I’m an old man. Yeah, yeah, I’m only 43 and still damn sexy… I know, I know… have you seen these gorgeous eyes? But I digress.
I’ve been writing since I was 12 on and off (mostly on except during my two marriages) and I fought through a long-term relationship having to hide my writing like a mistress… other than that, I’ve written. Thousands and thousands of words, getting it steadily to 2,000 per day. If you know me or read this blog, you know 2,000 words a day is my thing. It’s my daily savior to know I’ve done well.
I was going through some papers and boxes this morning, looking for something, when I came across a stack of discs I used to use back in the days of my Brother word processor. I’m sure they are filled with lame story ideas, pictures of my kids as babies and random crap. I must have fifty of them, and most aren’t labeled.
It got me thinking of how I used to write back in my twenties (especially around the mid-1990’s when I was doing Black Moon Magazine), and it was simple: sitting at the dining room table and pounding away. No internet, no distractions, no fellow authors in my town to come over and ‘talk shop’. I was literally writing in a vacuum, my own little island. The only feedback I got was from friends and family who offered no real opinions. I grew up in New Jersey, so if you got ‘that didn’t suck as bad as the last one,’ you were on to something.
There was the Garden State Horror Writers Association, but they met on Saturdays about 40 miles from me, and I was working a full-time job (I did 20+ years as a retail manager. Back then I was managing a shoe store, which I did for most of my brilliant (read: painstakingly soul crushing) career. I don’t think I ever got to a meeting, although I knew a member or two in passing. But we never got together to write, we never sat in a diner and talked about what we were writing. You had no idea, and you didn’t know who was submitting to what market. Hell, unless you bought a copy of a magazine and found their submission guidelines, you didn’t even know who was taking them. I subscribed to Scavenger’s Newsletter and the bulk of my submissions were sent out because of it.
Everything was sent snail mail, and you’d wait weeks or months for your SASE to return with an acceptance or (mostly) rejection. Sometimes you got feedback and most times you did not. You were your own editor unless you had a friend or family member who helped you out, but no other entourage or posse to help you. You needed to do research? Put on your shoes because you were going to the library to kill three hours, just to find out what plants in Brazil were poisonous.
And then everything changed seemingly overnight. Younger authors, and those who jumped in later in the game, never had to worry about sitting alone at the dining room table, typing on a word processor that wasn’t always reliable, printing out tons of copies of a story, buying envelopes and stamps and having to get a PO Box to look professional.
We now have Facebook groups and e-mail and Foursquare and a million other ways to keep active. You realize you weren’t alone, there were always other writers in town with you, but you never spoke about it. It was your own dirty little secret. You never told anyone you were a writer, and you never shared your ideas. You lived a solitary, paranoid writing existence.
No more writing in a vacuum these days.