Writers and Authors: 5 Reasons to Drop the Word ‘Aspiring’

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There is no such thing as an ‘aspiring writer.’ You are a writer. Period.” – Matthew Reilly

The term ‘aspiring author’/’aspiring writer’ is thrown about in literary circles without anyone giving it so much as a second thought.

It certainly seems like a harmless enough phrase. You’ve no doubt used it yourself, I certainly have. But harmless as it may seem, the term ‘aspiring writer’ is actually quite problematic, and could even be holding you back in your writing career. So the sooner you quit employing the phrase, the better.

Here’s five reasons why you should never refer to yourself as an ‘aspiring author’ ever again:

1. ‘Aspiring’ is an abstract term

Aspirations exist only in thought, not in actuality. To ‘aspire’ is to think, not to do. In this way, the term ‘aspiring writer’ allows for a state of inactivity. Or, as author Chuck Wendig puts it,

“Aspiring is a meaningless, null state that romanticises Not Writing.”

By dropping the term ‘aspiring’ and stating instead ‘I am a writer,’ you confirm to yourself, and to the world, that yes, you are actively working on a writing career. You are writing. You are a writer.

2. ‘Aspiring’ takes the pressure off

By describing yourself as an ‘aspiring writer’, you are essentially stating ‘I am not a writer now, but I would like to be one at some vague point in the future’. In doing this, you are reinforcing the notion in your head that all your writing efforts – all your physical, and actual hard work in pursuing your dreams – all lie beyond the present moment.

The pressure is taken off to write right now. In other words, what you are doing is permitting a ‘diet-starts-tomorrow’ mentality for your writing. But as a little, redheaded orphan once reminded us, ‘Tomorrow’ is always a day away.

Thus, ‘tomorrow’ never comes. So, if you truly want to be a writer, don’t wait until tomorrow, start today.

3. ‘Aspiring’ undermines self-esteem

Think of all the times you have described yourself as an ‘aspiring writer’. How often have you employed the term out of a lack of confidence or self-belief? Because you didn’t feel ‘qualified’ to call yourself a writer. But even if this is not the case, the term itself could be eating away at your self-esteem, without you even realising it.

As we have already established, ‘aspiring’ implies that the state of actually being is a thing of the future. In other words, stating you are an aspiring writer implies that you will not actually be a writer until some, unknown, future date.

In this way, when you use this term to describe yourself, you nurture the subconscious belief that your goal of becoming a writer will always lie just beyond your grasp – just out of reach. Such a belief is extremely demotivating, and can thus undermine your self-esteem.

So the next time you describe yourself, try using a more reaffirming phrase. Don’t say ‘I’m an aspiring writer.’ Say ‘I’m a writer.’

4. ‘Aspiring’ is a term to hide behind

Writing is a very difficult profession. Unfortunately, not all who turn their attentions to the written word succeed. For this reason, those of us who do feel the yearning to construct worlds out of words carry a great deal of anxiety.

We fear failure. We fear others seeing us as failures. And if we admit that we are writers, we must then own up to how much or how little success we have actually found.

Therefore, when we are faced with the judgemental eyes of a long lost acquaintance, probing us with the question, ‘And what do you do these days?’, we feel the need to apologise for the fact that we are not J.K. Rowling. We fear being labelled a failure or pretender, simply because we haven’t sold a million copies of that novel we’re drafting.

So we hide. We hide behind the term ‘aspiring.’ Because if we are merely aspiring, it’s okay if we haven’t found success yet. Because ‘aspiring’ means we aren’t necessarily trying. We are thinking, not doing.

But here lies the problem: if we never accept our title, if we do not stop hiding from our passions and begin at last to pursue them wholeheartedly, we will never find the success we so long for. It’s time we admit what we are. We are writers. No more aspiring. No more hiding.

5. Take yourself seriously

The moment you stop calling yourself an ‘aspiring writer’ and start calling yourself a writer, is the moment you begin taking yourself seriously. This is extremely important, as writers are constantly required to make others believe in them.

We must convince agents, editors, publishers, and readers that our writing is worth their time – that they should take us seriously. But this, of course, is impossible to do unless we take ourselves seriously, first.

So the next time you need to explain to anyone ‘what you do’, don’t shy away and hide. Have confidence in your abilities, and never refer to yourself as an ‘aspiring writer’ ever again. You are a writer. Period.

