What I learned about writing the last decade

Dec. 27th 2019

For the better part of the last decade, I have been chasing the dream. Chasing the rabbit. Chasing the old greenback. I made my last film back in 2014, nearly six years ago now. I used to love film. I loved making movies. I loved Hollywood. But, once I was inside of it, it slowly ate away at my soul. I had producers telling me what to do, what not to do, who to cast, who not to cast, etc. After all the slaving away I did, chasing my dream, I wrote, directed and/or produced over fifty films and only about fifteen or so ever came out.

Now, fifteen films! That is more than most people ever make in their lifetime!

So fucking what. If I just wanted to be the next so-and-so, I wouldn’t have cared. But I do care and that’s why I had to take a step back from it. 

I turned to short stories. I felt a huge relief. No one was telling me what to do. I had no budget constraints. If I wanted to blow up a helicopter and have it crash into a busy laundromat, I could. It was very freeing. 

Freeing.

I have used that word a lot this decade.

After realizing that I could make all of my failed T.V. attempts into the books, i.e. serials, I jumped at the chance. This was back in 2013. The kindle gold rush on Amazon had just ended a few months before. Amazon changed their algorithm (you will be hearing that word a lot more as this goes on) from putting books that were high in the free store into the paid store with the same numbers. Once that stopped, the gold rush was over and Amazon has been trying their hardest to make sure that it is very hard for someone to break the top 100 in any category if they don’t have the dollars to back the book. Rags to riches stories were over.

That didn’t stop me though. I spent the next few years writing serial after serial trying to break in. The serial had died out with the gold rush but took a little longer to take it’s last breath.  I didn’t care. I found a storytelling method that I enjoyed and tried to make the best of it.

Amazon continued to make changes, introducing KU (Kindle Unlimited) which was and still is the closest thing you will find to a Netflix for ebooks. That was okay. It took me a while to figure it out, but when I did, I had the best selling serial that ever had, Black Star Canyon.

BSC didn’t do amazingly, but it did wonders for me. It was a story I had been dying to tell and I was able to tell it the way I wanted. Everything was gravy.

But, because so much of Amazon, is marketing and crossing your fingers for good reviews (which I don’t think is such a big deal anymore), I found myself spending more time on marketing than writing. That was no way to live and after a couple years of this, I was burned out. The thought of starting another series or writing another a book threw a bit of dread in my heart. 

So, we moved out of NoHo and up to Big Bear, where most of my favorite Raymond Chandler book, Lady in the Lake, takes place. It was beautiful and peaceful. Mountain air, nice, nice, nice. Then the tourists came and destroyed my beloved new found solace. I hated it. I needed out. The writing wasn’t coming and now there were loud assholes everywhere.

I went back to music.

I recorded some new acoustic stuff, starting putting it out, doing livestream shows and even went on a small tour across the country. It was very pleasing to me. I was getting older and more of a curmudgeon, so things weren’t looking great.

I really wanted to get back into writing. I listened to everyone I could who was successful at it and put all of their advice into my new fool proof system. I failed. I completely fucked up everything I had been building the last few years.

I crawled into my shell.

We decided that we wanted to go live off grid and build a homestead. Get as far away form people as we could. That finally paid off in May 2019. It has been really fucking hard. I’m not going to lie. Every convenience that I was trained from birth to have was now gone and because I’m an idiot and do things the wrong way most of the time, it ended up costing us a lot more than we thought it would and even our monthly expenses are more. It’s getting better and easier, but this year has been a hard fucker for sure.

When I was still on my high of being a pioneer desert rat, I decided that I really wanted to get back into writing, full swing. I had all these stories in my head that I had been dying to tell for so long. I made a schedule up and set some money aside for Amazon ads, learned a bunch of new tricks, etc.

I kept coming back to the algorithms. The were haunting me. How to beat them? I couldn’t think of anything else. Obviously, things around the homestead started slipping. I was trying to write my next novel and I kept running into set back after set back. The main reason is because I tend to cross genres a lot. Algorithms don’t like that. It makes it hard to sell your stuff. So instead of fixing it, Amazon just won’t push your book for you. I was so afraid of bending genres in my book and I stopped writing.

I was miserable. I hated myself. How could I be a writer and not fucking write anything? I was a sham. A hack. A has been. A never was. 

Then I went back to the short story and back to the poem, which was one of the first things I ever latched on to as a writer. I just began to vomit on the keyboard. I wasn’t thinking about selling. I wasn’t thinking algorithms. I wasn’t thinking about marketing. I was just being.

Words were flying out of me faster than they had in years. I was writing three or four poems and stories a day in record time. The best part was, THEY WERE GOOD! That’s a big plus.

I realized that the algorithms were no better than the producers I was fleeing from in the valley. I was being someone’s bitch, again. 

I am forty-one years old right now and for the first time, I think I am really me. That may sound weird to some of you, but it is the truth. I am Matt Wall. I cringe when I type that out, but it is who I am. Above all other things in the creative landscape, there is one thing that Matt Wall is, that is a storyteller. 

I will stop talking in the third person now, it’s freaking me out.

I am going to tell whatever story I want in whatever way I want. If I want to tell a sci-fi story in poetry, I will. If I want to tell a hardcore erotic tale as a spoken word podcast, I will. If I want to just vomit on the keyboard as if it were my therapist, like it once was, so many years ago, I will. 

I feel much better now.

I am not telling you this for you to take as advice. I’m tired of giving advice. It’s all bullshit. If you want to create, create! If you want to be in a writer’s room on a third tier soap opera, do that! It doesn’t matter. That sounds like I’m giving advice…

Just like I said in that poem I wrote in my Acid chapbook, Man plans and God laughs. I say I said that, but I don’t know if I actually did or not, and I know I’m not the one who coined that in the first place, so fuck it.

Fuck everything.

I will.

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4 Comments

  1. Wow. Very powerful stuff. I’ve only recently discovered your stuff…not really even sure how, just luck…and had no idea about the movie career or the music career. What a talented guy.

    You’re right: for a while, we had all these diy creation/delivery tools. But big tech has become our overlords. We need to find a way to overthrow the Amazons, the Googles, all those who want to rule and wreck the world.

    But you’re even more right when you say screw it. Create. Write and sing and careen a helicopter, if you feel like it, into a postcard of the Eiffel Tower. Or something.

    Takes a lot of balls to do one’s own thing, on one’s own terms. You’re one in a million, and I’m glad you’re trusting it.

  2. I’ve been in the same mindset recently. I can’t write (or do anything) if I’m thinking about selling, and I haven’t even attempted to sell anything yet! But the anxiety is there, even if its just a “maybe I’ll try to sell this one day” thought. It destroys the creative flow.

    Wonderful post, you’ve inspired me!

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