by Zachary Steele
Creativity is an instrument of great torment. Not always is the torment self-inflicted, but generally speaking it's swung about like a screeching cat at the end of a rope, taking out any and everyone in its path with the razor sharp precision of an unclipped claw. It doesn't come easily, and in the particular case of writing, it isn't often absolved from a clumsy hand. In fact, creativity itself doesn't ensure much more than the ability to tell really fantastic stories, that often take the breath from strangers minutes before they beat you over the head for lying so badly, and wasting their time in the process.
In the end, that's what writing is: The ability to tell creative, and sometimes fantastical, lies that stand to belief long enough to keep people from beating the hell out of you. The best make it through a career with nary a bump on the noggin', while the remaining bunch range from generally bloodied, to horrible stumps of pulverized humanity (or semi-humanity for some). To be in the latter, well, let's simply say that a career is the last thing on your mind. Generally, you're more diligent with your insurance premiums than your skills as a writer, since only one of those guarantees that your bills are mostly paid, or that your loved ones have some sense of financial gain from your death.
I learned this many years ago, after a number of failed attempts to crack the publishing brotherhood, and decided instead to take the necessary steps to ensure that I took as few lumps as possible on the trek to writering stardydom. It wasn't an easy journey, and ultimately it cost me dearly, but it brought my writing to a new level of exuberant glee that I, myself, could never even reach. And though it doesn't behoove me to share this, nor will it enhance my opportunity at fame, or glory, I will tell you the secret--the terrible secret--of how I altered the path of my writing life forever. How I turned the stacks of moldy writing cheese into a glittering bath of gold (and honey, though I have yet to use that).
I bought it, outright, from the Elvin Wordsmiths of the Underworld.
It didn't cost much, actually. You'd be surprised how cheaply these guys grant such skill. The greater cost was my cat Rocky, whom they fancied mightily, and insisted I leave in their care. It was heartbreaking, but ultimately worth it. I mean, I loved that cat, don't get me wrong. There aren't too many guys who will wander into the Underworld with a cat sprouting from his backpack like a fuzzy, chattering, well, cat in a sack I guess, but I did it. Granted, I only took Rocky with me because I had read that the Elves were terribly frightened of cats, especially the ones with the ability to hiss a river, like my Rocky. That turned out to be a crock. See? There's an example of a creative liar who's gonna get his head kicked in. You don't tell people they can take their cat to the Underworld, as a means of protection! Surely he had to know that someone would do this, at some point.
Anyway, they were really nice creatures, and knew an awful lot about the craft. Of course, if I had simply wanted to learn how to be a better writer I would have just taken a class, or read a book, or gone to a conference, or a seminar. Then I'd still have Rocky.
Um, hm. Did I really give my cat (and cash, don't forget the cash!) up for this? Wow. That kinda makes me look bad. I mean, it's pretty cool to be able to say that Elves magicked up some skill for me, and that I got published because of it. And it was a fantastic journey deep into the mountains of (not gonna tell you). Not to mention the cavernous waterfalls, and ancient riddles that moved walls, and opened channels of water that flushed me under the mountains like...
I miss my cat.
You know, it might have been worth it if I had seen a dragon. Anything is worth it, if you get to see a dragon. But, well, nope. Just some stupid elves that stole my cat, and gave me the ability to lie in an entertaining fashion that may, or may not, result in my head getting bashed in some day. So, well, hey, this has been fun.
Well, I'm gonna go now. I want to see if I can find pictures of Rocky. Maybe I can sell enough books to fund another expedition to the Underworld. Then I can get my cat back, and blow the Elves to hell.
After I go beat the hell out of the writer that told me I could take my cat.
Zachary Steele is the author of Anointed: The Passion of Timmy Christ, CEO, and has been featured on NPR and in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Publisher's Weekly, and Shelf Awareness. If he manages to survive the process, his next novel, Flutter, will be out in later summer 2010. He can be found boring the world with his thoughts on his blog, The Further Promotion of ME.