Via: http://writersedit.com/5-reasons-drop-aspiring-aspiring-author/

52 Things | Ideas for Writers

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A couple years ago my friends and I made a list of 52 goals we wanted to accomplish, the equivalent of a bucket list for a year’s worth of achievable things. Most of them were simple goals, but measurable. For instance, you couldn’t just write “read more” as a goal. It had to be quantifiable, like “Read a book a month.” It was fun, but also challenging, both to put the list together and to accomplish all the things I came up with.

So if you want to create a 52 Things list this year, and you’re looking to add some writing goals to your list, here are 52 ideas:

1. Start or join a writing group.

2. Go see three movies based on books you love.

3. Guest post for a blog you read/admire.

4. Get your name in print.

5. Read a banned book during Banned Book Week.

6. Submit a story to a call for submissions for an anthology.

7. Become a blogger.

8. Buy a book for a child or teenager in your life for no reason at all

9. Join an online writing community or a private Facebook group dedicated to a specific genre.

10. Commit to writing a certain number of words per week, or per month.

11. Become a regular content contributor to a website you follow or admire.

12. Attend a local author reading, or two or five or ten.

13. Support your local independent bookstore with a new purchase.

14. Write a book review and put it on your blog. If you don’t have a blog, post it on Facebook.

15. Do one thing that truly champions another writer.

16. Read a book that falls way outside your general area of interest.

17. Post a comment on social media in support of someone you admire.

18. Go to a writers’ conference.

19. Participate in online pitch conferences (like pitch fests on Twitter).

20. Participate in NaNoWriMo in November.

21. Join a literary association.

22. Go on a writing retreat.

23. Get an op-ed placed, or learn how to do it by taking an Op-Ed Project class.

24. Do a 500 Words challenge, where you write 500 words a day for a set number of days, a month or longer. Give it a whirl!

25. Listen to an audio book of a recently published book.

26. Map a book you love. It will teach you a lot to outline a book you’ve read more than once to see how another author thinks about structure, scenes, and narrative arc.

27. Read your work out loud, either at an open mic night or at a literary event.

28. Take an online class.

29. Find a number of authors you love on Facebook or Twitter and follow them.

30. Follow literary agents on Facebook and Twitter if you’re interested in developing agent relationships.

31. Gift yourself a weekend away somewhere nice to brainstorm or write, or to just be with your own thoughts.

32. Do a literary pilgrimage to see a site where a favourite author lived or wrote about, or, if you’re a memoirist, perhaps take a pilgrimage into your own past – to your childhood home, or the setting of your memoir.

33. Visit a printing press.

34. Write and publish an e-book. These can be as short as 25 or 30 pages (single stories or essays) and they can get your work on the map.

35. Enter your work into a contest. You have nothing to lose!

36. Tell your friends and family about your literary ambitions. It’s okay to dream big!

37. Set up a separate bank account for your writing pursuits. Pay yourself a small sum a month for your writing, or when you get paid to publish. Start to think of your writing as a business.

38. Attend an in-person writing class.

39. Map out a timeline for your book, or for your next book. Consider when would be a reasonable publication date for your book and write it down. Post it somewhere where you can see it to hold that date as a goal.

40. Create a book cover for your book-in-progress. Nothing brings a book to life like making it real, even if it’s just a collage or a vision that serves as the basis of what you want the book to look like some day.

41. Commit to a certain number of blog posts a month — one, two, four — and stick to it for the whole year.

42. If you don’t already have a website, start one. If you have a website you know needs a facelift, commit to giving it one.

43. Write a fan letter to your favourite author. These letters are amazing displays of gratitude and appreciation. It’s also good karma.

44. Create a vision board for your book. This is different than a book cover concept. It’s a collage of images and/or words that inspire you, and that can keep you motivated and disciplined with your writing goals.

45. Memorise a poem.

46. Get involved with a local library event.

47. Create a family reading night once a week.

48. Set up a book donation site at your workplace during the holidays.

49. Make a list of your top 10 favourite books in your own genre and reread two of them.

50. Get a logo made. Yes, the brand of you — as a writer — needs a logo.

51. Write an affirmation statement that expresses all your strengths as a writer. Remind yourself why you write and allow yourself an opportunity to truly give yourself a compliment.

