When I knew him back in high school, I don't remember thinking of Pat Worden as a writer. I remember thinking he was witty, but try as I might, nothing comes to me regarding him writing, even though we were in English class together.
Now, though, when I think of writing and writers, he's the first thing that comes to mind. He has had a tremendous impact on me as a writer. He was one of the first people to take my writing seriously, and one of the first to actively engage with me in critiquing and sharing my writing. I will always think of him as my first mentor and writing partner and to this day, he embodies what I aspire to be as a writer. Creative, flexible, innovative, professional, and tenacious as hell.
In my effort to tap into the processes of writers and glean small crumbs of wisdom to share with you (and take back into my own writing life), I asked Pat what he had to say on the subject of writing.
Here's what he said:
I like to think I’m living proof that if you’re determined to write, you’ll write. Not only that, you can write anything. No boundaries. And you can be rewarded for doing so.
I’ve been paid to write speeches, articles, catalog blurbs, e-books, ad copy, even a riddle once. And I also get to write the things I want to write – novels, short stories, poems. Have even sold a few of these.
Once upon a time I was pretty sure that I was a fiction writer, period. Or maybe a poet, full stop. Didn’t think much about commercial writing, but if I did, I probably assumed that was for other writers. Not for me.
I think I also assumed that success, however it’s measured, was also not for me. I had it in my head that I would toil—write, that is—without recognition or recompense. Best case scenario, I figured someone might find my manuscripts after I’d been sundered unto dust and I’d get that literary runners-up prize: posthumous acclaim.
Luckily, I blundered into a couple changes of attitude. The first involved that perserverance common to all published authors: I just decided to keep writing, to keep submitting, to not let rejection beat me down. As is always true, it bore fruit.
The second was a determination to try new things. Commercial writing? Don’t knock it till you try it. There’s something simultaneously challenging and inspirational in writing within the format and framework that a paying client has set for you. It is creatively engaging, although I never would have believed that way back when. But it is.
You learn brevity, and the immediacy of message. You learn how to grab a reader’s attention. You learn how to gently, respectfully change their minds.
(And---Psst! It pays pretty good too.)
These days I have a very happy balance. Maybe about 60 percent of my writing time is spent on client projects, with the rest divided between whatever creative endeavor strikes my fancy, and blogging. Blogging is invaluable as well, and I recommend it to one and all. It’s nothing but self-imposed deadlines, the easiest kind to break, so it’s a great test of one’s discipline. If you can make yourself commit to it, it’s very rewarding. (I’d be remiss here not to issue a mass invite to stop by my blog and get a gander at my very opinionated take on culture, art, and literature.)
I write a lot, I see a lot of it in print, or at least on the screen, and I get paid pretty well for some of my efforts. No, it’s not a full-time thing, and it doesn’t fully support my family. Like a lot of us, I’m still working for a living. And I’m okay with that.
I now define success, in terms of writing, as simply being engaged. If I’m fully engaged in my work, any of it, then I’m a happy writer. Paychecks and readership are the gravy on top.
And that, finally, is the message I’d send. Engage with your writing, that’s all. Fully engage with it, make it a fully integrated part of your life. Write every day, work on improving your craft, try to get better and better. Rewards will come, I guarantee it.
Pat can be found all over the cyber world. He critiques and pontificates at Worden's Cultural Deconstruction. He tweets. He's on Facebook and Linked In. Connect with him and be entertained and inspired. You can download his third book, Voracious, at BookLocker. And while you're at it, you might as well check out Mind.net and Refrigerator Magnets.
I want to thank Pat for taking time out of his busy life to share his experience with us. Working, raising a family, and writing. It's tough to fit it all in. There is never enough time in the day, and so each time someone participates in my little project, I feel truly appreciative. If you're a writer (or an artist) and have something to say about it, let me know. You'll find more information on my website. Please join me at More Ink, where I endeavor to post useful and inspiring bits for writers.
Have a creative and productive weekend! Write!