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Know Jack #278 Paperback Writer

“It's a thousand pages give or take a few, I'll be writing more in a week or two, I can make it longer if you like the style, I can change it 'round And I want to be a paperback writer…” Lennon and McCartney

I once heard someone ask a writer in one of those pseudo-psychological discussions people are so fond of, who they were. When they answered, “I’m a writer,” the reply was, “That’s what you do, not who you are.”

Let’s pretend we don’t know there’s an entire school of thinking spanning from ancient times to today that is based on the idea that a person is what they do. Aristotle, in his Ethics, said the way to for good habits was to do the good thing you wish to adopt.

I’m a firm believer that when speaking about people that we are more than the sum of our parts, That’s why analyses of the human mind and spirit all tend to breakdown at some point. If you take my parts, minister, nurse, aircraft mechanic, father, son… and funnel them all into the single body, soul, and spirit that I call “me”. You will find they all converge at "writer".

I have told you all about my struggles with my new role as publisher. I love the business, even as scantly successful and frustrating as it often is. But that love only lasts as long as I am writing my own stories into the mix. It is not that I only care about my stories. The thing is that if I am not writing, I am not fulfilled. I could never stop writing and solely work as a publisher, just as I could never stop writing and return to being solely a nurse.

I tell those curious enough to ask, that while I have not always written for publication, I have always told stories and written for the sheer joy of it, or maybe it was therapy. Either way, the outcome is the same. Becoming a paperback writer is simply the icing on the cake. I don’t turn down the royalties, but I don’t write to live—I live to write and to know that writing was brought to life by my readers’ imagination.

Writing has taken me places my wandering the country could not. It has carried me to times and experiences as nothing else can do. Do you remember what hooked Quade in Total Recall? It was taking a vacation from himself, being whatsoever he wanted to be. Writing, like reading, does that every time I sit down at the keyboard. What fun! And what pain.

Writing requires calling up old wounds, heartbreaks, and defeats, for there is no true picture of life on the page if the author knows nothing of these things. To write them is to throw bare the heart and dare them to take their best shot.

There is a hint of danger in letting rage, depression, sorrow, and tears strike the keys. The danger is not in going there, it lies in coming back from them intact. The consolation in writing is that, if we wish it so, the hero gets to win where we lost, love where we are left barren, or laugh where we cried.

I am a writer. It is more than what I do—it is who I am. If as Nietzsche says, that is a fiction, I have made for myself to live in. I can think of no better lie to tell myself. It is my joie de vivre, and my raison d’etre.


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