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Penguin Pete On Writing

Date/Time Permalink: 04/17/11 11:36:23 am
Category: HOWTOs and Guides

All over the web I see these forums for new writers. Websites for the writing trade, message boards, and so on. I see a lot of young authors trying out fiction, trying to be the next Stephenie Meyer (talk about setting your goals low), asking each other for advice, "critique my work," does anybody know where I can find a daily writing prompt? Oh, and playing these little blog comment games and what, oh what, shall we ever do about this awful angsty writer's block?

Ah, God. I see a lot of young kids struggling every which way to get out of that Writer's Workshop mentality.

Maybe I can help.

If you've checked out my 'about me' page (it's over there in the cobweb-infested sidebar), you'll know that my career includes a lot of manual, menial labor. I'm not kidding that I've worked construction, and I mean that that includes taking a shovel in hand and digging a few ditches, and furthermore that meant doing so in the Mohave Desert in Arizona in 120-degree August heat. I've done some real grunt labor in my time - one of my earliest jobs was moving appliances around in a warehouse. No, not with a forklift and pallet-jack, I mean by shoving them by hand. I was fourteen at the time.

I'm telling you this so you know, I've since retired from the world of jobs to start my second life having a career. That mostly consists of writing.

And I feel no different when writing an article than I do when digging a ditch.

If people ask me what I do, I say "I write" and I use the exact same tone as when I had to answer that I dug ditches. I can write in my office, or in bed, or watching TV, or riding in the car, or with one hand while feeding a baby or brushing a cat with the other. I can do it alone or in a crowd. It's no special trick to me.

I don't attach honor to it, or prestige, or wonder, or the allure of being an artiste. I don't gaze in my navel and agonize over the cruelty of my muse. I don't need a special writer's hat or a magic pencil or a bunch of cherubs scattering rose petals in my path. I don't say a prayer and do a ritual and genuflect before the altar of Homer or anybody. Oh, sure, if somebody wants to hear me wax eloquent with a whole pile of that scholarly horsecrap, yeah, I can pontificate on ze arte along with every other pretentious Ivy League monkey out there.

But really, writing to me is, and always will be, an activity as mundane as wiping my ass.

Am I great? No.

Will I ever be famous? Meh, doubtful.

Will I ever be rich? Meh, probably not, maybe I'll get lucky.

Will I have immortality through my work and be read by future generations... Oh please! I'm one ant in a hill.

It's a living though.

When somebody praises my work, I grin, glad you liked it. When somebody criticizes my work, I don't grin, that's a shame, I'll try it different next time. I've never met the thing that anybody had to say about my work that didn't wear off of me in about a minute.

I'm not feeling about it any way or the other, you see? That way I don't overthink it; I'm not paralyzed with indecision because the decisions I make aren't that important anyway. If I write crap, my life isn't over. If I write solid gold, I still can't retire.

So there's this detachment, this drone-like aloofness, as I approach the blank page just like a blank patch of ground that needs a sewer line buried in it. Writing, what, this is hard for people? Ha ha ha! I'm sitting indoors on this comfortable chair pushing these little buttons on a box! What's hard about this?

I dunno, I have the feeling that that perspective would help a lot more young aspiring writers just get going and, you know... go!

is Penguin Pete a wizard?

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