Thom Young: So You Want To Be A Writer?

Writing kills like a gun in the right hands. So you want to be a writer? Is it something you become or are you born a writer?  I can't give you these answers because nobody gave me anything when it comes to writing.  I have no formal training.  I never took a creative writing class or sat around a table with a community of writers.  In fact, that is everything that I despise and reject as a writer.  Writing is a very solitary act for me and there isn't a marching band standing behind me when I start to work the word.  So how do I go about it?  There is no secret for me it's just a matter of sitting down and writing. It sounds simple because it is; in fact it's as natural as breathing for me.  I never have to think about what to write although I might have a general idea.  I just write it out from there in a stream of consciousness thing that recalls the ghost of Kerouac as he wrote On the Road on one roll of paper.  I never worry about rules or the audience.  I don't care if they like it so long as I do that's all that matters.  I rarely edit and tend to think first thought is best thought.

 

I have always written from a young age mainly short stories that I would share with friends and often they would add a part to the story and vice versa.  When I was thirteen, I suffered a stroke while lifting weights.  It was a difficult time and the left side of my body was paralyzed. I won't get into all the details but when you have a traumatic brain injury something changes.  You become a different person and the world looks completely new.  I soon found a compulsion to create through writing and I started writing non-stop.  This new burst of creativity came out in poetry and prose and soon I found myself getting my first poem published in high school. It was exciting and I only wrote more and submitted my work to every literary publication I could find.

The first thing you need to be a good writer is rejection.  If you're serious about your craft you need to submit your writing to literary publications specifically literary journals.  The main reason is because you're going to get rejected and a lot of it.  You can see how good you are as you compete against thousands of other writers plus picky editors that love to give constructive criticism.  You can't take it personal and don't let rejection discourage you just keep submitting your work.  Most writers today give up after a few rejections and are content to use social media to get likes, comments, and followers.  Nobody takes Instagram serious in the literary world because it requires no talent whatsoever.  Do you think some of the most popular writers here are talented?  Remember what is popular usually is mediocrity at its finest; all you have to do is analyze our society where critical thinking is a lost art.  Many of my readers gave gotten upset when I do satirical or parody pieces what does that tell you?  That's what makes it so fun the joke is truly on the reader.  Never be afraid to push boundaries and offend the reader in fact that's a sign of quality writing because it provokes a response whether good or bad from the reader.

After getting my first poem published in high school, the rejection really started coming in but that didn't stop me from submitting.  Back then no one really even used email and the internet really was in its infancy.  I mailed my stories and poems and spent what extra money I had on envelopes and stamps.  I got a few poems published in college in some UK literary magazines and I had several English major friends that ran with the literary crowd.  They couldn't understand how I was getting things published while most of them wallowed in defeat.  I knew rejection had made me a better writer and I submitted more it's that simple.  There is no glory in it at all most never read literary journals but there's an intrinsic value and to me that's all that matters.

 

In 2009, a new technology came out called Amazon Kindle.  It allowed anyone to publish an eBook and reach a broader audience.  I had written a novella called Laredo Down in 2004, and after having it rejected by literary agents and publishers I decided to publish it myself on Kindle.  I waited months with no sales, in fact it seemed like a waste of time.  Then it happened there was the first sale then another and then it really picked up steam.  It got in the top 50 of its category and I thought I hit the big time but like most things the hype died down. I was encouraged though and wrote my second novella Gene (a story about a serial killer in New Orleans) and it did even better.  In fact it hit #1 in the Men’s Adventure category and it was one of the best feelings ever.  I had done everything myself with no publisher or agent. I didn't need them.  I was beating the writers that had major publishing deals and writing whatever the hell I wanted.  Needless to say I found more success getting more stories and poems published all over the world.  I was in university libraries and in their literary journals; my name was getting known in the little magazines. 

I have been fortunate but never made much money writing.  I had the number one poetry book in Germany besting Poe and that was good enough for me.  In 2013, I discovered Instagram but never really knew you could post your writing on it until I saw a few others posting their work.  It seemed fun so I posted my first poem and then I have been doing it ever since.  This technology has allowed me to digitally meet other writers and even do books with many that hit #1 on Amazon (you know who you are you can thank me again).  But let's be honest social media is an utter joke when it comes to writing if you don't believe me start submitting your work.  You're not quite as good as you thought now are you?  Social media is a double sided sword often great for networking and promotion but not for the craft and quality of writing.  That's why what Thirty West is doing is important they are using social media for awareness but actually spending time to produce quality handmade chapbooks and broadsides that put the artist first.  I did my chapbook "Don't Wish Me Luck' with them and it was a great experience.  I was contacted by several so called Instagram publishers even the most popular one but let's be honest things like that never last.  You can't have style without substance and expect to make it in the brutal publishing world.  I don't need any of them.  I always do things my way like Sinatra said because it boils down to how bad do you want it?  

Thom Young is a writer from Texas. His work has been in Poetry Quarterly, The Commonline Journal, 3am magazine, Crack the Spine, Word Riot, 48th Street Press, and many other places. A 2016 Pushcart Prize Nominee. He is one of Amazon's most popular poets hitting #1 in Poetry Anthologies and Short Stories and his latest A Little Black Dress Called Madness hit #1 Poetry in Germany. He's written several novels including his best seller series, Westworld.