Something I’ve learned about the writing life, is that you always want to be moving forward; you always want to be writing, reading and building your craft. If you’re completely still, meaning you’re not doing any writing of any kind, you’re in a bad place.
Sometimes, that movement forward is a mad dash. You’re cranking out pages, you’re getting attention, you’re coming up with new (and sometimes even good) ideas all the time. Sometimes that movement is slow and you’re just getting down a bare smattering of words and forgetting anything you come up with that might be cool. No matter how much work you produce, you can never become complacent and allow yourself to be still.
This is a failure of your craft. This means you are no longer a writer.
At the beginning of the year a set a number of goals for myself. As we are now one quarter of the way through the year I took a few moments to re-examine those goals, and realize I have failed to achieve any of them.
I have plenty of excuses, and some of them are even valid: I’ve had two people, both extremely dear to me, become horribly ill. One of them will recover, and the other, it seems, will not. I crashed my little blue car (Oh! How I loved that car!), and spent a week off work with a concussion. I had a man break into my house while I was sleeping in my bed and steal my piece of mind.
Each of these excuses is valid, but none of them really gives me justification for ceasing my writing, or spending my free time sitting on the couch playing a game I affectionately refer to as “Battle Turtle” on my phone. It’s up to me, as a storyteller, to turn these events into grist for my writing mill, as I’ve discussed before.
Recently, I’ve had some forward movement in my writing life, and it has had a profound effect on my motivation: the folks at Dark Dragon Publishing have gotten me into a Canadian Crime anthology, which will contain two of my short stories; very few copies of my book have sold recently (and by very few I mean, like, five), but I’ve been getting good reviews/feedback from the people who have read it; I haven’t completed the sequel to “The Watch”, but I’ve put some miles on it, along with a new and exciting (well, to me, anyway) project, as well as a couple of short stories that are shaping up nicely.
None of these things is earth moving in and of itself, but taken together they seem significant. As a whole they mean I’m building my craft – my career, if you want to call it that – and reaching more people with my writing, which is really what this is all about.
Or, at least it should be.
Yes, it would be nice if we could all be Patrick Rothfuss and sell a ga-gillion copies of our first book and be able to buy second houses just to write in. But if you ask Mr Rothfuss if he was an “overnight success” I think he’d be likely to beat you to death with his beard, because it took him something like 7 years to write “The Name of the Wind”. That does not sound “overnight” to me.
As a storyteller if you stop working you quickly become stale. You have to keep writing, keep producing words, and work to make them better than the last batch. I guarantee you that not one of those words will be wasted (for example, the two stories that are going into the anthology were written previously, and just happened to fit the theme. The only work to be done was to attach them to an email and send them off).
To roughly quote Robert J Sawyer, if you write a story there is no guarantee that anyone will read it. But if you don’t write that story, you can be absolutely certain that no one will read it. So keep moving forward, even if it’s only an inch at a time; you’ll get there eventually.
Good luck, and keep writing.