A Word From Our Tired Writer

Frank MoraesI hope you don’t mind if I waste a post by explaining to you why I don’t feel like writing anything. It’s funny. When I was out of town the other day, I was following the news on my phone. So I wrote up a whole schedule of articles for the next day in my notebook. Now, that’s notebook as in the thing that people from the 1950s would recognize. I still do a lot of writing by hand. But the point is that I wrote down what I was going to write once I got back home with all my standard tools like the keyboard I like, the trackball, and the computer set up the way that I like it.

And here’s the thing: I got those articles written fast. The hardest thing about writing articles is coming up with what to write about. But that isn’t exactly true. I have about fifty tabs open right now with things that I would like to write about. But I just don’t care to do it right now. Part of it is just that I don’t feel good. And that may have something to do with not eating enough today. So I’m cooking dinner — which I’m also not very excited about.

But I’ll tell you: I have been feeling tired a lot recently. It hasn’t stopped me from writing like a madman. But I constantly have to fight the urge to crawl into bed with a book. And God knows, that would be good for me! What is the point of all this writing? That’s especially true of the writing here. I understand the point of the other writing: money. And I’m very keen on money right now. In fact, let’s talk about money — as it relates to the writer.

Here’s the thing: you can be a really good writer — even a great writer. You can work really hard as a writer. And by that, I don’t mean it in the sense of, “Well, I’m thinking about my novel as a drink a beer and shoot pool over at the local pub.” In fact, the people around you can even be aware that you are a good and hard working writer. But if you aren’t making money, you are still pretty much a joke to them. It’s nothing personal. It is just people don’t know enough about writing (or almost anything) to judge what you do. So they go with commerce.

For example, I’ll bet I could find two generic paragraphs: one each from Stephen King and John Steinbeck. They are good examples because they are both great writers and popular. (Fun fact: it has not been cool to show disdain for King since 1981.) And I could show both of these paragraphs to a group of people, and they would not be able to identify which writer is which, even though they have pretty distinctive styles. So people don’t much get writing. I don’t blame them for it. But that’s the reason they fall back on every writer’s most hated question, “Yeah, but are you making any money?”

But that’s one great thing about these other paying gigs. The fact that Frankly Curious brings in about ten bucks in Amazon referrals each month, doesn’t really matter anymore. Now people have to accept that what I do here has value because other people are paying me to write the same kind of stuff elsewhere. And really, it isn’t that different — except in one way: those who pay me tell me what to write about. Which means writing here is a whole lot harder. I hope you appreciate it!

Afterword

Having written this, I feel so much more energetic. And dinner’s almost done.

11 thoughts on “A Word From Our Tired Writer

  1. Well, Frank, first of all, it’s no secret why you’re feeling tired. You’re TIRED. But why, you ask? Ah, there’s the question. Are you doing something different? New meds? Worries? (Never mind, don’t answer that) Old age? (Ha! Look who’s talking!)

    Maybe your body is trying to tell you to slow down, and if you don’t listen it’ll do it for you. My back use to do that to me when I was young and full of beans. It would just lock up and hide the key until it had a good long rest, and then it would just start working again, expecting to be forgiven, even though it set me back and I had to work double time to make up for that good long rest.

    So give yourself permission to take it easy. Read a good Stephen King book. I’m not a big Stephen King fan but his book on writing (called, funnily enough, “On Writing”) is one of the best I’ve ever read. He caught me at the right moment, I guess, because it felt like he was writing only for me. (And that’s what makes a good writer, right?)

    I’ve never thought of taking two generic paragraphs from the works of great writers to show that not every word is gold, even from the best of them. What a great idea! And what a confidence-booster! (Hey, that paragraph’s shit! Just like mine!)

    But about those paying gigs. I haven’t had one of those for about 20 years now. I miss them, but here’s my dilemma: I want them to pay me but I don’t want any kind of editorial interference. I don’t want them telling me what to write or how to write it. I want to just send them my stuff and I want them to just send me my check. So far nobody’s taking me up on my non-offer. Can you give me some advice?

    Oh, I’m kidding. I love wallowing in self-pity. Go on now, enjoy your dinner. I’ll just sit here quietly. And then I’ll let myself out. You won’t even know I was here.

    By the way, feel better. Or call the doctor. Don’t be stupid.

    Love ya!

    • Actually, I got that idea from Strunk and White. There was a comparison of (I think) Faulkner and Hemingway describing the same feeling. There the style is clear. But most writers are not nearly so distinct. It would be great to do that exercise with a half dozen writers. It would be a great example for other writers.

