Ray Van Horn, Jr. is a veteran entertainment journalist whose writing and live photography has been featured in Blabbermouth.net, Dee Snider’s House of Hair Online, Fangoria.com, Horror News.net, About.com Heavy Metal, MetalManiacs, New Noise, Music Dish, AMP, Hails & Horns, Unrestrained,Noisecreep, Impose, Pit, The Big Takeover.com, Rough Edge.com, Pitriff and others. His blog The Metal Minute won a “Best Personal Blog” award in 2009 from Metal Hammer magazine and he wrote and produced his own hard rock e-zine, Retaliate.

He has contributed essays to UK author Neil Daniels’ Iron Maiden and ZZ Top biographies. Ray’s fiction has been published in various periodicals and anthologies, including his flash fiction piece “Off the Record” for Akashic Books’ “Mondays Are Murder” noir series. His recent short stories “Before the Ball” and “Widow” were featured in subsequent editions of Alex S. Johnson’s Axes of Evil anthologies. Ray wrote serialized original superhero fiction for Cyber Age Adventures and five of those stories appear in the anthology Playing Solitaire. He was the winner of Quantum Muse’s fiction contest in 1999.

Ray is a former NHL game analyst for The Hockey Nut and one-time host of the forum “Comic Books” at ReadWave. He has done beat reporting, photography and lifestyle articles for Metromix, an affiliate of The Baltimore Sun, Carroll Magazine, The Northern News and The Emmitsburg Dispatch.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Toughest Thing About Being a Writer

In answer to a question I was asked about what I feel is the toughest thing about being a writer, I said it's both an easy and difficult profession. 

When you submit yourself to your work and when that moment of inspiration is with you, there's nothing more energizing and productive in anything you can do in your life that doesn't involve financial investment, except for the performing arts.  Investment of self is what pays dividends in this racket, and that's what separates the writers from the wannabes.  Dedication and the wherewithal to succeed no matter the obstacles, the growing mass indifference to the arts and brutal competition in this market is key. 

Writing is one of the loneliest crafts you can undertake, thus you need to be comfortable in your own skin and accept the fact a large percentage of people out there won't understand you, much less care about what it is that makes you feel most like a human being.  This is a sports and moving picture entertainment-oriented culture with a greater fixation upon conflict and drama (even pseudo-drama) than ever before.  That can make a creative soul feel tremendously ostracized.  I have a supportive family and loads of friends, thus I'm hardly lonely in the concrete definition, but I am isolated and very much on my own when it comes time to sit down and write, at least when my wife and son are not awake and plying for my attention.

Productivity is fostered by a refusal to quit, which is applicable to any trade, of course, but the more you believe you have already achieved your goals, the more receptive your writer's mind is to letting the words flow and the ideas to nurture into prolific threads of communication.  Often the vision of what you foresee writing about takes a different path with wonderful stops along the way, and the Boomers will tell you faster than anyone, it's all about the journey, man.

Writer's block is the enemy, but the enemy is easily vanquished the longer you practice your skills.  The better you become at writing, it only takes but thirty-seconds to a minute to start the engines and get the sentences rolling.  Research along the way may slow the grind down a bit, but that's part of the exhilaration of the creative process, I think.  It's hard for some people to stop and spot-check a fact as they write, but for me, it becomes critical to my own procedure, particularly when writing an album, book or video review.  The boo-birds and hecklers will let you know if you screwed something up, trust me on that.

However, as I wrote my recent comic book script for contest entry, I found myself flashing through my stack of comics and trade paperbacks that I'd already read through with such intensity the weeks prior.  They sat at my elbow during the entire writing process and new portals were opened from my original concept as I refreshed myself to the material to make sure I was staying true to the characters I was writing about.  The more I felt I got it right according to the published works, the more confident I felt.  The judges will decide if I did a worthy job, but I submitted it with the same feeling of accomplishment and pride I felt when turning in my short story "Before the Ball" to the editors at Chupa Cabra House a couple months ago.  "Before the Ball" has been accepted for publication.  There is something to be said for quantum physics, thus I believe.

Pared down to a simple answer, however, I stated to my friend querying me that the toughest thing about being a writer is getting readers to care enough about you to want to read your work, yet still be able to look at yourself in the mirror and smile.  Staying in the theme of comic books, 'nuff said...

                   Listenin' to:  Red Fang - Whales and Leeches

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