Thursday, May 04, 2006


In Which I Find Inspiration Point...

And STILL I'm wading through the incredible basement of CRAP, this time to stock our driveway for a large community yard sale occurring this weekend.

Along the way I found another box of electronic crap (bringing the total of electronic-crap boxes to 5). But at the bottom of this one was something I thought long gone: an old computer hard drive, long ago pulled from one of my first PCs, back when something went crash inside and in a fit of rage, I smashed it to bits on the concrete courtyard behind my apartment. Despite my Wolverine-style berserker rage, I had the presence of mind to take the hard drive--didn't need anyone else taking it and discovering all of my horrible writing, not mention any sensitive info. And so it sat on my desk for a while, a very expensive paperweight. Eventually it vanished, roughly three apartments and two houses ago. Until now.

I've become a lot more fearless about poking around in the guts of my computers now, and I wondered if there was any recoverable data still on the thing. It was just one of those dumb, late-night ideas you get, the kind that you know isn't going to work, but you do it anyway.

So imagine my surprise when I opened up this computer and discovered that my old hard drive plugged right in to an open bay and showed up as Drive M:

M as in Memories

M as in Miraculous

M as in Mortifyingly Awful Writing

I recovered a folder full of photos and about 400 old Word document, a moldy treasure trove of letters to friends, complaints to landlords, really bad query letters and even worse stories written on spec for a variety of magazines.

And this brief document, titled simply "Credo."

It was something I wrote when I was 19 and starting to earn a lot of rejection letters from magazines. Coincidentally enough, it was also around this time that I started to lose a little faith in myself and wondered if I would have to stop this writing crap and start using my powers for evil--perhaps by going into public relations for the tobacco industry, or writing snappy dialogue for hosts of home shopping channels.

I wrote this out in the wee hours of one particularly desperate night, then pinned it to the wall, smack in the middle of the ever-growing mural of rejection letters. I don't know that I agree with all of it now, but 37 still recalls what 19 was like, and I remember that seeing this little half-assed affirmation every day helped to remind me what I was about, and maybe, just maybe, gave me what I needed to steer clear of the Dark Side.

I offer it here, lumps and all, mostly for giggles. But maybe, just maybe, someone out there needs to read some inspiration points--or be moved to write their own--just to remind them what they're about. Enjoy.


You are a writer. More importantly, you are a good writer.

Tell yourself this until you believe it.

As a writer, you must write, even if you don't feel like it--especially then. This is not punishment. This is discipline.

Save what you write, no matter what you think of it. If it's bad, eventually you'll rewrite it. If it's good, eventually you'll re-edit it. But if you just throw it out, eventually you'll throw it all out. Then what?

Rejection does not deny your ability to write--it confirms it. Every writer has known rejection, and so will you.

It is the badge of honor: wear it proudly or not at all. Warriors of old displayed their scars in mute testament to their formidability. So should you. Paper the wall with your rejection slips. When you run out of space, move to the next room.

Rejection is your special pain. Writing is an act of ego, and nothing bruises the ego more than rejection. Embrace it. Relish it. Pain only goes away once you invite it to stay.

You are suffering, but you must suffer to write. Hemingway was a suicidal drunk. Poe was a manic-depressive who married his own cousin. And don't even get me started on John Kennedy Toole. Why should you be any different?

Just remember: Anything is bearable, as long as you can write about it.

So write.

You may absolutely rely on the fact that writers who are less talented than you will go farther faster. Philosophers say that water seeks its own level, but any plumber can tell you that shit floats. Recognize this as a universal constant, and then do your best to forget about it while you're writing.

Ignore talk of the meteoric rise to fame. Meteors fall--they are tiny, flare briefly and burn up on re-entry. You are a planet: alone, a solitary body suspended in nothing, painfully slow, but also steady, immense, majestic.

Hope does not spring eternal. It is, at best, an Artesian well: a great and deep reserve, but still only a reserve. Use it sparingly, and never as a substitute for action.

Don't you dare give up. As a writer, you know that every story has a beginning, a middle and an end. In the story of your life, you're halfway through the lead. Don't stop till you reach the end. Keep writing.

Really, you have no choice. You are a writer. More importantly, you are a good writer.

So write.

I dunno. Do I owe that 19-year-old kid a drink--or a smack upside his head?

You tell me.

From Somewhere on the Masthead

It's a little romantic, but then, what 19 year old isn't a romantic?

You've basically distilled into a few paragraphs what whole books are written about. Stephen King's On Writing says most of the same things.

And like the 19 year old said, if it's good, re-edit it.

