Tuesday, August 28, 2018

I’m in the writing business

By R.J. Harlick

If you weren’t a writer, would you still be in the book business? (bookseller, agent, editor, publisher) or would you do something completely different?

I’m a writer. It’s that simple. Though I came late in life to fiction writing, most of the jobs I have enjoyed invariably had a writing aspect to it. 

In university, while I hated studying, I loved writing essays.  Give me a topic and no matter how little I knew about the subject, I could make it sound as if I knew everything one needed to know to put forth the argument. Perhaps this was my start in fiction writing.

Which leads me to the other aspect that has always been a part of any job I enjoy, creating something, be it an essay argument, computer code, a system design, systems strategy, even a marketing proposal and, of course, fictitious worlds.

The job I enjoyed the least was working as a library technician right after graduation. My apologies to my librarian followers. Though it naturally involved books, which as an avid reader I love, the job consisted mostly of filing, with harsh words if caught reading a book. There was no writing and certainly nothing creative about it other than the excuses I invented for taking a day off. 

The job I held for most of my working career and thoroughly enjoyed involved computers. You may well ask where the writing and creativity is in that.  Working with computers, at least when I started out, was all about writing, as in writing programs to perform human tasks. The creative part was figuring out how to code the program so it could do the required task. From programming, I graduated to systems analysis and design which involved considerably more writing this time in English, as in the writing of requirements and specifications in language that could be easily understood by the programmers and the users. It also involved lots of creativity in coming up with a design that worked. 

Eventually I moved into systems consulting, i.e. helping clients determine their computer system needs. Lots of report writing here, along with proposal writing to obtain new business.  The creative part was coming up with the right solution to meet the needs of the client.

 A key ingredient of this job was problem solving, from solving a requirement to computerize a simple task to solving complex operational issues with computer solutions. 

I mention problem solving, because it leads right into the kind of fiction I like to write, crime fiction in which solving the puzzle of the crime is a key ingredient.

All this preamble is a long about way of answering this week’s question. Would I still be in the book business if I stopped writing? The short answer is no. I guess in part because even though I write books, I don’t view myself as being in the book business. I am in the writing business. 

While I enjoy editing and selling my own books, I wouldn’t enjoy editing or selling other people’s books. And I couldn’t see myself trying to find a publisher for another writer or getting involved in publishing other writers’ books. 

Nope, I’m a writer and in particular, a writer of crime fiction, because I love playing with language, I love conjuring up imaginary worlds and inventing stories from nothing and I like the fun of solving the puzzle of whodunit and fooling the reader in doing so.

If I were to stop writing crime fiction, it is likely that I would continue to write something, be it blogs, articles for community newspapers, which I have done in the past, maybe even a literary fiction novel. But it is highly unlikely that I would do something else in the book business.


Dietrich Kalteis said...

I agree with your Robin, if I wasn't playing with language, conjuring up imaginary worlds and inventing stories, I'd be looking for something else creative outside the publishing business.

Cathy Ace said...

Super piece, Robin - long may the joy of writing continue for you (and your readers!)

Susan C Shea said...

Robin, I never thought of programming as writing, but I see your point. That's a kind of writing I could never do. I'm so glad you found your voice with regular English language writing, though!

Anonymous said...

As you know, Robin, I have been a devoted fan of your writing since the first chapter of Death's Golden Whisper. Cathy Ace (above) says it best - may you continue for a long time!
The blog was very interesting - I discovered your talents extend far beyond the writing of mystery fiction.
Yours, (Anonymous) Nancy R