52. Do something that shows your commitment to writing – plant something or buy yourself a house plant; get a piece of “writing” jewelry; or create or purchase something that’s meaningful to you that you see every day as a reminder to yourself about the meaning writing holds in your life.

Via: http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/6396948

Embrace the Art of Editing

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When I write, I write alone.

This statement is true for most people who take on a creative pursuit such as being an author. In fact, solitude is often the key to finding ‘the flow’ or ‘the zone’ or whatever you like to call the wonderful state where words pour onto the page bringing ideas to life. But when the story reaches its conclusion, or creative flow eludes you, being alone can become simply, lonely. That loneliness can create a space where self-doubt grows, making it even harder to keep trying.

When you finally send your work out into the world, perhaps to an agent or a professional editor, you can be forgiven for being a little apprehensive whilst awaiting a response. After all, you are sending out your darlings to be judged.

However, hearing someone’s thoughts and opinions about your work will help you see your writing in a new light. There’s always the risk of getting too close to a story, whether it’s fact or fiction. The people, good or bad, and the drama can come to affect you so deeply that objectivity becomes difficult. You begin writing from the heart rather than your head, so removing yourself enough to know what to cut can be near impossible.

In the case of fiction, it is rare when an author is not emotionally involved. We create characters from our imaginations, giving them life, hopes, dreams and obstacles to overcome. So similarly, when it comes time to edit, one of the hardest things to do is ‘kill our darlings’ – as it should be!

Editors can be objective. Whether we are talking about journalism or fiction, they are not emotionally invested like the author. Their job is to take a clinical look at the piece. They are experienced wordsmiths who can examine word placement, flow, character, plot, structure and the basics of spelling and grammar in order to give constructive feedback.

Having at times been both an editor and writer I have learnt a very important lesson; editing is essential, regardless of the form of writing and it is something we need to learn to embrace. There are horror stories about bad editors who do more harm than good, so as an author it is always your job to maintain the integrity of a story or article. However, also remember good editors have just one goal in mind – to make your writing the very best it can be.

The key is not to take feedback too personally, something often easier said than done. Not all editors are gentle and sometimes they point out things you don’t want to hear, but all feedback will teach you something.

While it can be confronting to open yourself up for criticism, editors also help give you confidence in your creation by making sure the story essentials are all clear and in place. So if you’re lonely or struggling, find an editor and don’t give up.

Things to remember:

  • See feedback as an opportunity to improve
  • Don’t be precious or defensive – if you really don’t agree, don’t make the changes
  • Keep an open mind
  • Enjoy the process of sharing your work
  • Be brave

Finishing a writing project, big or small, is an achievement that should not be understated. Many writers work around day jobs, family and dozens of other life obstacles. So keep writing and embrace editing, you never know where you might end up.

Read the original article here: http://writersedit.com/embracing-art-editing/

Is A Pseudonym Right For You?

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In the past the use of a pseudonym (or pen name) has been common practice for many reasons. It’s been a particularly popular choice among authors who change genres, are concerned about their privacy, or want to mask their gender. While some authors have been known to make great use of pseudonyms, it’s all about when to use them, and when to not. In this age of digital abundance, it could be argued that pseudonyms offer little use to most authors. This is especially the case when authors choose to use a pseudonym for the wrong reasons…

If you are an emerging writer and you have ‘nothing to hide’, you probably don’t need to use a pseudonym. In fact opting to use one is likely to place more strain on yourself and your publisher, as it requires you to register the name for copyright purposes and requires consistent application of the name when you’re submitting works to publish. Editor and writer Moira Allen has some great information on the logistics of using a pseudonym that you can find on her site ‘Writing World‘. If you have found success as an author however, there are a few good reasons to adopt a pseudonym.

When a Pseudonym’s right for you

You need to keep your worlds separate

Do you need to keep your personal and professional lives separate? If you answered yes to this question, using a pseudonym could be a good idea. Privacy is a lot harder to maintain in the electronic world, but if you’re careful, it’s possible to hide your true identity from your readers. Separating your personal life from your work life can be particularly relevant for writers of certain genres. Are you an erotica writer that teaches primary school by day? Or do you work for a government department that won’t allow you to publish under your real name? These are the sorts of situations when you’re likely to benefit from using a pseudonym.

