MaxBarry.com
if you were him you'd be home now

Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Thu 24
Mar
2016

Post-Zombie Apocalypse Plans

Writing

In the inevitable event of a zombie apocalypse in Australia, what would be your plans to ensure your survival? Will you still write books for the non-infected population?

Atom

I don’t think so. It’s hard enough to make a living as an author without the undead clawing at the windows. I can barely work with metaphorical monsters trying to consume my brain.

That raises a good question, though, which is why I write. Some of my reasons over the years, roughly chronologically, have been:

  • It’s fun

  • Expectation that brilliant words will change world

  • Hope of fame & fortune

  • Hope of seeing book on shelves one day

  • Better job than telephone sales

  • Story trying to crawl its way out of my brain won’t let me think about anything else

  • Just published novel and too young to retire

It’s never one thing, of course. But I used to be very motivated by the idea of getting attention while today I’m not at all. That probably happens to everyone as they get older. Or else I’m disappearing into an elaborate fantasy world where my characters are the only people I really care about. One of those.

Today, I mostly write because when I sit down and read back what I wrote yesterday, it seems interesting but also not quite right, so I feel the urge to fix it and also see what happens next. It’s actually not that different to reading any book, only with more self-loathing. Also it takes longer. But I think readers and writers are fundamentally trying to do the same thing: find out what happens.

Post-zombie apocalypse, I don’t think I’ll write novels, but I will tell stories to children. I think that will be important.

Thu 03
Mar
2016

When I Quit Writing

Writing

Hey Max! I’m sure writing has highs and lows. Have you ever had a point where you thought about packing the whole gig in? What was that point? Why didn’t you?

Anonymous

This morning. I thought I knew what I wanted to write. But when I started, it sucked. The words felt stupid. In the past, when this has happened, I have told myself, Just push through, but now I know that when I do that, I wind up with a lot of stupid words, which I have to delete the next day. It’s always a mistake to think I might be underrating my words; that if I just slap them down there, it might turn out that other people like them better than I do. THAT NEVER HAPPENS.

So then I stopped, because it wasn’t working, and felt sad, because I couldn’t write. I had forgotten how to do it. My career was over.

Fortunately this is a frequent occurrence so I knew it wouldn’t last long. What I have learned is that being a complete failure as a writer is not my fault. It’s the book’s fault. If the book was good enough, it would make me enjoy writing it more. Working on a good book is great fun. It’s joyful. Words come easily. It doesn’t make sense that I would be able to write plenty of good words one minute and no words at all the next. I’m still the same guy. So it must be the book.

Therefore I just need take a break and change something when I get back. Have an idea. Try a different opening. Delete someone. And tada! Words. Sooner or later, words.

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