The Writing Life
By Scott Nicholson
If you read too many writing blogs, you might get the impression that writers sit around in coffee shops all day discussing “Bird By Bird” and the hermeneutic elements inherent in Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel.
I don’t know how other writers do it, but I’m working by the seat of my pants. Butt in chair. Stealing moments that are probably better spent on family and community. But I reconcile it with the notion that I am sharing ideas that help us learn about the world—sometimes the message isn’t pretty, but we’re here to survive, not look good.
So as I sit here in my little in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, 12 miles from the nearest gas station, I can tell you what you support when you buy my books, and why I don’t “need” your money.
The two biggest purchases I’ve made in the past year are a beat-up 1985 pickup and a chainsaw. Sure, I’ve made a little extra money on books this year, but I paid down on the house and I gave a little away. I don’t really like money that much. The universe always delivers when an expense arises, almost in perfect concert with the need. In 1998 my son needed braces. At the same time, I won a big crash prize in the international Writers of the Future contest. My daughter will need braces next year. Disintegration became a Kindle bestseller. Who can argue with the synchronicity of such things?
What do I do when I am not writing? I cut firewood. I tend my organic garden. I save seeds, which is more than just a blooming sideline business—I have a mission of preserving rarer strains, particularly a few Cherokee varieties indigenous to the area that moved West on the Trail of Tears during the forced displacement of the tribe. I take care of my chickens. I don’t kill them, though I eat their eggs, but I feel that’s a fair trade for protecting them for all those beasties out there who like things that taste like chicken.
I work as a newspaper reporter and have won press association awards. I have a reputation of being fair and accurate. I respect the people I write about, even when I disagree with their positions. I go to lots of different churches but I am a small-T taoist. I’m a small-L libertarian, but my political and moral philosophy falls under what I call “compassionate self-reliance”—take care of yourself but do just a little extra for the next guy who might not be so fortunate.
When you buy my books, you’re doing more than just trading me money for my time and ideas and talent. You are investing in this approach. If I were whoring and doping and investing in polluting industry, I’d be ashamed to ask for your support. I am not arrogant or smug about it, but I try to do good wherever I go, as best I can.
Sure, sometimes I fall prey to ego or desire or fear. And when I do, it usually goes right into a story and flushes itself out. And I write the next sentence and turn the next page. I don’t know anything about the “writing life.” This is the only life I know.
This week’s Scott special is As I Die Lying, 99 cents for a limited time.
Scott Nicholson is author of 12 novels, including the thrillers Disintegration, Drummer Boy, Forever Never Ends, The Skull Ring, Burial to Follow, and They Hunger. His revised novels for the U.K. Kindle are Creative Spirit, Troubled, and Solom. He’s also written four comic series, six screenplays, and more than 60 short stories. His story collections include Ashes, The First, Murdermouth: Zombie Bits, and Flowers.
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