Buy the kid a beer; it may not legal, but I'm pretty sure it's beyond the statute of limitations.
You owe that kid the bottle. He knew the very heart of the heart of the matter. You are a GREAT writer. And he ain't half bad, either.
Buy him a drink. (But first, bring him to a state (or up here to Soviet Canuckistan) where the drinking age is at least 19 so you can legally buy him a properly alcoholic drink.) And then the two of you should get properly hammered.

I think I might post a copy of that credo myself on my wall. I've written my own pile of youthful crap, but god love them, our younger selves were really good at aiming for the stars. That's something we all need to remember. Great post.
Yeah, buy that kid a drink. It might be a little melodramatic, but most of what I wrote when I was 19 was as well.

I'm going to print that out, and hang it with my rejections letters, which hang with my acceptance letters (can't have one without the other), as well as a note that I wrote to myself a long time ago that simply says "You can't tell people you're a writer if you're not writing anything."
OK 19 year old MM, I will start that writing thing I have been thinking about doing. Maybe no one but me will ever see any of it, but I'll start.

You were wise, young man, very wise. Sounds like you also turned out pretty neat.

Thomas and the Brownie are going to change the world. How could they not, with you as their example.
a drink..
I will buy him a drink, because I am now printing this out and posting it at my desk for those days when I feel like doing more drinking than writing.
A drink, no doubt -- for I am the person often terrified to really be a writer for fear that I won't be "good enough" at the thing I love the most.

You've given me the inspiration to relate a story concerning my own writing "career". I've started it today on my own blog. It remains to be seen if you will find having given me this inspiration a good thing or a bad thing...
as everyone else has said, you owe him a drink. as a graduating art student...headed eventually to grad school..i found these phrases to be especially pertinent:
"shit floats" and the "meteoric rise to fame" is brief.
That is a kid intelligent far beyond his years.

Buy him a drink for you. And then buy him one for me. I might just adopt some of that credo into my own personal philosophy if the 19-year-old is okay with it.
First of all, if you ever sell tickets to The Incredible Basement of Crap, I'll buy a dozen, just to see it for myself...

But more importantly, print it out again; hang it where The Brownie and Art Lad can see it, absorb it, know it. For it truly is a "credo"; it is a set of fundamental beliefs - it contains a guiding principle.

Some may see it as melodramatic or even romantic or fanciful, but I choose to see the determination and the desire that got you where you are today. Magazine Man.

Maybe, just maybe, the 19 year old owes *you* a drink...

Thanks for sharing, what a brave thing to write at 19. Even though I'm only 26 being 19 and the place I was in life seems so long ago. I wonder what your credo would look like today, you should write one up and share.



I raise my glass to the determined credo of a young MM.
I vote for drink.

At an age where most of us are too busy whining and giving up you acted as your own coach and pushed yourself onward. Good going 19-year-old you.
First a hug, then a playful little spank on the behind and finally a gentle push to send him back to his room (with a new box full of paper).
Of course you should buy him a drink. But I hope you realize how many people you have inspired to write. Seeing how awesome you are now, and knowing you were once unsure of yourself and rejected many times by others, makes others (myself included) believe in our ability as well.
It's hard for me to imagine your work getting rejected, so I would love to hear a sample of some of your 19 year old work.
and...are you having another give away contest for some of your CRAP??
How about a drink upside the head?
I like the broken spacebar thing. That's like bebop for letters.

As for Magazine Lad, you owe him a night out on the town, but more importantly, you owe him a sincere hug, as do we.

"Rave on, it's a crazy feeling and
I know it's got me reeling..."
His the reason why I have a Idol today. So a smack in the head will do just fine. :)
And one more:


(this kid's gonna be drunk...)
Thanks for posting that. I am twenty-two, taking a break from school after life started getting me down. I stopped writing because, naturally, nothing seemed good enough. (Once upon a time, I had a political blog, here...) Your words are encouraging and they are but another reason why you are everyone's hero. Thanks!
You owe the kid a drink and I'd be happy to pick up the tab. Just try to remember that I only work part time and that the exchange rate makes my meager Rands even more meagre.

Thank you (both?) for the inspiration, guess I'd better get to writing :-)
A drink!
Wonderful, Wonderful. Feeling encouraged or depressed are but reactons to the same life experiences. I need the reminder often. This one should be hung on the wall.
You owe the kid a drink. Heck, more than one. Get snokkered and tell each other funny stories. Imagine what he could learn from you! I am going to link to it for my Sat. Night Shout Out.
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