      I know what you mean about paying work. It’s hard to drag myself away from FC sometimes. But fundamentally, the paying work is easier. And the paying editing is great, because it is by the hour. If they keep asking for changes, I keep getting paid. I’m very fond of that! But admittedly, it is all crap.

      As for how I feel, I’m fine now. I’m always a day ahead on posts. So I don’t even remember what I wrote. Although I should point out, I’m not actually a King fan. But there is no denying his prodigious talent. Actually, I just read Esphyr Slobodkina’s Caps for Sale out loud to myself. That made me feel great! What a delight it is!

  2. Frank, if you’re fishing for a compliment, I think you’re freaking great and I read your blog every goddam day. You should be as popular as Roy Edroso, but then again he’s been doing it a lot longer than you and his focus is narrower. So chin up, tough guy. Commerce is always the alpha dog that pisses on the nice flower. But the flower still grows!

    • Thank you. I really wasn’t fishing for a compliment, though. Sometimes, when I don’t feel like writing, I write about that. But on this blog, nothing is wasted — not even the bones. So there you are. Any writing (but blogging especially) is inherently narcissistic. If I could get 500 words out of a trip to the kitchen, I would. (Actually, I’m sure I have.) So it isn’t surprising that I would write, “I don’t feel well right now.” Because of course everyone is interested in me!

      Please forgive me. And thanks for reading!

    • PS: interesting site you have. I just listened to one of your songs, “Ambition.” It has a melodic sense of Michael Penn, which I think is high praise because I’ve always considered his music beautifully crafted. I’ll check out the site more later.

      • I do remember Michael Penn having a nice meaty album of pop songs back in the day (I’m 51, by the way). Thanks for your positive feedback and interest.

        • If I get the time, I’ll do a site review. I’ve been wanting to do more of those. Yeah, I’m 51 too. People in their 40s and 50s are definitely the demographic of this site last time I looked. (How do they know people’s ages? Because Google is God!)

  3. Writing on “whatever suits you” is harder. If someone says “do 5000 words on Gerald Ford,” well, you dig around on Ford, you find the most interesting stuff you can. If there isn’t much, it’s not your fault.

    If you write because you like to explore things, you might spend the exact same amount of time digging on Ford and find . . . nothing you’re intrigued by. Or maybe gems! If you find nothing, though, you start digging elsewhere. Which is how I end up spending 7-11 hours a week on one damned 1000 word essay. (And you produce twice that much every day! Maybe you could take one slow-traffic day a week and just do a linkdump.)

    The thing about working for free, I find, is challenging oneself and nobody notices. I think your writing has gotten better, funnier, sharper. I think I’ve learned a lot over one baby year of writing. But ultimately readers like the work if its about a subject they’re interested in. It’s hard to convince people to see what’s fascinating in stuff they assume will be boring — even if you bust your butt showing why it isn’t boring. They have to try it first, which isn’t what Internet readers generally do.

    What makes it frustrating is when you nail it — really nail it — and you see other writers on the exact same subject who didn’t do as well. I killed a history of the Astrodome this week, and in digging around I found other pieces in prestige publications that weren’t as good and got facts wrong. I’m glad those writers have jobs in a tough market, and I’m sure they work harder than I do at their full-time job than I do at my hobby. But on this one particular thing, I did better. And nobody will notice!

    So I was pretty down on myself the other night, it was funny to read your post here. You work harder than anyone, and deserve at least a shout out from others in the field. The way big stadium bands will do covers of their favorite little unknown bands midway through a concert while everyone’s taking a pee. I don’t think it’s selfish at all for you to feel discouraged about not getting enough credit for the insanely consistent high quality here.

    Oh, well. It’s like high school athletics, I guess. The football quarterback is popular because the team wins and never has any incentive to develop other sides of his personality. The track-and-field long-jumper just works on beating her personal best. And which of them would you like to meet twenty years from now?

    • Don’t feel bad for me. I appreciate the compliments, but they aren’t necessary. I often find that the stuff I think is my best gets ignored. I’ve flirted with reposting things. But I realize: it is just that I am not the world. I never thought this article would get so much attention. I was feeling odd, though. It was probably the not eating.

      But don’t say “I killed a history of the Astrodome this week” without providing a link. For one thing, it is a good way to slowly build an audience. But more to the point, I want to read it. I saw a game in the Astrodome when I was maybe 10: the Reds against the Astros. I remember that Johnny Bench and Pete Rose played. (I think. My memories slide around over time.)

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