If you are not in this for the long haul then you will break before you get there. You might break before anyway. Can you write through that? Can you write when you have nothing else? Can you write even if you will always have nothing else?
This morning I woke up at 4am to write. Yesterday I woke up at 4am to write, and the day before that, and… You get the idea. My goal is large. My goal is worthy. My goal was to finish my book by Oct. 2016. I finished a month early. My new goal is to complete five books by the end of 2021. I’m not messing around.
But I wasn’t always like this. I used to be one of those writers who sat around talking to other writers about being a writer, a poet, an artist, blah, blah, blah. We congregated in coffee shops and talked about writing. And I had the writing to back it up. I really could write amazing prose and passable poetry. I was a real writer. I carried a journal around with me everywhere I went. I carried books around with me in my satchel before the hipsters caught on and started carrying Smart Phones in theirs.
I wrote “a lot”. I wrote passionately after long stretches of not writing and wrote again, after even longer stretches of not writing. I did not write every day come hell or high water. I didn’t understand that type of tenacity. I didn’t understand this type of commitment. I didn’t understand this principle. I didn’t understand that I had to lead my Muse. I let my Muse lead me. I showed up when I felt inspired. And as a result, my Muse would visit on occasion when he was tired of coveting more aspiring, perspiring writers. And when I wasn’t writing, my Muse sat around in coffee shops with other Muses waiting for all of their writers at the next table finish their impassioned and convincing conversations about being writers.
The writing that matters takes time and commitment. The writing that changes lives is a labor of love that can’t afford to write only when inspiration strikes. Stephen King wrote, “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work” (On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft).
My first published short story was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. It was no more than 70 pages and it took me over five years to write. Today, I could write the same piece in under six months. If you sit around long enough your contribution may take longer. The longer it takes the less impact you will have on your audience, if for the simple fact, that you will have less time left to say what you need to say.
Isaac Asimov has over 460 publication credits to his name. This didn’t happen by accident. This didn’t happen because he waited for his Muse. A List of Issac Asimov’s Books.
Of course, none of us can reasonably catch Asimov, unless we are already well on our way. Fortunately, authors don’t play the game of, “She with the most books wins.” But if you have fifteen books in you and you write five, what could have been? If you have five books in you and you write, one, what could have been? If you have one book in you, and you write none, oh, what could have been?
Annie Dillard has at least 15 books. Books by Annie Dillard
Ivan Doig has at least sixteen books. Books by Ivan Doig
Margaret Atwood has at least sixteen novels, and just a little bit more of everything else. Works by Margaret Atwood
Laura Hillenbrand has two award-winning books (both made into movies). Laura Hillenbrand
How many books do you have in you? How much do you have to say? How much do you have to share with the world?
It’s time to find out.