I decided that I wanted to be a writer in 2009. This was when I was in fourth grade, it was the first time I had been exposed to the literal act of writing, before then, I simply read the books and consumed, I watched the movies and consumed, but up until that point in my life everyone had been expecting me to be a scientist of some sort, an engineer maybe. I now know that the more ‘academic’ pathways for me, and I know that I am a creative person who is meant for one thing: writing. But before I get into that, my anecdote. You see, while I did not have the greatest writing teacher in the world (looking back, I can honestly say that I haven’t actually had a great writing teacher in school, but I have met plenty of incredible teachers through the words on the page of thousands of books: Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, Suzanne Collins, Rick Riordan, George R. R. Martin; the staff list of this great school goes on and on) it was still a woman named Ms. Chalmers who opened me up to the world of writing in the first place. It was in her class room that I first sat pen to paper, and fired off whatever came to mind at that time (“Imitation before creation,” Stephen King), meaning Greek Mythology in Modern Times like Rick Riordan, post-apocalyptic killing games like Collins, terrifying tales of summer camp like R.L. Stine. Never did I imagine years later I would still be doing it, now I’m trying to do it professionally because it’s almost been 8 years now my mother still considers this a hobby of mine (but you see, there comes a time when a hobby gets to close to your heart, and what the heart wants becomes what you desire; my heart wants to be a professional author: I want to be a professional author). Anyhow, I remember how much mirth and joy those first stories brought me, it was a brilliant burst of both terror and fever, for never had I been consumed by such an incredible feeling like this one. It’s truly like when you hear an old person whose been working in his business field for years talking about stuff that sounds absolutely boring, yet he’s firing off about it at a million miles per hour, there’s a gleam in his eyes (“That gleam in your eyes is so familiar a gleam,” ‘Once Upon a Dream’, Sleeping Beauty; I can now agree with this quote so directly!), and despite his frail figure, he’s moving like a puppet without a puppeteer, for now it’s just the puppet driving the show long after the puppeteer is gone. You see, even today, many of my peers (not that I think i should worry a lot about their opinion) still question why I want to be a writer; in fact, my best friend is a great example. About two months ago (I will never forget the anger and depression that filled me), we were on the bus home and I mentioned something about me being a writer, and he suddenly asked me, “Why don’t you go into something practical? Why not go into something that’s going to get you a lot of money?” And I asked him, “Is that all getting a job and life is all about?” He gave me an incredulous look, and looked about the rest of our friends and they followed in suite to this looks, and he returned to me, his brows furrowed. “Well yeah!” And I remember never being able to come back with anything (I’m a person who comes up with his best thoughts after the fact; I once got into a fight with my ex-girlfriend about the usefulness of math in my life, and she beat me, I had nothing left to say; two weeks later, I came up it the best comeback, but by that time we were broke n up, and the topic irrelevant). I went on home, almost sulking and waddling in my despair, for I was suddenly attacked again by an outsider (it had always been inside and on blog sites (and career days) that the fact was slapped in my face) about how impractical the career I was going into, and I still often think about it, but the only way that I know how to perk myself up is that plenty of our favorite authors took years to become and be where they are today (George R. R. Martin, because let’s be honest, has just reached the greatest peak in his career in all of his 65 or so years of life), yet I’m always consumed by the fact that, “Well, they’re just talented, I’m not; well you know, they actually had experiences that they could draw from, I’m just a “groupie incognito, posing as a real
singer writer”, trying to stylize myself after Poe, King, and the other greats; I’m nothing but a hack!” Which brings us to this morning.
For the past few weeks, my English teacher and I had been discussing the future of my sales, because up until this point, they’ve been mostly (almost) nonexistent. The release that I told you guys (whoever still reading I guess) about, maybe two weeks ago was a complete flop, just like my first book The Maze Games, and this was the first book under my horror pen name Jonnah Z. Kennedy, and I though that The Place Beyond the Courtyard: Violence, was a damn good story. Yet, one thing that my English teacher and I had been challenged with for so long was that, we didn’t have a direct audience, and I realized this morning that several reasons why I have found myself slipping down the well again because my blood is so slick on the walls, is that, I haven’t been aiming for the right target.
For the longest time now, I have been aiming my arrows at my age group, or 16+ (I’m 14, but my writing isn’t particularly youngish), trying to reinvent and bring back Poe, bring King down to the YA, and bring flowery writing also to the teens, but it’s not what they want to hear, not what they want to read. No, they want (I’m not trying to be offensive because I read YA books often, well, not as often as I used to, but still read them if they’re by an author I like) somewhat vague and quick stories that have more relatable characters, settings, and situations. They don’t want the boy who wants to get out of prison for his brother in a retelling of Dante’s Inferno, they don’t want the story of an insane man who falls prey to his heart’s desires; they don’t want the mad king who murders his family to save them, they don’t want the knight who walks the earth a thousand years for a princess long dead and a reward long gone beneath the earth. They want Urban Fantasy, stories that are about sweet young, summer love, and glorious little books about the struggles of false dystopian worlds, and I don’t mean to be bitter, I’m just not all that into that.
I enjoy writing about dystopian worlds, I enjoy writing about super powers; kids stuff if there was ever a definition for it. But I also enjoy writing about flawed, immoral characters who think they’re moral; I enjoy writing about the insane, and I love gore when described by an insane person; I love those David Foster Wallace sentences that go on for an entire page!; I love stories that have folds and folds of metaphors that I can unravel and question, stories that are bound in symbolism to hide their true meaning, and what is more, I deeply enjoy writing about the melancholic afterlife and what it would be like.
Since the beginning of time, writers (authors) have never just been writers, we have been businessmen, performers, entrepreneurs, spokespeople; we have never just been writers. It is impertinent that a writer knows how to market, create product, build revenue and audience through blogs like these and websites about them and their work. This is where many of us (I) fail as a writer, because if you cannot market and create an audience and market for their fiction, they will get nowhere, and this can be one of the most daunting and frightening things for a writer, since for the most part, many of us would just love to write fiction, put it up or publish it, and hope that it sells because someone will buy one copy, tell their friends, but in my experience, that has been mostly fantasy. But, even more than knowing how to market and sell fiction, you should know why you’re writing in the first place; you should never become in denial.
The moment you become denial about the reason your writing is the moment that you stop being a writer, and when you decide to quite, you’ve died instead of rode; life’s gotten the best of you, and most of all, you’ve lost the reason why you’ve spent so many endless nights trying to finish that story or explain to everyone in your family that you’re going to be something some day.
In short, don’t lose sight of yourself when you look up from the small world you have been trapped in for so long, because it’s easy for the camera to go out of focus and forget why we started riding on that endless open road through Nebraska.