You’re Gonna Die Someday. Write Now.

Every family has its dumb shit that later turns out to be significant, that is an indicator of deeper issues, and that’s the case with mine. I don’t recommend bringing up kids in the kind of envirornment I was brought up in.

I’m not complaining. There are people I’ve known first hand who had utterly hellish childhoods.

Not me. I always had a home, always had food when I wanted it, always had clothes, and two parents. The only sad thing about my childhood, really, is that some people don’t get one like it. In some ways.

In other ways, no kid should be brought up as I was. But that’s another story I’ll never tell.

If you have little kids, take every opportunity to get the family together, to celebrate events and holidays. If you can hold back your embarrassment over being corny, even talk about what those holidays mean for five minutes in the morning, before you get to the food and gossip. These bonding experiences help your kids to BE with people, a skill that is invaluable. Especially if you want your kids to function with people who aren’t like them.

What does this have to do with writing?

You should write every day.

Even holidays.

It’s not about the daily work, which can be good or bad, but getting yourself in the habit of sitting your ass down in the chair and moving your fingers over those miracles, letters.

I can’t emphasize enough how important that is.

Folks who say “Well, THIS writer doesn’t write every day” are looking for excuses to not write. They are LARP writers.

The only excuses you should be looking for are excuses to sneak away from your regular life to get a few more words down.

Why would you ever do this? Why try to avoid the events that make up most people’s lives outside of work?

Because you are word crazy, dummy.

You love the actual writing.

If you don’t, do something else. I’ve just given you an out. I’ve possibly just saved a life, which is a great thing, if I achieved it this way — by writing.

You might be compelled to write daily, to set down a series of events that lead to an outcome a reader will find wondrous, even if it’s painful.

Which doesn’t mean you like the chore of writing.

If you can live with that seeming contradiction, of being compelled to write while not enjoying the actual writing…you might be on to something.

You might be dead this time tomorrow.

Or by 2025.

It takes awhile to write a good book. More time than you think. Every book I’ve written took MUCH longer to writer. Even after I knew that fact, the books STILL took longer than I expected. A lot longer.

You wanna writer?

Here’s the only instuction I’ll give:

Start writing today.

Seriously, you should get going, before you’re in the ground and no one ever thinks of you as a writer, but as whatever else you are.

“He provided for his wife and kids. He was a good [job description].”

That should be enough for anyone. Not being snarky or tricky.

There’s not one thing wrong with that. Not being cute.

Unless that isn’t enough. If you stress at the idea that you won’t get your great book written…maybe you should get writing NOW.

Last year I had the most devastating battle with writer’s block I’ve ever endured.

Writer’s block is real.

Writer’s block is nothing.

Nothing physical.

Writer’s block is nothing but fear.

You can feel the fear, and keep going, knowing that every word you put down is crap.

That’s one way of dealing with it.

Didn’t work for me, but it’s a way.

Emerging from a writer’s block that was as real as any debilitating illness, I’ve learned that the real key is one we all know already: the reward of writing is being able to write yourself into the world inside your skull.

That’s it.

Writing yourself into a dream world is the reward for writing.

Publishing is something completely different. Like raising a kid and bringing her up until she’s off on her own.

Writing, OTOH, is fucking.

Everything else you get after you write “The End” is extra, in terms of the WRITING part of the writing. If you get my meaning.

You finished? Great!

You’ve already gotten the real joy, the real paycheck — you got it while your fingers were moving over those keys.

The reward of writing is getting to write. Getting to do the thing you say you want to do.

Make sure you read fiction if you’re writing fiction.

I’m baffled by the folks who publish books on Kindle with the most basic grammatical errors. You leave your porn out when you know company’s expected?

When those writers talk about books they like to read, it’s often the same handful of bullshit artists who ran out of something interesting to say years or decades ago — King, Patterson — or other Kindle writers. These writers name maybe one piece of literature in their profiles, usually F. Scott Fitzgerald, and some pop successed, but they are really interested in television shows, Marvel movies and comics.

Which is fine, it’s its own thing, each era has its own arts and popular culture norms and subcultures.

It’s just not what I’m into.

