Beware! The Snark is lurking here!
1. Betsy Lerner states that “There are probably only a few things you can write about, and only one genre, or maybe two, in which you might excel.” By that, she means by switching “from novels to plays” or poetry to short stories or fiction to poetry, etc.
A: Do you write in multiple categories (short story, novel, poetry, essays, etc.) a lot and well enough to not be called “a dabbler”? (Betsy Lerner’s term.)
I write in whatever category I feel like writing in. I don't consider myself a "dabbler," because I write pretty much every day and it all has meaning to me. Whatever anyone else considers me is their business, and I don't really care about that.
B: Betsy Lerner also states that the same is true of the themes you write about. Have you noticed that you write about the same themes over and over or do the themes of your work run the gambit?
It's rather the same theme wearing different masks, and I don't care what anyone else thinks of that.
2. Lerner describes the different types of writers, all coming off in a bad light. Lerner never describes a writer as anything remotely well-adjusted.
QUESTION: Does Lerner believe a good writer cannot be wholly well-adjusted?
I honestly can't say that I've read very far into the book. Helping my son buy a house (which I also live in) and acting as his driver and helping as I can, given my physical limitations, to clear out his townhome, has taken up most of the summer. This book is not exactly a fast read. From what I've seen, she seems to think that the majority of writers are in need of therapy.
3. Lerner says, "Instead of honoring the subjects and forms that invade writer's dreams and diaries, they concoct some idea about what's selling or what agents and editors are looking for as they try to fit their odd-shaped pegs into someone else's hole." She goes on to say editor's like to be surprised and taken out of the world they expect.
QUESTION: Do you do the research and write what is popular, or write from the heart, or a bit of both?
To partially quote my dear late friend Rachel, I write what the monkey hell I want to write, and what's popular can take a long walk off a short pier for all I care. Much of the time, I despise popular fiction.
4. From “The Self-Promoter” chapter: A young writer was called a nightmare and total networker by others in the publishing industry. “Her sin, I later discovered, had been in landing a much-coveted job at a very young age with a highly regarded publication.”
Also, from the same chapter: “Oh, you know, he’s a total self-promoter,” we sneer when an up-and-coming writer aligns himself with a powerful agent or editor.
QUESTION: Have you ever sneered at writers who promote themselves and their books, who network, who strive for/land coveted jobs, who seek agents? Have you ever been sneered at for those things?
I've been sneered at for a lot of things. As for what other people do, we each do what we've got to do. At this point in my life, it's preferable for me to freelance, and I've decided that I don't want an agent. That's what works for my odious and ill-advised personality type. It may not work for somebody else.
5. (Mentioned in the book.) Lorrie Moore began her short story “How to Become a Writer” with: “First, try to be something, anything else.”
A: Is writing your calling? (You don’t want to do anything else and feel you have no other choice but to write…but maybe you have a job to sustain yourself financially?)
It's some sort of obsession which started eating my brain back when I was a precocious and somewhat twisted child reading Edgar Allan Poe at six years old, and it has never stopped. Thanks, Ed.
I still wrote even when I was killing myself working twelve-hour days and sixty-hour weeks. These hours nearly killed me, literally. I had a small stroke and ended up being fired from my job.
B: Have you worked had another career/career path? If so, what?
I've done a lot of other things, none of which I really wanted to do. I've done a fair bit of work in the food industry as a bartender and waitress. I kind of liked bartending. It was like playing with a chemistry set. Living in Colorado, however, I discovered that people pretty much want two kinds of drinks: beer and margaritas.
I worked in the long-term care end of things for a cumulative of about 25 years, as an aide in nursing homes and, eventually, a retirement community, and then as a home health nurse. It is back-breaking and often soul-destroying work and I really was not well suited to it. It was what my mother wanted me to do. She retired as a registered nurse in 2004 after my father (RIP) had a major hemorrhagic stroke. This type of work almost killed me.
Now I primarily make my living, such as it is, writing book reviews. I would like to eventually shift more towards proofreading and editing.
I love to write, but I very much doubt my writing will ever sell. My brain is literally very different from most people's. I have ADD and bipolar disorder, and my mind tends to be all over the place. In my case, except for a low dose of lithium, the cure (medications) is worse than the "problem" (a brain that works differently). My stories are weird (like me) and tend to have a myriad of sub-plots. I've had plenty of people tell me to write like they do, but writing loses its joy when I do. So, I will keep writing what I want to write, and the nay-sayers can suck a rotten lemon.