Rin Chupeco on Writing on Purpose
I gave a short talk at a local high school last month, and one of the first questions I was asked was what advice I had for budding writers. "If you know anyone who wants to be a writer," I said, "tell them to get out before it's too late. Find some other job that won't drive them crazy, like advertising or day trading."
I was kidding, partly. Writing for a hobby is a lot different from writing for a living. Creative writing is the only profession I know where experience is not required, where you won't know if you did well until it's frequently too late for you to do anything about it, and where anything you come up with will be put under a microscope almost from the moment you submit your manuscript and long after it's been published. And I should know - I live in a country where writing for a living is a struggle. People working for actual news publications have a hard time making ends meet, and most local writers I know need fulltime jobs to support their writing habit.
But even when they barely earn anything for their craft, most writers I know keep at it. They join vibrant local writing communities, scramble to find money to fund anthologies with other budding speculative fiction writers, and work hard to keep doing what they love. I've been there, done that. I quit a well-paying but tiring job to work on my writing instead, went through a series of small part-time jobs to keep myself afloat while I was at it, and had the support of family and a very loving partner who believed in me and were willing to pitch in to help long enough for me to finish my first novel and query it. As a would-be writer, there's a certain hunger you need to possess in the face of all these odds, and it's the kind of hunger that won't be pacified by food (and I say this as someone who loves putting food inside her face). It's a bit like a disease, really -if you've got that hunger, you're going to write whether you can afford to or not, regardless of your circumstances. Your mileage may vary, but being a writer for me means having all these ideas and plots floating in my head at all hours of the day, screaming at me to do something about them. Writing them down is like exorcising demons from my mind, much like therapy. The goal is to be able to support yourself comfortably through writing, but not to come into the career solely for the money - there are easier ways and better jobs to earn that. But you do have to come in it to write for purpose. Because when things don't go your way, or when you encounter stumbling blocks in the course of your career, it's going to be that sense of purpose that will keep you going on.
Doesn't sound like a pleasant experience, right? So why do I keep doing this? Because it's not going to be bad all the time. There will be days when you'll feel like you're on top of the world, where you feel like your writing is exemplary and the plot is coming together quite nicely and your protagonists are turning out to be multi-layered, well-written characters. There is no better high than knowing you are a creator of your own little fully-functioning world. It's the best feeling I know, and also mentally rewarding. But to write is also to understand that there will be lows as well as highs, and you need to be of the mindset where having one or two or seventeen bad days doesn't matter if you've got a purpose.
Writing sounds like an easy job - after all, it costs nothing to put words on paper. But if you allow yourself to get caught up in the business of writing, then you'll need to do the time. You need to accept rejections and criticisms. You'll have to familiarize yourself with long periods of frustration when a manuscript isn't coming out the way you want it to, or when you can't figure out how to push a plot forward. You need to learn not to give up when these happen, learn not to abandon your work. Because you can't be a writer until you see your novels through to the end, even if it takes years. You need to love reading all kinds of books, even those you never thought you'd read, to expand your mind and accept perspectives that aren't necessarily your own, to understand why your work needs diverse views, and why this makes your writing more well-rounded. You need purpose. You need a reason to write that goes beyond the material rewards. It's hard work, but it's good work.
And if you don't have that, well - there's always day trading.
Despite an unsettling resemblance to Japanese revenants, Rin always maintains her sense of hummus. Born and raised in Manila, Philippines, she keeps four pets: a dog, two birds, and a husband. Dances like the neighbors are watching.
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ABOUT THE BONE WITCH
Tea is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy makes her a bone witch, who are feared and ostracized in the kingdom. For theirs is a powerful, elemental magic that can reach beyond the boundaries of the living—and of the human.
Great power comes at a price, forcing Tea to leave her homeland to train under the guidance of an older, wiser bone witch. There, Tea puts all of her energy into becoming an asha, learning to control her elemental magic and those beasts who will submit by no other force. And Tea must be strong—stronger than she even believes possible. Because war is brewing in the eight kingdoms, war that will threaten the sovereignty of her homeland…and threaten the very survival of those she loves.
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