The Only Guarantee

An anthropomorphic personification’s job is never done. My “writer” has kept me busy the last two weeks, with nothing to show for it but journal, entries (the lazy bum). Okay, so he’s been busy, but you’d think he’d write something. Instead, it’s grasshopper mode, jumping between science and theology. He’s on a kick about something called the Fine Structure Constant and apparent variations, and wondering if that could be a toe-hold to a grand unified theory.

I told Mong about that, and he just chuckled. He already knew, of course. Just as muses are anthropomorphic personifications of inspiration, the Emperor Mong is is the anthropomorphic personification of bad ideas. Mong whispers to a college student during finals that they can party the night before and study in the morning, then cackles when he oversleeps. Mong is too devious to insist my “writer” look into it, because my “writer” knows he doesn’t have the education, brains, or experience. No, he uses that as a feint, a slight whisper just to get him to think about the road not traveled and make different types of bad decisions.

That’s where Mong uses my “writer’s” grasshopper mind. Mong whispers “Look at this. You don’t have to work on that now; this is more interesting and you can come back to that later.” Mong is big on procrastination. Some junk mail about a renewable energy conference in Germany landed on his desk, and as I inspired him that the topics of having to recruit attendees worldwide and the assumptions behind assuming all parts of the world have population densities sufficient for some of these schemes would make good essays, Mong shows up with “You should totally do this. Who cares if you finish that post on science and theology? This is more fun.” If we were real, I’d kick the jerk.

To my horror, my “writer” is thinking of just that. That means he post he’s worked on ends up with the other half written essays and stories, destined to be abandoned because something looks more interesting. And Mong just laughs and laughs.

What my “writer” hasn’t figured out is writers write. Procrastination isn’t writing. Half finished projects aren’t, either. What counts is whether you complete the thing, and that includes posting it, publishing it indie, or sending it on the rounds to traditional publications. A “writer” who never finishes and never submits their work to readers in some way isn’t really a writer. It’s like calling yourself a singer when all you do is croon in the shower. That’s why the scare quotes. If he were a real “writer,” he’d be writing.

When I nudge him in that direction, he just shrugs and says he’s not a writer to begin with. At least, not a real one. Maybe that’s psychological insulation to protect himself from failure. See, another insidious thing Mong whispers. “You know you’re not good enough; why put yourself through that?” I have to admit there’s a grain of truth there. Unless they’re exceptional, beginning writers aren’t good enough. You’ve heard of Stephen King, right? Well, Stephen King tells of a nail in the wall where he put his rejection slips when he started writing, and how that nail filled up. This is Stephen King. If his first stories weren’t that good, no one else’s probably are, either.

That’s why real writers talk of plugging away, slowly getting better, until people want to buy their stuff. Unfortunately, mine recognizes a flaw in this argument. While no writer improves unless they write, not every writer who plugs along will eventually make sales. Without knowing how many continue to plug along and never make it, the idea that all it takes is perseverance is at best conjecture. Okay, that’s dark, but that’s how my “writer” thinks, and Mong rubs his hands with glee and goes “See? See? What have I been telling you?”

Mong isn’t about to tell him he hasn’t thought it through. While continuing to write is no guarantee of success, not writing is a guarantee of failure.

Yeah, it sucks. I tell my “writer” that about a lot about things. Golfers golf. Engineers engineer. Writers write. There’s no avoiding it. He can complain about the ideas I give him all day long, but if he doesn’t use them, that’s his fault, not mine. Just like it’s his fault if he listens to Mong.

Unfortunately, I can’t do anything about either one. Like every “writer,” even the real ones, that’s entirely up to him.

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