This blog tracks a ten year epic of kick-starting a whole writing career, with spies and thrillers and now, vampires. I cover the creative process, stuff that blows up, history, philosophy, and theology. If you like any or all of the above, you'll like this one. We talk about comic books, movies, music, and writing. Usually, all at the same time.
Just a reminder...bzzt...Declan...bzzt...vacation...bzzt...hey...bzzt...what...bzzzzzzzttttttt...
Hi there my fellow Finnians (fans of Declan Finn of course,
and you have to admit it sounds better than my fellow Pius Geekians, right?) my
name is Richard Paolinelli and I’ve commandeered Declan’s blog today.
I’ve been a professional writer in one form or another for
over thirty years now – and yes I swear I just felt at least six more grey
hairs sprout out of the top of my head – and for the last couple of years I’ve
been focusing most of my efforts on writing novels.
As part of the marketing strategy for my recent releases
I’ve been hitting several circuits, radio shows, online webzine interviews and
the occasional guest blog post, like this one. At almost all of the stops I’ve
made I’m asked the same question: “What motivated you to write?”
What they are asking is what made me start writing and my
stock answer has been that I began writing little stories as a very young child
as my dad’s drilling business moved us from one state to the next all across
the United States and just kept on writing as I got older.
I started writing professionally as a freelancer back in
1984, got my first fiction credit as the lead writer for a comic book, Seadragon, in 1986 and became a
sportswriter for daily newspapers in 1991. In 2013 I retired from sports writing
and spent two years researching and writing a sports non-fiction book before
turning to fiction in 2015.
So, what I’d like to do here on this blog today is address
the question that they should be asking instead: What motivates me to continue
to write after over three decades of pounding typewriter keys and computer
Mostly, it’s because I love storytelling. Whether it was a
game story or a feature on an athlete or a fictional tale conjured up from my
imagination, I love putting together a story to inform or entertain. And while
the three awards I have picked up along the way were very nice, hearing from
readers how much they enjoyed reading something I wrote is a whole lot better.
But what about the times I got the negative reviews – the honest
ones from readers that just didn’t like what I wrote as well as the politically
motivated ones from people who can’t separate politics from any aspect of their
life – or the rejection letters/e-mails saying my work didn’t meet a
Nowadays, I’m not bothered so much by the rejections, or
even the criticisms. More often than not I can find a nugget within that I can
use to improve my writing. But in the early days the “no thanks” letters and
the negative critiques cut deep. And while I was, and still am, too stubborn to
give it up, I can certainly understand why some would-be writers packed up
their typewriters or deleted their word processors from their computer when
presented with a rejection letter or two.
It isn’t easy to put yourself out there and it is certainly
no fun to take the kind of hits you take when the answer is in the negative.
In my case, I was introduced to the dark side of writing
early on. At the tender age of 14 I wrote what I thought was a nice little
sci-fi/horror short story about a Coast Guard ship sailing through a thick bank
of fog. The ship picks up a distress call from another vessel but is unable to
locate the ship. The signal is lost as the fog bank dissipates an hen the ship
docks at its home base, the crew is stunned to discover the ship they head from
had been lost at sea – twenty years before. The story ends with the captain of
the lost ship, still trapped in the fog, still calling for help that will never
I typed up the final draft, neatly double spaced on 20-lb
paper and sent it off in the mail to a magazine that published such stories.
Three weeks later I received a letter, a rejection letter, of course.
But instead of your standard
looking-for-and-good-luck-with-your-future-writing” letter, I instead got a
long-distance beaten-to-a-pulp-in-a-dark-alley rejection letter from the
Basically, the letter stated that my story was the worst
thing he’d ever seen hit his desk in his career and I should cease insulting
the craft of writing by attempting to do it any longer and apply myself to
something I was clearly more suited for – flipping burgers.
Now, about 99.9% of people on this planet would have been completely
crushed and would have packed it in at that point. I got mad. Then I got even.
For years I kept that rejection letter – the only one I ever
kept at all – pinned on a corkboard above my typewriter and later over my PC.
Whenever I began to even slightly doubt my chosen career path I’d take a long
look at that letter and keep on writing.
I finally tossed that letter – about 10 years into my sports
writing career and after my first award (voted on by my peers) from a state
newspaper association – when I realized that I no longer needed it as a
motivation. At that point I had discovered what it is that motivates me to keep
on writing, even after three decades.
I continue to write because there is nothing else in this
world I can see myself doing professionally and because I enjoy every aspect of
it. Most importantly, even if no one else ever reads another word I write, I
can’t wait to see what new world, what new collection of characters I will
create next and what new adventure they will take me on.
I can’t think of a better motivation for any writer than