Shall I be a Writer?

by Mike Murphy

At the age of 19 I wrote a poem that started "Shall I be a writer? If so what shall I write?"

Nearly fifty years later I am still asking the same questions, but the point is I'm still writing.

A few years after I wrote the poem I had several short stories published in men's magazines and thought I had it made. So I began on my great novel.

That's when I learned it takes a lot longer, and a lot more determination and self-confidence to write a novel than a short story.

Over the next 20 years I started several novels in different genres, tried a screen play, had some more short stories published, until one day a counsellor lost patience with me and said "For God's sake, stop talking about it and write a damn novel."

So I did. It took me two years.

Twenty years on I had written five, and none have been published. Eventually I threw away the drawer full of rejection slips (117 was the record for one novel) and swore I would never write again, or bash my head against any other brick walls that happened to be around.

Then I met successful author Michael Robotham. He hadn't had my experience of rejection, but he understood why I had always had to write, and said if it was him he would just go on writing; there was no other way.

Oddly enough my wife had always said the same thing, but I didn't listen to her.

Is the drive just to write or do you have to be published to prove you could do it?

For me, the dream is still there but it doesn’t ache so badly. I write and there are times when it feels good and flows and times when I wonder why on earth I am torturing myself.

I have stopped making myself write for a set period every day, whether I feel like it or not. I write until I don’t feel like doing it any more and then a make some notes for what I am going to write next and leave it there for the moment. I may come back to it half an hour or half a day later. By not forcing myself to write when I don’t feel like it I am staving off that feeling of pointlessness that has seen me give up on many novels in the past. I have more than a dozen half or even three quarters finished.

Another thing I don’t do is look at other’s people’s writing, seeking the secrets they discovered that got them published. I just write what comes out of my head and edit it the way I think makes it read better, not to make it read like somebody else.

Maybe it’s the same as when you forget a word or name and then it pops back into your head when you are not thinking about it. Maybe if I’m not trying so hard, thinking only about the writing and not about getting published, I will get published.

God, I hope so, That 19 year old kid will be happy at last.

Mike Murphy lives in Walpole, Western Australia and is currently working on a series of crime novels featuring "The Grey Nomad Detective Agency" a group of elderly people spending their retirement travelling around the country in caravans and solving crimes along the way.

Photo credit of wall: star 5112


Vivienne said...

To Mike Murphy: as a reader I'd really be interested in the adventures of The Grey Nomad Detective Agency.
As for my own struggles. I have a couple of blogs some of them "writer's blogs" though I'm an amateur with just a couple of competitions won behind my back. In the past I used to post my poetry at various literary media but when it came to prose, I never posted anything serious, let it be just an idea for a story or an excerpt in case it gets stolen without my knowledge and someone makes a success of it while I'm struggling to make it a whole and write it. But recently I've realized that I shouldn't wait for the time I'll be published (if ever) and save everything for a possible publication. I should be writing and posting on the net and be present so people would know my art and my name. Now I'm not afraid anymore that I run out of ideas by the time I'd be published. If some of my ideas get stolen, there'll come other ideas. I just write and post.

gary davison said...

Enjoyed your article, Mike. I share your thoughts on what success actually is. If writing is only judged on what people think, then it is hard to please everyone so what is decent to one, isn't to another.Ultimately I think if you're enjoying writing, that is the success, and publication is a bonus, which adds to the already great time you're having. Hard to think that way if you're looking to get published, but like most things, when you least expect it, it happens. Best of luck.

kathleenmaher said...

Mike, Vivienne, and gary: Here, here!

Ruthibelle said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this article. It verbalises what many aspiring writers experience.