why? Why? WHy? WHY?….I remember sitting in that office listening to my stories being dissected and feeling a sudden kinship with dead frogs found in the high schools of America. I had to remind myself, “I’m not the story, I’m not the story, I’m not the story…”

12.) Writing is tedious difficult work. I know I’m repeating #1…but if you knew how many times I rewrote #11, you’d understand.

13.) Biggest thing I learned this year: John Duffy, Writer. I like it.

-John.

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