In the early 80’s, the Anchorage Daily News adopted the slogan “Write hard, die free” with this logo:
Then an Alaskan designer, William Spear, redesigned the logo which became this ubiquitous pin:
I have one of those somewhere. I think it’s stuck to a bulletin board. I loved the way it looked–nothing better than a badass keyboard–but I could never really connect with it. I can see how this is apropos for a journalist–write the hard stuff and keep us all free–but for fiction writers, it’s an invitation to die crazy and alone and early. “Write hard” doesn’t necessarily mean good storytelling. And for me, it definitely means a mental breakdown.
I’m working on two books now, one that failed back in 2004 (the only one my editor has ever rejected and rightfully so) and one that’s the first in a series that was due three years ago. Yeah, three years. I’m having problems. So I keep flinging myself at both books, and I’m pretty sure I know now how to fix them rationally–I’ve worked out the structure and motivation problems–but I’m having a hell of time getting IN to them, becoming part of them.
It’s always been hard, that melding with the book, getting to the place where the world of the story is more real than the real world, but I think it’s even harder now because I’m so desperate. My editor, who is beyond great, is not pushing me in the least, she has the patience of a saint, but I’m running out of money–turns out they don’t pay you if you don’t publish anything–and beyond that, I want these books done. I know how the stories go, why can’t I finish them???
I remember reading a sex advice column once where the writer said, “If something isn’t working, it’s not going to work any better if you do it harder.” That struck me as very true about sex then, and it strikes me as very true about writing now. Desperation is not a spur to good fiction. I think if I can get this self-imposed “Write Hard” crap out of my mind (although it does go nicely with the mind mold) and just let go so the girls in the basement can jumpstart the voices in my head, I’ll be fine.
Never write for a living. It screws with your head big time. And definitely don’t Write Hard and Die Free. Write Free and Die Hard, that’s what I say.
Edited to Add At Krissie’s Request: