A writer defined, our search for the silver bullet, and stroking the muse…

Note: I originally published this on my blogspot blog. As part of my web consolidation, I felt it important to publish here. It has dated information but I am keeping it mostly in tact.

“Now as far as the customers can tell
He’s just one more fool who talks to himself
But every man in the place would line up
If they new what that seat really was

Cuz to the casual eye it’s a barstool
But it’s really much more than it seems
A few drinks and then, she’ll be with him again
As he sits on the time machine”
Collin Raye – The Time Machine

Just a thought or two here. I have been contacted by and been in contact with a few aspiring writers. I am being careful here. Two of them in particular claim to be writers. I keep meeting mutual acquaintances who tell me, “Matt, you should talk to _____, they are a writer too.”

However, in speaking to them, I have gleaned that each has ideas about wanting to write but spends no time doing it. They do spend a lot of time talking about how hard it is and the quixotic writers life (lack of funds and appreciation for their artistic talent – blah, blah, blah) but no words as of yet.

Which got me thinking. Should there be some reading this who want to write, take this to heart. And should you have no interest in writing, apply it to that thing that you want do be and do. Should you have nothing that you want to be or do…sorry, can’t help ya.

 A writer – in this writer’s humble opinion – is someone who writes.

 It is likely, that to be that thing, you must do the thing that that thing does.

Call me crazy but I am convinced that the noun is wrapped up in the verb. You are not one if you are not doing the other.

I’m not standing on a high-horse, per se. But I ceased attending writer’s critique and “support” groups. There were too many people who showed up every week with the same lackluster effort – NONE!

Please understand, I am empathetic – but only slightly so. I spent years wanting to be a writer. From the time I was very young and when I met my wife – it is all I wanted to be. But wanting to be something and actually doing and being something are two very different things.

Life got in the way, as life is wont to do, and I pursued other interest. No sad violins here, I liked what I did and learned valuable lessons on life, business, marketing, and promotion. I experienced success, failure, love, and heartbreak – all good fodder for a writer. Later, however, upon evaluating my life, I discovered that something critical was missing…writing.

A key turning point was when my wife handed me Stephen King’s book, “On Writing”. He breaks things down to a no-nonsense, schedule a time and do some heavy lifting, type of approach. It has been pivotal in my production.

If you are anything like me, you have scoured bookshelves looking for that silver-bullet on writing. That book that illuminates that missing piece. Idea books, writer’s soul books, how to make a million as an author books, and everything in between. You read them hoping to glean the secret and in each case, walking away feeling used and abandoned.

It is not that I am against books on writing. In fact, I am currently re-reading Lawrence Block’s book, “Telling Lies For Fun & Profit.” It is a classic and I highly recommend it.

After scouring bookshelves for quite some time (something I still occasionally do – you can always hope, can’t you) I realized that what Mr. King writes about in “On Writing” is true. There is no silver bullet and your muse, she’s a fickle bitch! Or should your muse be a man, whatever a man bitch is supposed to be called. Whatever your term du jour is, I know something about your muse. She won’t show up when you want her to.

And doesn’t it make you crazy when you can’t find her? Because you know she’s off with someone else – jealous is more than a green monster, it’s got some real talons too!

In light of that fact, schedule a time – same time, same place, every day, so she knows where to find you when she finally decides to give you that finger massage. Short of that moment, assume she ain’t a comin’, she’s found a new lover, and that your writing is up to you.

Upon reading that book, I determined to become a writer. The next step was pretty simple…write something.

My first article – for publication – was completed a week later. My second, a week or so after that. My first article was actually my most lucrative in pure dollars, a recent article the most lucrative in time to write ($750 at one frantic, short-notice, 45 minute session). I should write “How To Make $1,000 An Hour Writing Articles.”

But Stephen King’s book, as good as it is, was not the silver bullet! It couldn’t be. I already told you that there are no silver bullets.

For me, the book was a gun-to-the-head, my-kids-are-gettin’-older, and those-wrinkles-on-your-face-are-only-going-to-multiply-until-they-bury-you realization that time is – as Mr. King’s character in Hearts In Atlantis quoting Ben Johnson says – “the old bald cheater.”

I got a little wiggy about it. I determined that I must get published and do so quickly. Not articles but a book. While I was, by my own twisted perception, a relatively normal, if not overly sensitive kid (My brothers call this being a crybaby but we’ll save that story for another time), I have always been fascinated by someone who could put words together into a book.

They (authors) were, and still are, my heroes. For me, they carry an almost mythical quality. Even someone who has written a bad book – poor in quality – has completed something that many who assume they have more talent, have failed to do.

In “Telling Lies” Block sites a cartoon where an adult is speaking to a sullen child, saying, “It is not enough to be a genius, Arnold. You have to be a genius at something.”

Whether it was Edgar Rice Burroughs, Edgar Allan Poe, John Steinbeck, Elmore Leonard, Ursulu LeGuin, Michael Moorcock, Tolkien, HP Lovecraft (especially HP Lovecraft) or any of the myriad of other authors whose books adorned my shelves, I felt these were my heroes. A clever play on words or an image or story that makes you wish – and feel that it is true – that is pure magic.

