In the past few weeks we have seen stories about athletes using steroids or illegal substances to gain an edge in their performance. Actors admit to taking HGH or getting plastic surgery to fit into certain movie roles. And no doubt, some high-pressure jobs are filled with people who rely on alcohol or some other toxin to get them through the day and night. So what about writers? What do they call upon to give them an edge, to make them feel infused with genius?
I came up with a list of no less than 28 major factors or influencers that dictate a writer’s likely level of success. But like with all formulas, there are exceptions. You cannot build writers like a building, but you can see what types of things influence their structure. Here is what I think shapes writers:
4. Specialized training
5. Faith and religion
6. Mental wellness
7. State of health
8. Wealth class
9. Neighborhood environment
10. The era or times you live in
13. Physical size
17. Sexual preference
18. Time available to write
19. Your circumstances
20. Frame of mind
21. Geographic location
22. Access to certain people or information
23. What has been published and what you read of it
24. Music, films, theater, games, and other media
25. Access to help, such as a paid editor
26. A motivational or inspirational person in your life – lover, parent, child, friend, clergy
27. Robotics and technology
28. Desires and emotions
Many writers who succeed commercially are often broken. We learn they are depressed, substance abusers, loners, suicidal, victims of a crime, raised in poverty, etc. Many write from anger, fear, loss, conviction, and an unquenchable emptiness. They write to create a world that takes them out of the one they are in. The written word is all that stands between them and a casket.
The writer bares a great burden. He or she feels and thinks deeply about life and sometimes the world is too heavy to lift on one’s shoulders. All too often writers find the therapeutic outlet provided by writing is best enhanced by something else. They turn to addictive substances – alcohol, drugs, pain killers, pharmaceuticals or addictive behaviors – binge eating, gambling, pr relationship cheating.
Many writers are muted degrees of damaged souls. There is no cure. One must live with the illness of life. To live is to accept a certain amount of pain, disappointment, anger and frustration – but it can be tempered with laughter, love, sex, entertainment, family, friends, and beauty. Life is best lived when we escape to our writing and attempt to create a better world or at least a better moment.
But great writers do not have to be negative or crazy, or womanizing dopers. Nor do they have to be the children of dysfunctional families. Nor did they have to suffer a tremendous loss. There are all types of writers that do not explore the darkness of life and they can create great books.
I think it is harder for a writer to write beyond who they are or of what they know. A privileged childhood may make it harder for one to write on the theme of poverty, but nothing excludes him from writing about things he may know little about – power, privilege, and the presumed benefits of wealth - -travel, big houses, and instant access to legal or illegal pleasures. Can a white guy write about racism as well as an African American? Of course, but not likely. Could a farmer in Mississippi write a NYC crime thriller as well as a former cop from the Big Apple? Possibly, but not likely.
Some people are just better positioned to write what they write but there are so many intangibles that no circumstance or situation by itself guarantees great writers or best-selling books. Don’t assume your crappy life is a guaranteed pay-off. Don’t feel dissuaded from writing a great book just because something terrible or eventful has not happened to you. Just keep accumulating life experiences or interview others about theirs. Your words will come naturally and flow through you the way blood, water, and oxygen just naturally pump through your body.
I think great writing, whatever its influences, comes naturally and as a result of something or someone. We don’t create from nothing or a vacuum. Life touches us or fails us or loves us – and our writing reflects this.
I did forget one last factor that perhaps is the most important. It is one’s capacity to love and to dream that perhaps drives a writer’s story the most. To imagine different worlds, alternative realities, paths not chosen, cities not yet built, unexplored theories and unspoken conversations makes any writer armed with the great differentiator. No matter how great or shitty life has been to you, your ability to embrace it or counter it shall infuse your writings in a boundless way.
Great writers mutate beyond their lives. We don’t have to write as the sum of who we have been thus far, however great the influence our existence provides us. We write, thus we live. Or do you live, thus you write?
Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2013 ©