Writing Prompts – Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

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BQB EDITORIAL NOTE – this is my heartfelt plea to get my book readers to come look at this fine website.  Let me know what you think, 3.5.

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

             Are you a baby boomer like my grumpy Uncle Hardass? If so, I thank you for being a far out, groovy, outta sight reader and wish you well with your writing goals. You’re never too old to write. Never let a young whippersnapper tell you otherwise.  Don’t worry.  I hear tie-dye shirts and eight tracks are making a comeback.

Perhaps you are like me, a member of the often ignored Generation X. Sure, that flannel lumberjack shirt in your closet is getting dusty and there just aren’t enough clinically depressed, long haired Seattle based alternative rockers on the radio anymore, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of time left for you to pen your masterpiece and share it with the world.

Before I go, I’d like to share some wisdom with my millennial readers. (Don’t worry baby boomers and Gen Xers, it’s a free country, so you can read this next part too).

I have heard rumors that at least one of my three point five blog readers was born after 1990, but I have yet to confirm it. Occasionally, I post about things like rotary telephones and dial up modems just to figure out who was born during the Reagan or Clinton administrations. At any rate, if you are a millennial, you have no idea how lucky you have it.

I know. Every up and coming generation hears that. Uncle Hardass said it to me. Uncle Hardass’ uncle said it to him. The wheel of intergenerational complaints never stops spinning.

I’m not saying you have it lucky in life. Hell, I’ve seen the news. You’re probably going to be riding your mother’s basement couch until the next ice age (the cataclysmic event, not the children’s movie, although my condolences because you’ll probably be watching that with your parents too).

I’m saying you have it lucky as a creative person. Consider this thought: There has never been a time in history than the present moment in which creative people have had it so good. 

The good news is that thanks to technology, the so-called traditional publishing gatekeepers have been bypassed. The gate to creative fame is open and the self-publishing “barbarians” (i.e. unvetted folks with work they want to share with the world) are rushing head first toward the promised land of fame and fortune at a lightning pace.

The bad news is there are so many barbarians to contend with that it is easy for an individual barbarian’s voice to be drowned out. I’m sorry. I’ll drop the analogy. Creative people don’t like being called barbarians. Well, I know one guy in East Randomtown who doesn’t mind it so much but that’s a longer story for another time.

Where was I? Oh right. Lecturing the millennials. Millennials, when I was your age, if a creative person wanted to get anywhere, he had to kiss the butt of the assistant to the director of the creative department’s associate vice-president’s cousin’s boyfriend’s dog walker’s taxidermist’s mother-in-law’s pharmacist’s sister’s podiatrist’s acquaintance’s best friend’s support group counselor’s husband’s doctor’s niece’s nephew’s bird trainer in the hopes of getting some sort of introduction into the world of creative prosperity.

Put another way, the gates that held an artist back from living the life of a happy, healthy, financially successful person were sealed shut, locked tight, fortified, and guarded by armed soldiers, laser wielding robots, apache attack helicopters loaded with nuclear missiles and hungry, man eating pit bulls.

In short, way back when, you’d spend a year or two trying to find your “in,” hoping that if you straddle the scene of the publishing industry long enough, a friend’s friend of a friend might sneak you through the gate and help you bypass all of the attack helicopters and pit bulls and so on.

You, the millennial reader, have technology that just didn’t exist when I was twenty. You should still be polite, but you no longer have to kiss butts. You no longer have to completely rely on an introduction from a friend of a friend of a friend. You can take your blog and your social media accounts, post your very best work, and put it all together to form a hypothetical javelin that you can use to leap across that gate and land in the world of creative success. (Note: do keep trying to network. Seek those connections and introductions. Kiss those butts. You might find a butt attached to a person who can help you build your javelin faster or better yet, alleviate your need for a javelin and just open the damn gate for you).

I don’t make promises or guarantees. People who do are, more often than not, charlatans. Maybe you sing like an angel but no one is listening to the track you posted.   Your artwork might be worthy of a museum, but for whatever reason, your online gallery isn’t being bombarded with clicks. Perhaps you have written a book that makes Hemingway’s collective works look like a pile of puke, but readers aren’t finding it. It is possible to work your ass off in the indie game and still loose.

But, millennial reader, what you get courtesy of technology that past generations didn’t have, is a chance. That’s right. A chance. Building an online following takes years. Sure, there’s the occasional overnight success story where someone posts something in the morning and is on the news by suppertime, but for the most part, creative notoriety is a multi-year enterprise.

When I was twenty, the only avenue I had available to me to break into the world of professional writing was to start kissing butts and pray that one day I’d kiss the right combination of butts to make my dream come true. To me, it just seemed like way too many butts. Ultimately, I pursued a path that took me away from my love of the written word because I did the math and I was just not able to afford enough breath mints to compliment all of the the required butt kissing.

Now, with a laptop and a few affordable purchases from your friendly neighborhood electronics store, a whole world opens up to you – a world I never dreamed would ever exist when I was twenty.

Think about it. If you’re a writer today, you can:

  • Write your book.
  • Find an editor to polish it up.
  • Find a designer to provide you with an eye-popping book cover.
  • Inform the world of your masterpiece via social media.
  • Start a blog and use it to promote your work. Turn it into a place where people who are interested in your stories can find you.
  • Record a podcast. Interview other authors. Shoot the breeze about books.
  • Host your own web show. I prefer not to because I have a face for print, but you should turn on your web cam and start talking about your love of writing until the cows come home.

There’s a vibrant online community of self-publishers who will gladly lend you their advice. There’s also a budding industry of what I call “self-publishing support providers,” i.e. editors, cover designers, promoters and so on. (Although, let the buyer beware as some of these folks may be more helpful than others. Shop around, do your due diligence and talk to other customers before you shell out a bunch of money you can’t afford to lose).

In the end, you might invest a lot of time, money, and effort into a self-publishing endeavor only to fall flat on your face. But, and this is a big but (not to be confused with the big butts that Sir Mix-a-Lot wasn’t able to lie about), you get a chance.

Back when I was twenty, in nineteen hundred and whatever, up your nose with a rubber hose, you don’t need to know the exact year, I would have bare knuckled boxed a thousand meth addicted hobos, sailed across every ocean in the world, climbed the tallest mountain, and fought off a pack of angry wolves just to get a chance to make my dreams of becoming a professional writer come true.

If you’re a twenty year old, don’t blow your chance. Start your blog.   Launch your podcast. Throw caution to the wind and host your own web show. Be cautiously optimistic. Remember, the Internet is forever so don’t do something online that will make you unemployed and unemployable, but at the same time, revel in the fact that you have a chance. A career as a writer that isn’t built on a long line of kissed butts is theoretically possible, and hypothetically within your reach.

Baby boomers and Gen Xers, you should still embrace this technology, but millenials, you are in the best position to do so. Start a blog when you are twenty and you may just find yourself lousy with an astronomical amount of readers by the time you hit thirty. (You’ll need them to help you adjust to the new normal of what it is like to be thirty).

Then again, what do I know? I just run a blog with a mere three point five readers. At any rate, I hope you enjoyed this book. Take these prompts. Use them as clay to build the bricks of your own stories. Don’t forget to post your prompt inspired works on your blogs and share them with me. My favorite time wasting social media sites are Twitter, where I am @bookshelfbattle and that Zuckerbergian monstrosity known as Facebook, where I am @bookshelfqbattler.

Better yet, bookshelfbattle.com is my online haven. Do stop by. My three point five readers are very lonely. Just don’t feed the Yeti. He’s fat enough as it is. Also, he eats people.

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