3am Thoughts

Three o’clock in the morning. It’s quiet, and there’s no one around…

U2 “Stay (Far Away… So Close)”

Been on a weird schedule — going to bed at 7pm. Getting up at 1am to work. Around three this morning, I was filing my tax receipts in the filing cabinet and I came across a folder full of late Nineties correspondence.  There were emails and letters from Geoff Cooper, Mike Oliveri, Mikey Huyck, John Urbancik, Tim Lebbon, Tom Piccirilli, J. F. Gonzalez, Mary SanGiovanni, Weston Ochse, Rain Graves, Regina Mitchell, Ryan Harding, Gak, James Newman, and dozens more — back when we were all young and naive and full of piss and vinegar, ready to fight whoever got in our way.

I also found a bunch of correspondence from Richard Laymon and Bentley Little and Brian Hodge and Ed Lee and John Pelan and others, as well — all offering a then newbie named Brian Keene advice and support and encouragement.

Sometimes I miss those days. I miss being a newbie. When the checks are late and the books haven’t shipped and negotiations break down and the signings become circuses, I envy today’s writers who are just starting out. They don’t have to worry about how much they’re getting paid and if it will pay the mortgage or what rights they’re signing away or whether or not their kid will remember them by the time they get back from the next signing/press junket.

They’re free to just write.

If there’s anything better in this world, I don’t know what it is. Well, okay, maybe sex, good whiskey and a fine cigar. But I’m pretty sure that writing just for the hell of it trumps even those.

10 thoughts on “3am Thoughts

  1. Mark Gunnells

    I would love to be able to make a living with my writing, but I must admit I appreciate the fact that right now I don’t have to worry about marketing trends or anything like that but can simply write whatever the hell I want, w hatever strikes my fancy. Some of the stories sell, some of them don’t, and even though I’m really excited about an upcoming chapbook I have I still am writing mostly for nothing but the sheer joy of it, the almost orgasmic pleasure of world-making. And I do realize that more success will mean part of that joy will be squashed under more business concerns. Is it a fair trade? Cant’ say for sure yet since I only know one side of it, but I plan to enjoy what I’ve got while I’ve got it.

  2. Nate Southard

    Days like today, the idea of writing just to write sounds like a pipe dream. With the crippling self-doubt, the compulsive need to improve and keep reaching for something better, this evtire practice feels more like an addiction than something fun.

    I’ve spent the last six months working on four drafts of a novel, the book I was sure would be the big Next Step. Now I’m pretty sure it’s horrible and will never be published. My characters that felt so real and important are now cliches. My tightly-plotted story full of thrills and tension is now an after school special.

    Sometimes I can’t find a single thing to like about my writing.

  3. jango_ferox

    I like that U2 song. Maybe someday there will be a Keene correspondence collection, I’d love to read it, but I suppose everybody will have to be dead by then, so no rush

  4. Skip Novak

    Dude, we all get nostalgic at the oddest times. Just keep your eye on your goal and everything will fall into place. Fortunately you get to spend time at your house and with Turtle and your wife. Blessing are counted in fractions and those fractions add up to a Full Life. Keep up the great work and everything will be fine. Instead of FTN, make it FTW!

    Besides, can you imagine if you actually had to work a 9 to 5? You would have gone postal and killed everyone at your job. Then Prison and never seeing your family.

  5. Floppy Colon

    Wanna switch? lol. You take on my name and I’ll ghost write as Brian Keene lol. People thought you were a pseudonym for Dean Koontz a while ago didn’t they? lol.

    Just kidding.

    Even if you do get paid to write, if you don’t get to do it on your terms it sounds like it basically becomes a regular job and not the reason you started doing it in the first place. Or have I completely missed the point?

  6. wm ollie

    Having come to grips with the fact that I’ll more than likely never make a living from writing, I do what I’ve always done: write whatever I like and hope somebody else digs what I came up with.

  7. Ty Schwamberger

    I like this entry a lot, Brian. I do have to say, though, that I hope one day I have to worry about those same things. Just from the small taste I’m getting from it now, I continue to be hungry for more.

  8. Michele Lee

    You’re just remembering the good things. What about all the people who wouldn’t give you a lick of credit unless you’d been published in [big name magazine here]? What about the slews of inane rejections for little things like “your story is third person and we like first person stories”? Or “your story lost in a hat draw to another story”?

    What about the sneer on bookseller’s faces when you inquire about author events and they immediately assume you’ve been self published?

    I think that a lot of us in the “new” phase think that once we sell a few good projects it’ll all be stress free from there. That’s quite silly. I think there’s just a trade off of stressors and challenges. But love it for the victory of finishing the book and fulfilling the contract. Love it because it’s hard, and you’re still doing it successfully.

  9. Richard Eline

    As an amateur, I avoid these things.

    Being a gentleman of literary pursuits, I am able to sneer at the grubby professionals who struggle so desperately for the meager pelf doled out to the originator of squalid tales and wretched screeds.

    Money? I scorn the stuff, when it’s new, it cuts your fingers, when it’s old, it stinks.

    You say fifty people read my stories this year? Fifty?

    As you can see, quality will out, the elite will find the very best!

    People don’t appreciate the hard work you put in to craft your stories, Mr. Keene, nor do they understand that if you reckoned it out, your wage per hour would be fairly small.

    Being a real writer is hard work and no mistake-I’m glad you have invested the time and effort!

  10. Richard Eline

    I find myself almost always in general agreement with you, Mr. Keene, but this time, I must raise an objection.

    Writing for the sake of writing perpetrates un-natural acts with dead bears(come to think of it are there any natural ones?). It’s the most futile pursuit I can imagine, like some wonderous artifact hidden away, some finely crafted device never put to use.

    There is no show without an audience.

    Please, trust me, I’ve written for the sake of writing-it was good practice, but of no real value.

    Thank God for the internet! My pitiful stuff even gets read, and so, I write more to repay the readers for their attention, their time, the confidence they place in me as their guide to very strange places(some people are soooo gullible…)

    And bsides, money is how we keep score.


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