Brains took this picture of Lake Erie… Nice shot, kid!
All writers slack. It’s natural. Writers are dreamers by nature, and we make procrastinators in other fields look like paragons of productivity. However, it is the weight a writer gives to working vs. dreaming that determines whether they finish a damn thing.
I was thinking about all of this during my long drive down to Washington DC yesterday. I was listening to the excellent Starship Sofa Podcast, and hoping like hell I had the patience and fortitude to sit my butt down long enough to write a story like Neal Asher’s Adaptogenic or Allan Steele’s High Roller, when I listened to Terry Edge talk about writing workshops.
The audio essay on the subject is incredible, and I recommend that any writer searching for the perfect writing workshop give it a listen. [link to his follow-up post on manuscript services]
The crux of Edge’s essay is that there are basically two types of writers: those who project forward and finish work, and those who enjoy playing about and living the “writer’s life”. Depending on which sort of writer you are (and where you want to go), there are writing workshops out there designed to help you make it happen.
This got me thinking about my own path and how I’ve gone spending too much time dreaming about where I want my writing to take me to working on taking my writing where where it ought to go.
When I was younger, I thought about the places I would live if I wrote fulltime, how I would spend my time in cafes, or just wandering about the city that I called home (for the moment, because I would constantly travel). As I got older, I realized I wasn’t actually writing anything and it seemed like I ought to. I put forth a lot of effort and discovered that even my best wasn’t good enough. Writing was hard. Writing was work.
I think this is the place where most writers hit the wall. They try really, really hard to push out some stories, or maybe a novel. They “finish” the work and then they realize it’s crap. That’s when they figure out there’s going to be some actual work involved and they have to decide whether writing is a hobby or a vocation.
Look, every writer produces crap on the first go around. Even mega author X is writing crap right now. Go peek in their window and you’ll see them staring at the screen, fingers going at the keys (or maybe face in hands) wondering if they can do it again. The difference is that if you watching long enough, the writer who is working will start working again while the dreamer will go for an ice cream cone or watch a movie.
The point of this little post is merely to rant on the topic of commitment. Note, I didn’t say success. I’m not going to claim to know anything about that, or even hypothesize. It would be silly. There are just too many variables. That said, I do know that without a finished piece of work a writer’s chance of success is basically zero.
Commit to start. Commit to finish. Commit to begin again.
By the way, I finished my submission for Brain Harvest’s Mega Challenge 2009. The Mega Challenge is a short-short story contest (750 words or less). I’ll be sharing my entry after the winners are announced on October 15. If you’re waiting or wishing or dreaming, why not give this contest a shot? There are just a few days left to enter.