You’re switching genres

Once you’re an established writer you may decide you want to switch genres. Let’s say you’re a romance author who wants to mimic the style of authors like George R.R. Martin and explore the world of fantasy; it’s common practice to use a pseudonym in these situations. J.D. Robb is a good example of this. He managed to stay masked as a new science fiction writer for a staggering six years before coming out as Nora Roberts, a popular romance author. Even since her revelation Nora Roberts still publishes her sci-fi novels under J.D. Robb. Using a different names for different genres can keep your readers from getting confused and allows them to stick to the reading the genre they want.

When not to use a pseudonym

Sadly many authors make the mistake of using a pseudonym for the wrong reasons, or don’t acknowledge how difficult it is to juggle a pseudonym and your real name. An author on Mindy Klasky’s blog cited her difficulty with maintaining her pseudonyms:

“I tried to juggle two pen names before I was published – one for erotic romance, one for mainstream. That meant I was three people in public. It was waaaaay too confusing for me; I never knew how to refer to myself at conferences. Fortunately, only the erotic romance took off, and I could drop the other pen name before people even really knew it existed.”

When you want reader’s to identify with you

People associate the name with the writing it accompanies, not the other way around. The truth of the matter is that people are more likely to identify with your work if they can identify with you as an author, readers like having that link between them and the person that wrote the book they’re obsessing over. Think about it, every time you read a book that you really love, the first thing you do is Google the author; you want to know who they are and what they do, more importantly you want to know if they have any other books that you can fall in love with. Next thing you know, you’re buying all their books and recommending them to all your friends. Writing anonymously can take away that link between reader and author.

You want to protect yourself legally

Another common mistake writers make is thinking using a pen name can protect them against defamation or writing about real people. This is definitely not the case. A pseudonym will never protect you against legal repercussions. Your pen name is a flimsy cover for what’s underneath; the exterior doesn’t change the interior. One way or another the people you write about will find out who you are and that’s bound to get messy. The only real way to avoid legal ramifications is to keep your subjects informed and always seek their permission.

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Deciding whether or not you should use a pen name can be tricky, the best way to decide is to weigh up the pro’s and con’s that are relevant to you and your circumstances, and consider how using a pseudonym could benefit you.

Good luck!

Via: https://writersedit.com/pseudonym-right-for-you/

14 Brilliant Authors Who Didn’t Succeed Until After 30

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The art world is always obsessed with writer wunderkinder who bedazzle us with their early life talent. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zadie Smith, Dylan Thomas, Jonathan Safran Foer, Helen Oyeyemi, John Keats: The list goes on, and the list is filled with the names of hyper-talented writers who were published and celebrated well before they hit 30.

If you are still waiting for your novel to find a buyer or for your short story to appear in the New Yorker, worry not. There is no time limit on achieving your writerly dreams. After all, dozens of famous writers didn’t “make it” until their 30s, 40s, 50s and, in some cases, even later than that.

These superlative authors don’t fall into the 20-something prodigy category. So take your time, revise that draft and write, write, write. These names should inspire.

1. Toni Morrison wrote her first novel at 39.

Toni Morrison may be a Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, but she was also a late bloomer. Her first novel, The Bluest Eye, wasn’t published until she was 40, while she was working at Random House as an editor. The Bluest Eye marked the beginning of a remarkable literary career that has included iconic titles like Beloved and Song of Solomon, all happening in tandem with an academic career as a Princeton professor.

2. Millard Kaufman published his first novel at the age of 90.

Sure, he wrote his first screenplay at 32 (Ragtime Bear, which featured the first appearance of a character named Mr. Magoo), but his first novel, Bowl of Cherries, was published when Kaufman was 90 years old. He also wrote a second novel, Misadventure, which was released posthumously in 2010. Kaufman is proof that it’s never too late to get a publishing deal.

3. Helen DeWitt published ‘The Last Sumarai’ at 41.

DeWitt was 41 when she finally published her first novel, The Last Samurai. In a fascinating interview with the Los Angeles Review of Books, DeWitt discusses her path to publication which includes a suicide attempt, years in academia at Oxford and then a turn toward the literary world. At one point with hundreds of fragments of abandoned and half-begun books on her computer, she quit her job and spent a month writing a new book, which would become The Last Samurai. After finding early interest, she felt pulled in too many directions and took time off from it before finally finishing and publishing the beloved story.