I like reading science fiction, horror and fantasy of the twentieth century, but I have avoided the big sellers. Their work often has a swiftness of characterization, as if the writers are in touch with the then-contemporary tropes and are nodding as they read — “He’s this guy, you know this guy,” the writer seems to be telling you, “you KNOW a guy like this, he’s in the world today” — and they move on to the next big scene.

I prefer fiction that uses fantasy ideas to explore actual, meaningful situations in an entertaining, diverting way.

Masculine guy rescues big-titted beauty from a completely black villain, and wins because the good guys are good.

That doesn’ appeal to me.

I’ve never read a book in which elves play a significant role.

I love horror, sci fi and fantasy. But the last sentences of Raymond Carver’s “A Small Good Thing” brought me to tears as no piece of genre tripe ever did. GOOD genre stories, sure, but the best genre stories are always exceptions. They do something that most scifi stories don’t.

Example: Charlie in “Flowers for Algernon” reports that the mouse who took the mind-expanding drug as a test dies.

Without telling us, Charley has just informed the reader that he, Charley, is going to die.

I like my pop fiction to have a little pull to it. Some connection to actual, real world FEELINGS for something that isn’t in the real world.

It’s worthy because the very best fantasy gets around your defenses and exposes how you really think.

The very best fantasy says, “This not-real thing proves you feel sympathy for the person you claim to hate.”

The very best horror says, “In real life, you treat someone like this as a monster. Is he, though?”

The very best sci fi says, “If you had the power over these people, would you wipe them out? What does that say about YOU?”

And yet…

Preachiness is like a poison pill, killing a book before it’s even in the reader’s hands. Lectures about politics are fatal to enjoyment. (You wrote a book? So that makes you an expert on politics, philosophy, LIFE?)

Every position you’re so sure is true becomes dated, eventually. You’re left holding onto those core beliefs that keep you going.

Rod Serling wrote about those core things. A die-hard liberal Democrat, if he mentioned D or R, Blue State or Red State in his Twilight Zone or Night Gallery scripts, I missed it.

This is a post about writing. So here’s some thoughts on writing.

I never give writing advice. If I use ‘you’ it’s because of force of habit. I don’t have time to go through every sentence because of some prissy need to avoid someone saying “AH HA!”

You want advice? Go to Stephen King. He sure thinks he knows it all. Maybe he does — his sales…

IDGAF about that. OK? We clear? King is an odious person, spewing hate from some phony ‘blue coller workin man’ facade. He’s just like you and me, he just has a private plane and multiple houses, but he’s just a regular guy.

Where was I?

Yes. This isn’t advice. Just some things that worked for me. Pick at it, toss most of it aside. But maybe formulate your own writing ideas and methods.


Don’t put yourself into angry situations if you can avoid them. You may want to get into it with someone online who doesn’t know what’s actually going on, who is really dumb for following THAT Guy instead of THIS Gal.

No one’s gonna remember your argument a year from now. They probably won’t remember much of it an hour from now, unless you made them mad. That will only make them mad at Your Kind of People.

Don’t resent your country for what it isn’t — it’s not everything to anyone.

Look around and see the good in your America right now. Not what the babbing fool in the White House tells you to fear so you won’t look at the situations of working people, refugees, city dwellers.

Root yourself in NOW, what it IS, not what it was or even what it could be. Appreciate what you’re allowed to do that you couldn’t somewhere else.

Then write some stories about what IS around you, what you ACTUALLY see, and what real neighbors fear and love.

You can write your barbarian fantasy and your Lovecraftian creature feature and your futuristic adventure. But put something of actual people in those, not just the actor you have a thing for, or the character you ‘ship’ about.

Maybe even give some thought to those things that concern you in the real world you’re trying to escape.

See if you have anything to say about them in fiction.

Get those ideas down on the page. Because countries can live to be hundreds of years old. You won’t.

You have less time now than you did when you started reading this.

Go write. Now.



I write horror, science fiction and weird. Worked in warehouses, schools and social services. My books are on Amazon.

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John Stephen Walsh

I write horror, science fiction and weird. Worked in warehouses, schools and social services. My books are on Amazon.