There are millions of people who want to write. Of course, it’s talent that often determines who makes it and who doesn’t. Or luck. Or both. Sometimes people are just in the right place in the right time. E.L. James, who wrote the publishing phenom 50 Shades of Gray, copied the right book when she built her novel around the plot of Twilight. If you want to write a blockbuster, you can copy something else out there and give it a twist. But what if you’re not copying a blockbuster and you have something different to say? What if what you’re trying to say doesn’t hit an audience that large? What if you aren’t an overnight success? What if you’ve received rejection after rejection after rejection? Do you keep going?
Most writer’s don’t get overnight fame. Steven Pressfield, the author of The War of Art and Legend of Bagger Vance, did not get his first book published for ten years AFTER he decided to become a full time writer. It takes tenacity. You have to deal with tremendous suffering and loneliness. It takes the ability to keep going and keep the faith, even when you’ve faced another setback. And yet it also takes a strong willingness to look honestly at what you’ve written and make it better. Last night I brought a raw piece of my new novel to my writing group. It got torn to shreds. But that’s a good thing. They articulated what I already suspected, that it wasn’t up to snuff in several areas. I already knew that, I just needed fresh eyes to help pinpoint exactly why it wasn’t working. If you don’t already know when a piece is not working most of the time, then you haven’t developed the intense self awareness that it takes to write. You’ll know you’ve crossed the Rubicon of self-awareness when you stop thinking everything you put down is holy writ and can’t get better. It can always get better.
Sometimes you know when you became a writer. There was a definitive moment when something shifted inside of you. After that, it manifests in myriad ways. Last week, I was driving home from LA. My book had been running through my head the whole time and I finally figured out how I could write a challenging scene. But I knew I had evening commitments too. The woman and I had plans. I’d worked all day, driving three hours north for an appointment and now I was driving back. Instead of driving right home though, I drove to a little place I know I can sit and work for a little while. I managed to sneak in an hour of writing right there, between being a prisoner of my job and my commitments. That’s what it takes to write.
Just an FYI, my time has been severely limited these days. I’ve thrown every spare moment of writing time behind my new novel about a Chinese Civil War, so I haven’t spent much time on my blog. That said, the time will come again when I have all the time in the world and this is the place I’ll spend it. Thanks all.