4. Bram Stoker didn’t write ‘Dracula’ until he was 50.

Bram Stoker, famous for Dracula, didn’t pen his opus until he was 50 years old. He left the civil service after many years to help run London’s famous Lyceum Theatre, writing reviews for free on the side. Though Dracula wasn’t his first novel, it is proof that you can write game-changing novels on the side.

5. Richard Adams wasn’t published until his 50s.

Adams served in World War II during his younger years and, like Stoker, became a civil servant, in what would later become the UK Department of the Environment. He wrote fiction in his spare time and told tales of a rabbit to his children on long car rides. The stories grew and became so complicated that he had to write them down. Eventually, when Adams was 54, a publisher picked up the now-beloved and best-selling Watership Down.

6. Anthony Burgess published his first novel at 39.

The man responsible for the controversial A Clockwork Orange came to writing very late. He served in the military, worked as a teacher, organized amateur theater productions of T.S. Eliot and later joined the British Colonial Service to teach in Malaya. It was there, while ill, that he began to write, and at the age of 39, he published his first novel, Time for a Tiger. Burgess went on to write a great deal more, also composing hundreds of musical works, and even wrote a translation of the opera Carmen.

7. Laura Ingalls Wilder was in her mid-60s when she published ‘Little House in the Big Woods.’

If you read the Little House on the Prairie books as a child, then you likely know the story of Wilder’s life. The daughter of a pioneer family in late 19th-century America, she was a teacher, a housewife and a journalist, and worked for the local Farm Loan Association. What you might not know is that Wilder didn’t publish the first book in her series until 1932, when she was 65. She began writing her childhood memoirs at the encouragement of her daughter. Her original biography, Pioneer Girl, which was rejected by publishers, will be released later this year.

8. William S. Burroughs published his first novel at 39.

A tragic incident led to the late-blooming literary career of William S. Burroughs, beat icon and addict novelist. In 1951, while drunk, he shot his wife, Joan Vollmer, in a game of “William Tell” in Mexico City. Witnesses claimed it was an accident, but while awaiting trial, Burroughs began writing his novel, Queer, which he eventually published in 1985.

His first published novel, Junky, was published when he was 39. In the introduction of Queer, Burroughs mentions how Vollmer’s death was pivotal to his writing: “So the death of Joan brought me in contact with the invader, the Ugly Spirit, and maneuvered me into a lifelong struggle, in which I have had no choice except to write my way out.”

9. Raymond Chandler published ‘The Big Sleep’ at 51.

Chandler was inspired to write by the Great Depression: After losing his job in the oil industry, he decided to become a detective novelist and is now remembered as one of the greats. The Big Sleep, his first and one of his best-loved novels, was published at the age of 51, earning admiration from writers as diverse as W.H. Auden, Evelyn Waugh and Ian Fleming of James Bond fame.

10. George Eliot didn’t publish ‘Middlemarch’ until she was 52.

Mary Ann Evans, better known by her pen name George Eliot, is one of Victorian England’s most acclaimed novelists. Her first book, Adam Bede, was published when she was 40, and her seminal Middlemarch didn’t come out for another 12 years. She chose the male pen name so that her novels and words would be taken seriously at a time when female writers were associated with romance.

11. Charles Bukowski published his first novel at 51.

Bukowski released a few short stories in his 20s, but he quickly grew disillusioned with publishing and his lack of success, and so went on what can best be described as a 10-year bender. It wasn’t until publisher John Martin persuaded Bukowski, who had spent most of his life working in a post office, to write his first novel. Post Office came out to widespread acclaim in 1971, when Bukowski was 51.

12. Anna Sewell published ‘Black Beauty’ during the last months of her life.

Sewell’s mother was a children’s author, whom she helped edit many books over the years. Sewell began writing Black Beauty during the last decade of her life to bring attention to the need for kindness to animals, while she was struggling with illness. The novel was published in 1877, when she was 57. She died the next year, but lived long enough to see her book’s huge success.

13. Rev. Wilbert Awdry developed ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ from bedtime stories for his children.