And so I proceeded to write book content. I actually had a editor show some initial interest in my first book, The IT Career Builder’s Toolkit, but the production schedule we discussed was a tad long. I couldn’t wait and I nixed any future talk of a deal. I self-published the book and sold some copies off my website or gave it away when I spoke.

There are many authors who, upon hearing I walked away from a publisher who was actually speaking to me, believe me to be insane. They are, by most accounts, correct. But I didn’t realize that getting a publishing deal was supposed to be difficult. It never occurred to me.

Then, in 2004, a copy of my so-so edited and poorly formatted book was purchased by a woman in San Francisco. I sent it off with my standard thank you letter and moved on. Two weeks later I received an email from Mary Beth Ray, an executive editor at Cisco Press. She wanted to speak with Matthew Moran. That would be me.

I called her and she explained that she had purchased my book – the woman in San Francisco – and that she liked it and wanted to publish it!!! She had found an article I had written on techies.com (an interesting story and relationship with them could go right here) which led her to my site and to my book.

So that is how an author does it? You simply get discovered while sitting around…

Well, not exactly. I wasn’t sitting around. It actually worked somewhat like I wanted it to. I wanted to be published and felt that a body of work in some fairly noticeable places – my articles – could produce an interest in my writing. Mary Beth wanted a career book for technology pros and was looking for a potential author – one who had some articles to his credit – and lo and behold she found an author and a book. Lucky her, eh?

That is why I place Mary Beth in similar standing with my Wife, my mother, and my Aunt Bev in Canada. They are the four women who have had a lasting and positive impact on my life. My mom gave me life and put up with this non-stop talking kid who became a non-stop talking adult. Aunt Bev taught me about having a girlfriend – someone you love but who is also your best friend – she was my first (hey, when your 10 years old and a pretty girl gives you attention and piggyback rides…). My wife became that friend that my Aunt Bev taught me to look for – sharing the life my mom gave me and feeding that life daily, a living breathing muse. And Mary Beth, she gave my life a rebirth. She is a sort of surrogate Mom – but younger.

I believe Mary Beth squirms a bit at this place of prominence I’ve placed her – but for someone who wants to be a published writer – really, really, bad – having an editor discover you and tell you that you are a “good writer” is intoxicating.

Now I am writing (behind schedule – sorry Mary Beth) my next book, The Technology Consultants Toolkit. I cranked out most of 4 chapters in the past couple days. I want to get back on schedule.

In fact, the other night as I frantically added a final two paragraphs before running to get my daughter from acting rehearsal, I thought to myself – “Matt, you are a writer!!”

Do you want to know how I know?

Because I had proof. It wasn’t the sore fingertips I had developed from hammering them on the keyboard.

It was that writer’s time warp where I lost two hours of my life in words. A time warp where a blank computer screen becomes 3000 words in 120 minutes. Two-hours that I gladly give up to that magical moment when your computer screen fills your vision and the rest of the world fades into some distant white noise.

If you’ve gone to that place before, it’s a heavy trip. No over the counter meds can match it and that stuff you smoked with your friends in the alley back in high-school doesn’t even come close. It is like swallowing the worm – way over the edge.

Some people call that focus and you see it in your kids when they are watching Sponge Bob. You call them and they cannot hear you. Turning off the TV causes an almost tragic spasmodic reaction, as though you had just cut off their source of oxygen.

And my friend, you have! Turn off that TV and you cut off that digital morphine drip – the kid’s going to go through withdrawals. Nothing contrived, nothing made up, it’s the real deal. It hurts!

To the non-writer, that’s just Matt zoning out but I know the truth. I’ve been sleeping with my muse! She may be fickle but moments like that are worth the heartache – and I’m in love…crazy love!

So if you want to be a writer…write! If your muse has another name, another face, make sure you are at the parties that she attends – or else my friend, she is going home with someone else. If she goes home with someone else, you had better sit down and write something through the pain. I’ve discovered that she finds that attractive and she’ll leave that other SOB as soon as he stops stroking her.

If you don’t write and you are wondering where your muse is, she’s with me and my busy fingers.

Are you jealous? You should be!

 ========== POSTSCRIPT – 2012 ==========

 Some of you know that since writing this, life took an interesting turn for me. I’ve kept it (the article) mostly in tact for continuity’s sake. Since the time of this writing, my above mentioned wife and I separated and then divorced. A flood destroyed my home and the ensuing depression and anxiety I went through curtailed my second book. Also, lest anyone feels sorry for me or sympathy, save it! I am the cause of enough of my challenges that I would rather accept a kick in the seat of my pants than sympathy.

It is now September, 2012. I am working on rebuilding pieces of my life, re-branding what I do, re-connecting with who I am. Writing is part of that. I am working on the 2nd edition to my first book and I a few other books.

It is interesting to note that the same time warp you feel when writing can occur when you are depressed – time keeps rolling and when you snap out of it, the beard is greyer and  the bones more creaky. If you are in that place, talk to someone – it seems like it won’t help but it does.

And keep writing…
Matt – September 19, 2012

Posted in Blog, Writing.

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