Wake up, Polly Parrot.


Why Write
by Brian Plante

Why do I bother writing these short stories? Well, the smart-ass reply is: It keeps me off the streets. Many other writers I know insist that they simply must write; they are not happy when they are not actively working on a story. I guess I'm not like these people. I don't undergo any kind of withdrawal symptoms when I am between stories. Not write? I can think of lots of reasons to not write.

Writing salable commercial fiction is hard work. The pay isn't very good either. Few people read short stories these days, especially science fiction ones, so there's hardly any glory in it. All the hours spent planning, plotting, writing and revising are intensely lonely ones, and after spending eight hours or more on a computer terminal at my day job every day, the additional hours on the computer for fiction writing aren't exactly my idea of fun.

Okay, so I'm not your run-of-the-mill science fiction author. The folks in the "gotta write" crowd usually claim that they started writing an early age -- eight or ten. Makes me want to puke. Go on, kids, get out there and play. I didn't get into this game until I was in my mid-thirties. It would be supremely easy for me to stop writing and spend my time on something more rewarding -- or simply goofing off. I got into this racket mainly because I loved reading fiction, and quite frankly, even today, I'd rather spend the time reading great books than writing my stories.

But don't worry. My meager success has encouraged me to think that I may have some minimal writing talent worth cultivating. I suppose that I'm hooked for life on writing now, but not because I feel any divine calling to follow the Muse. What the hell does that mean, anyway? Follow the Muse. What Muse? Do you see any Muses lying around here?

Maybe to explain why I write, I should tell you a bit about how I got started. When I was a kid I read lots . The science fiction bug grabbed me hard, but I also read many other things (and still do). I never wanted to be a writer back then. I just liked reading.

After so many thousands of books, by the time I was a young adult I was pretty jaded as a reader. I've read it all before, and it took something new and clever to grab my attention. More and more ho-hum fiction made me think, "Jeez, I could probably write something better than this."

So I did. My early efforts proved me wrong -- I really could write that badly. My first story took a half dozen rewrites and traveled around the world several times, garnering its share of rejection slips before finally finding a home in a short-lived semi-pro SF magazine. But sell it I did, and thus proved my point that I could write well enough to sell. Big deal. So why do I continue?

Another smart-ass answer: Because it feels so good when I stop. Actually, there's some truth in that one. Writing the stories is such hard work, but when the work is done and the story is finished, it gives me quite a feeling of accomplishment. And another load of satisfactions comes when a magazine or anthology agrees to buy the story. And then again when I see it in print. I even feel happy cashing those paltry checks when they come in.

Not that it's all rosy for a new writer like me, mind you. A writer gets used to rejection pretty quickly or he quits, and the moments of accomplishment can be pretty fleeting. There is not a feeling of permanence about my work, either. I don't kid myself that the stories I am producing will be handed down through the ages. They appear in some semi-obscure magazines, and then are swept away by next month's issue, like yesterday's news. Perhaps your pet parrot takes a dump on my stories.

But it's enough. For a brief moment in time, I can point to that book or magazine and say, "Hey, I did that." Nobody's listening, but I can say it, dammit! And then I have to do it all over again (and again, and again) to keep those satisfying moments coming. It's your basic carrot-on-a-stick ploy.

If I didn't write these stories, then what else would I do with the time? Probably fritter it away by watching TV or surfing porno sites on the Internet. At least the writing gives me the illusion that I'm doing something useful and active. It's cheap fun, makes a few extra bucks, and gives me those few moments of accomplishment. Also, perhaps, a small amount of recognition from a limited core group of writers and fans. You know who you are.

But mainly it keeps me off the streets.

Copyright © 2000 Brian Plante Count=5241

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