The Rev. Wilbert Awdry was a lifelong railway enthusiast who made up stories about trains for his son Christopher when he came down with measles. After making Christopher a model of the engine Edward from his stories, Christopher asked for a model of the story’s large blue train Gordon. Unable to mock one up from his usual materials, Awdry made a small tank engine called Thomas, thus inspiring one of the most beloved children’s book series of the 20th century. The first story, The Railway Engines, was published in 1945, when Awdry was 34.

14. The Marquis De Sade wrote his first book in prison, at the age of 42.

When you’re the famous libertine and hedonist Donatien Alphonse François de Sade, many other things must seem more interesting than literature. However, his bacchanalian lifestyle landed him 32 years in prison. His first book, Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man, was written in 1782 while imprisoned in the Chateau de Vincennes. De Sade was 42 at the time of writing, but it wouldn’t be published until 1926. He continued to write salacious and sexual texts all through his prison sentences, including The 120 Days of Sodom and, perhaps his magnum opus, Justine.

Via https://14-brilliant-authors-who-didn-t-succeed-until-after-30

It’s Not What You Think | The First Ten Words by Rich Larson

On Writer’s Blog today, we take a little break from writing – as this is such a good, well written post, and is so relevant to what I was saying in my post earlier in the week on Writing and Depression – that I had to share it. I hope you find it an interesting, thought provoking, and emotional read, as I did.

Chris Cornell died early Thursday morning. His band Soundgarden played a show on Wednesday night at the Fox Theater in Detroit. Two hours after the show ended, he was gone.

For two days, I’ve been working on a piece to pay tribute to him, and it’s been a struggle. Usually when I have a problem like this it’s because I’m staring at a blank screen trying to figure out what I want to say. That’s not the problem this time. The problem is I have way too much to say.

I’m not going to sit here and claim to have been a huge fan of Soundgarden. I didn’t dislike them, I just had to take them in small doses. I was a fan of Cornell. I love “Seasons,” the solo song he had on Cameron Crowe’s movie, Singles. It’s a droning acoustic song about isolation and the meaningless passing of time. Your basic nihilistic statement written at what was probably the peak of rock’s most nihilistic period.

I was a fan of Cornell as a person. Of all the great musicians that were packed into Seattle in the late 80’s and early 90’s, from Mark Arm of Mudhoney to Jeff Ament of Mother Love Bone and Pearl Jam to the Great Tortured Genius himself, Kurt Cobain, Cornell seemed like he rose a little bit above the others. He was the unofficial communicator of the Seattle scene. Like a Pacific Northwest Sinatra, he had a charisma and a calm grace about him. He was thoughtful, even charming, in interviews, unlike his compatriots who disdained fame and accolades (or at least pretended to). Cornell was the guy who seemed most like he could handle all the attention without turning it into an existential crisis.

Now he’s dead because, as it turns out, he had been dealing with an existential crisis most of his life. I was a fan, and I had a ton of respect for him. But it’s taken me a little while to understand why his death has affected me as strongly as it has.

At first I thought it might have something to do with the fact that I was mostly a bystander while the music of my generation was taking over. Just as Nirvana and Pearl Jam were making that gigantic breakthrough in 1992, my fiancé and I discovered we were pregnant. So instead of investigating mosh pits at the 7thStreet Entry, or watching Soundgarden and Pearl Jam rule the stage at Lollapalooza (it was a traveling festival in those days), I was hastily throwing together a wedding and then changing diapers. My wife and I got an early jump on things, so we’ve always told ourselves that we’d make up for lost time in our forties and fifties.

Well here we are, and something like this just makes it feel like we’ve arrived too late. But while that’s a legitimate thing, I don’t really think that’s exactly what is bothering me.

Then I thought maybe it’s a generational thing. Grunge is the gift that Generation X gave to the world of music. We took all that slacker cynicism, mixed it up with our older siblings’ sneering punk attitude, Zeppelin’s low end and, if we’re being honest, a little heroin. The result was the musical version of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. It was gorgeous art that was absolutely sure that nothing really matters, making it feel immediate and important. It was the sound of a generation telling everybody, including ourselves, to fuck off.

And while we were wallowing in our splendid alienation, our spokespeople, predictably, started dying. First it was Andrew Wood of Mother Love Bone. A lot of us didn’t know about him until Cornell, along with Wood’s erstwhile bandmates (who were about to form Pearl Jam) memorialized him with a one off tribute called Temple of the Dog. Somehow, Wood’s story made death part our music’s romantic foundation.

