Sunday, January 17, 2010

Writers are good people

I've made a surprising discovery over the past couple of years. Writers are good people.

Now that might not come as a surprise to anyone who actually knows and likes someone who writes for a living. But for those of us who'd imagined most authors as drunken, angry and anti-social narcissists, it was a pleasant surprise.

To give you a little context, let me tell you about my professional life since turning 15:

I pumped gas at a large Amoco station throughout high school, working for one of the meanest people I've ever met. I mean, wow, what a nasty man he was (may he rest in peace).

I joined the Air Force after graduating from high school, and spent four years as a military police officer. I had several "adventures" there, had my life threatened a few times and got a broken jaw out of the deal. Oh, and I got to travel a lot. Woot. I also reported to some fairly nasty people (anyone who's been in the military knows what I mean).

After leaving the Air Force, I tended bar and managed a Radio Shack while going to college. I don't have to say any more, do I?

I then began my long and successful journalism career at the largest daily newspaper in Illinois outside Chicago. I worked for, and with, some of the greatest people I've ever met. And some of the worst. Let's just say life in a newsroom is never dull and leave it at that.

I worked (and still do) with a group of men who hunt for sunken Spanish galleons for a living. All over the world. I even got to live and work in the jungles and on the oceans of South America for a couple of months, living a dream. But it was hard and difficult work, and some of the people we dealt with were less than honest and, frankly, downright dangerous.

I also managed a U.S. Congressional race last year. It was the most fun I've ever had with my clothes on, but the words stressful and competitive don't do it justice.

Now, I am a writer. An aspiring author.

Writing is a solitary and lonely career -- hour after hour, day after day spent alone sitting in front of my computer, thinking and pecking, thinking and pecking. I figured a literary career would be competitive and nasty. And make no mistake, it can be both.

But somehow, it's different than all the others. Competition is generally good-natured, because when one of my writer friends gets an agent, or a book deal, it's good for all writers. In other words, if my friend Jennifer sells her Young Adult Fantasy title, it has no negative impact on my adult thriller. Every book sold means people are still reading and buying books. And that, my friends, is a good thing. A very good thing.

And so we support one another. We visit each other's blogs. We make comments, offer a shoulder to cry on, a hand of congratulations. My friend Gina said it best when she wrote, "Isn't it nice to know we're not alone any more?"

Yes. It's nice to know. It's nice to know there are people out there sweating the query process, line edits, revisions and rejections that come with a career in writing.

There's nothing better than spending all day sweating over my manuscript, agonizing over every word, every phrase, every comma, and then going online and finding others who have done the exact same thing.

And the best thing of all? They're working in their pajamas, too!

Take that, you corporate weasels.


  1. Terry Towery: Treasure Hunter... sounds like it has possibilities :-p (Though, you'd probably prefer Terry Towery: Treasure Finder.)

    And working at a bar after the Air Force? Did you not see enough fight time in the service? (Just playin', plenty of military in my family, too.)

    Most writers are very nice people, I've virtually met a ton of them on Absolute Write and various agent blogs (would you believe most people find me anti-social *cries*).

    And what you said about the competitive aspects is spot on - as long as someone is getting deals, there's hope for everyone.

    (To answer your question from my post -- I'd love to illustrate my own PB some day, and I've had a couple of editors like my samples, but if I get a sale on a manuscript it's up to them whether or not I get to do the pics.)

  2. I wanna go on a sunken Spanish galleon adventure!

    Hey Terry,
    I love to hear of others succeeding. I sometimes get a little lump in my throat. I know that when someone else is successful it doesn't take away from me. There is plenty to go around and the paradox here is that when we share we get even more in return.

    It's vital to support and encourage fellow writers because it is a solitary endeavor. Sometimes I stare at the screen and get so frustrated and there isn't a day that goes by that I don't question what I am doing, but when I log on to one of my writing networks I see that others have been through or are going through the same thing. What a relief it is.