Writers: We need to BE Walter White!

I recently finished watching “Breaking Bad.” (Don't worry, I'm not going to give anything away.) I, the writer, the creative one, wept during the final scene. My husband, not so creative, did not. I have a theory about that.

For those of you not familiar with this TV show, Walter White is a high school chemistry teacher who, on his 50th birthday is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

His wife is about to have their second child and their high school aged son has special needs, so money is a huge issue for Walter and he wants to leave something behind so his family won't have to worry when he's gone.

Walter's brother-in-law is a DEA agent and one day talks about how much the methamphetamine business in Albuquerque, New Mexico is worth.

Walter gets an idea…

Breaking Bad for writers

He reconnects with a former student, Jesse Pinkman, and they set out to make the BEST METH EVER!

Now, one would think that Walter White is the bad guy…that he's a very bad man.

And, sure, that's true.  But what was so mesmerizing for me, and I think for anyone who dreams of the day they can support themselves being creative, was Walter's dedication to making, and controlling what he created from start to finish.

Like writers and authors should, Walter created a brand for himself, kept very close watch on quality control and marketing.

He set the price, he made sure the money got to him, and he reveled in the fact that this meth was good and it was something no one was going to take away from him.

It was this long stretching story arc that made me weep in the end. Walter White protected his brand and his product because it was his and no one was going to take it away from him.

We writers should be that same way about what we do.

We need to decide who we are as writers.  Not what we're going to write, that can change from project to project if we want it to.  But as writers we are creating something, we are creating characters, stories, worlds and we need to put our stamp on it. No one should ever be allowed to take our product from us or us from our product.

Self publishing has exploded in the last decade in large part because of this dedication on the writer’s part to control the product from start to finish. Believe me, it’s far more work than having someone else do the marketing, the book cover, the editing, the formatting…but if someone else gets to do all that, then the product, the book, the article, is not yours and yours alone.

What’s interesting about being a writer, especially those who have not published yet or those who are self published, is that the world outside our writing space does not see what we do as important or worthwhile or anything more than a little hobby on which we spend our free time.

Therefore, forces outside our writing space work against us to keep us from the work we truly love. For example:

✔  The boss that won't give you a Friday off to go to a writing conference.

✔  The partner that keeps piling dirty laundry or bills on your desk and then leaves you to deal with the mess.

✔  The kids who won't leave you alone for an hour on a weekend for you to work just a little.

✔  The extended family who, when you tell them you can ‘t make a family function because you're working and they say, “You're not working, you're just writing.”

We all have something like that in our lives, and I'm telling you all, we need to be Walter White.  We need to protect our writing time and we need to protect what we do. We need to set boundaries, mark territory, if you will, and make sure everyone knows that what we are doing is work and it’s important.

We need some sort of signal to those around us that now we are the WRITER and we're serious and no one should mess with us when we are the WRITER.

Walter White put on a hat.  That's when you knew he was NOT to be messed with.

We all have time constraints, social obligations, work, family, all of that and that's what threatens to take our writing away from us.

I've struggled for many years with this.  Now, after all this time, I think I have it down.  I have to light several candles in my office, pour a glass of wine, and shut the door.  In some circles this might signal a romantic evening.

Not in my house.  In my house this means I am writing and I am not to be disturbed until I emerge, exhausted and probably tipsy, from the office.  No one is to knock, and I don't take phone calls unless fire or blood is involved.

This is what I have to do to protect my precious little writing time.  And the result of  that time is my baby, my story, my book.  And I will protect that book, that story, those characters, as much as I am able in this digital world.

Breaking Bad for writers

So writers, authors, friends, I say this: BE WALTER WHITE.

Whatever your motivation is to write, you need to protect your writing and your writing time.

Put on the hat, light the candles, lock the door, call in sick. Do what you have to do because your product is important, your brand is important. The writing you do is important, though those around you may not see it yet.

This is why I wept and my husband did not. In the end that meth was Walter’s and Walter’s alone and, money and power aside, he was proud of what he’d worked so hard to create.

In the end, that book, that manuscript, that poem is ours and only ours, unless we let someone else mess with it or take it away from us altogether. Non-creative folks do not understand that we do not measure success by how much money we earn doing what we love.

We measure success by being brave enough to do what we love and seeing it to the very end because it is ours and ours alone.

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Radu Balas

Radu is the Founder of Publishing Addict and author of "Sell More Books Using Your Author Website | The Easiest Way To Brand, Build, Market, and Manage Your Authorship" Soon available on Amazon.

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