A couple years later, Cobain killed himself with a shotgun. He was 27. Our Bob Dylan, the voice of our generation, threw it all away because he was afraid he was becoming a cliché. At least, that’s what we told ourselves at the time.

Shortly thereafter, Kristen Pfaff of Hole overdosed and died in a bathtub. And then Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon overdosed and died on a tour bus. It felt like people like D’arcy Wretzky of Smashing Pumpkins, Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots, and, perhaps especially, Courtney Love – Pfaff’s bandmate and Cobain’s widow – were all headed in the same direction.

Alice in Chains’ Layne Staley died of a gruesome overdose. The fact that his body was not discovered for more than a week felt somehow fitting. He was a emblematic of a generation that just wanted to be left alone.

And just when it felt like our music, and maybe our entire generation, would never live to see 30, things turned around. Love and Weiland cleaned their acts up (at least for a while). Bands like Pearl Jam thrived long after the term “Heroin Chic” disappeared. Before we knew it, we were a decade into a new century and a lot of the Poets of Grunge were still standing. Some of them were even in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It felt like our heroes were out of the woods.

When Weiland died of an overdose of cocaine, alcohol and MDA at the end of 2015, it felt like an echo, and not something rooted in the present. He had become the most notorious addict of them all over the years; in and out of rehab so many times we had all lost hope for him. His death was something that had been predicted so often for so long that it might as well have happened in 1997.

But Chris Cornell died of suicide on May 17, 2017, at the age of 52. He was a dad. He was a philanthropist. He was becoming an elder statesman of rock. He was a grown up. Cornell was aging gracefully, even doing that thing where some guys get better looking as they get older. He got Soundgarden back together, and they made a great new album a couple years ago. His voice still had all the power and strength it had displayed in his youth. Much like the rest of us, the world had kicked his ass a couple times, and he survived.

But now he’s gone, and goddammit, his is the death that bothers me the most. As I’ve been thinking about this, I’m realizing that it’s both a personal and a generational thing. Cornell had a long struggle with depression. As have I. As have many of you.

It’s possible that, along with grunge, Generation X’s other great gift to society is depression. I mean, of course it was here long before the Baby Boomers started re-producing, but we talk about it more than those who came before us. We talk about it as a demon or a monster. It’s a dark shadow that shows itself at any point in time without warning. It surrounds us, isolates us, and quiets us. Depression likes to blame things. We feel like shit because of mistakes we have made in life or because of the state of the world or because we aren’t perfect. Without a lot of help and a lot of work, it’s impossible to know that it really is a chemical imbalance in our brains. After twenty-plus years of trying to de-stigmatize depression, some of us still have a hard time recognizing it for what it is. And even then, it doesn’t always matter.

You might think grunge is about anger, but that’s not completely true. Yes, it can sound that way, but it’s really about depression and cynicism. Those two go hand-in-hand, along with their nasty little sister, anxiety. When the three of them get going, they just eat hope as quickly as it can be summoned. That leaves despair and despair is exhausting, not just for those who experience it, but for the people around it as well. So we keep it to ourselves because we don’t want to be a burden. And then it gets to be too much. Doesn’t matter if you’re a student, a mom, an accountant or a rock star. It doesn’t matter if you’ve written about it your entire life as a means of keeping it at bay. It doesn’t matter if the music you made about it brought in fame, respect and millions of dollars. It doesn’t matter if your entire generation has suffered from it. Depression makes you feel totally alone. You hit the breaking point, and then, like Chris Cornell, you die alone in the bathroom.

This was a well-respected member of his community; a beloved musical hero who seemed to have it all together. This could have been any of us. And brothers and sisters, if it’s you, don’t mess around with it. Please find some help.

Cornell is speaking to us all one last time. This isn’t something we left behind with our twenties. This isn’t something cured by age or financial security. This isn’t something you “outgrow.” If it’s allowed to fester, depression is stronger than wisdom. Depression is insidious and tenacious. Depression can get to anybody. It can make you feel like an old man at 27. It can make you feel lost as a child at 52.

Call it a senseless tragedy. Call it a second-act cautionary tale. Call it whatever you want. Just don’t blow it off as meaningless.

Rest in peace, Chris.

Via: It’s Not What You Think | The First Ten Words by Rich Larson