Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop, Writing

By Matt Myklusch, @mattmyk

Part of the How They Do It Series

JH: Ask any writer why they write and you'll likely get a different, yet oddly similar, answer. We all have personal reasons, but at the core, there's a need to write we can't always explain. Author Matt Myklusch visits the lecture hall today to share some thoughts on just why we write—and why we can't stop writing.

Matt Myklusch is a middle-grade fantasy / adventure writer and the creator of SEABORNE (Egmont USA) and THE JACK BLANK ADVENTURES (Simon & Schuster). By day, Matt is a mild-mannered strategist for a digital marketing agency, but at night—and very early in the morning—he battles injustice in the form of pirates, super-villains, and robot zombies. Matt also worked at MTV Networks for nearly ten years. During that time, he was involved in booking and producing celebrity interviews, helping launch mtvU (MTV's 24-hour college network), and managing Spring Break events in Panama City Beach, Cancun, and Acapulco. Matt lives in New Jersey with his wife and family, where he is always hard at work on his next book.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Indie Bound

Take it away Matt...

I am writing this post at the end of a very long day. An action-packed day that included an early Launch Party for my new book, three days before it officially hits the shelves. (We’re not supposed to do that, but we did it anyway).

The event was a lot of fun and a big success. Everyone who came—thank you! But, a lot of work goes into throwing a good party, so I’m pretty tired right now. I want to go to bed, but I’m going to stay up and write this post because I’ve got to tell you about my book. (Yes, you).

Seaborne: The Lost Prince
is finally coming out, and with that comes a mix of both excitement of fear. It’s not so much fear that people aren’t going to like the book. I do worry about that, but those fears generally subside after a few good reviews. Thankfully, the reviews thus far have been kind.

The fear now, is that the book will come out and no one will notice. That all the work… all the blood, sweat, and tears will be for nothing. It’s very possible. There are a lot of books out there. Cutting through the clutter is not easy. How do you get your book noticed? No one really knows. There’s no sure-fire formula for success. The only guarantee is that there are no guarantees.

So, why do we put ourselves through this as writers? Why do we do what we do?

I often joke that it takes a mix of incredible ego and crushing self-doubt to make a writer. The ego comes in when you read a book, or watch a TV show or movie, and say, “I can do better than that.” Or, at the very least, you say, “My ideas are every bit as good as theirs.” You say that enough times until finally you put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, as the case may be.

The self-doubt creeps in as you write, and later on, when you’re done. It’s that voice that keeps whispering in your ear, saying, “Oh, you can do better, huh? Really? ‘Cause this isn’t better. It’s worse.”

You need both voices. One is the confidence to get you started. The other is the drive that makes you improve. That’s what gets you from one place to the other.

On the confidence side, I do think what I have to say is worth your time. But, for all my ego I don’t think I’m a great writer. (All right, sometimes, I do). But, when I sit down to write, I remind myself that I’m not going to set the world on fire with my prose. Sometimes when I’m reading another writer’s book, I find myself blown away by the way they use language. There are people out there who can make words dance. They string them together in magical arrangements and make them add up to more than the sum of their parts. They give the words—the individual words themselves—more power than I do, and I think, “That’s how a real writer does it.” Also,“I’m not there yet.”

But, I can’t stop trying to reach for that star. And, maybe it doesn’t even matter if I get my hands around it or not, because I know I have great ideas. And, words be damned, no one can work with my ideas the way I can. The heights I can carry them to can only be reached by me.

But, why do it at all? Why do I feel the need to do it? I can’t tell you why. I don’t know where the need comes from, but the creative impulse—specifically, the desire to tell stories—is part of my DNA. It has been there as long as I can remember. I’m sure rock stars felt the same way about music at an early age, and master chefs felt the same way about food.

So, what does that mean? Do I think writers are born and not made? No. What I think is that we are all born with our heads wired a certain way. We come with certain apps pre-loaded. That doesn’t mean you can’t download new ones as you go through life. Anyone can do this if they push themselves. I truly believe that. Yes, there are people out there with god given, amazing talents, but that is no guarantee of success. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you just rest on it and don’t develop it, it goes nowhere.

It takes more than raw talent to make it in this business. It takes, discipline, determination, professionalism, and an understanding of the market—none of which you are born with. That stuff doesn’t come with the package. You have to acquire it. That’s what I did. I think I got here on the desire to do it more than anything else. That’s what made me put in the time writing. I wanted to put in the time. No matter how much work I did, I never felt I was doing enough. I could always do more. You don’t have to be born with anything if you are willing to put in the time and make whatever sacrifices need to be made.

The point is, I don’t think writers are born. I think they are made. By themselves. People become writers because they have to. Because some part of them, for whatever reason, wants to tell stories and won’t shut up about it. If you’re a writer, you know what I’m talking about. Your brain won’t leave you alone because there’s a story, or part of a story, or maybe just an idea in there… and you have to work at it until the story that ends up on paper measures up to the one youhave in your head.

Why is all this so important to us writers? Why is any of this necessary? I don’t know. Why do people climb mountains? Because they’re there. For writers, the stories are there. Or, maybe they’re not there, but something in our nature abhors that vacuum and needs to fill the void with words. It’s not important where it all comes from. After all, we don’t ask where mountains come from. They’re just there. So climbers climb. And writers write. They can’t help themselves. Creativity is a compulsion. Promotion on the other hand… that’s a necessity. Which reminds me, I was supposed to be telling you about my new book this whole time! (D’oh!)

Please. Click over to MattMyklusch.com to find out what happens when you mix 18th century pirates with sea-serpents and X-Games style kite-boarding. It’s time for me to go to bed.

About Seaborne: The Lost Prince

When 13-year old Dean Seaborne runs afoul of the Pirate King, he is given one last chance to redeem himself before he gets thrown to the sharks. His orders are to find and steal the treasure of Zenhala, a mysterious island where gold grows on trees. Dean infiltrates the island posing as its legendary lost prince, but the longer he stays in Zenhala, the more he questions his mission—and himself.

Forced to undergo intense and fantastical trials to prove his royal lineage, Dean can’t help but wonder if he really is the lost prince he’s pretending to be. With sea serpents, assassins, and danger on all sides, he might not live long enough to find out.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Indie Bound


  1. Having recently gone through a rough patch that threw several of my writing goals off course by countless leagues, I had a moment where I questioned why I do this writing thing at all. Yet even after posing the question, the itch to create, the desire to work on a story idea was quick on its heels.

    Yep, I understand the need to write. Explaining it can be difficult because it's stuck as a part of me... and I don't ever want to let it go.

    Congrats Matt on your release and wish you the very best success!

  2. I love this post! I've heard it said one way to determine if you're a writer is this: If you can stop writing. Stop. If you can't, you're a writer. Some days, I think it's just that simple. :)

    The Lost Prince sounds delightful, by the way! I'm adding it to my TBR.

  3. I liked your analogy between how the brain is wired and software apps. What I was "preloaded" with was the arts, where my brother was "preloaded" with science. I like my preloaded stuff so I use it, cultivate it, and even try to create new with what I have. Obviously, my brother likes his preloaded stuff too. He's a stock broker.