Self-published author and blogger Jonathan Kile brings a little perspective on forging through the peaks and valleys of the writing life to get things done. It’s an awesome article, so let’s just get right to it.
Take it away Jon!
The other day Anela asked me to talk a little about persevering as an independent writer. Just a few hours later, I got a message from a friend asking “How do you keep at it? How do you find the time?” So, I take this all as a spooky coincidence that has nothing to do with the position of the moon, or a conspiracy that Google is feeding friends subliminal messages to my contacts via Android phones. (Where’s my tin hat?)
A little background. I have a full time job as an outside sales rep. I have two kids under six. My wife works full time at a college and the free time in my day starts at about 9:15 p.m… the exact time it is as I write this. We also have a busy social life and I serve on a non-profit board. So how did I write, edit and publish a novel in 12 months and keep up two blogs? How did I write the sequel in nine months? (It’s in editing now.) There are two answers. One simple answer, and one that’s more complicated.
The simple answer, I just did it. The time between 10pm and midnight (and sometimes 1 am – when I’m on a roll) is for writing. 95% of my writing take place late at night. That’s when I can fit it in. Is that when I’m most inspired? Hell if I know. I don’t get the chance to write in the morning after the coffee kicks in. Maybe your schedule is different, but you have to use the time you have available to write for… um… writing. Stop watching Netflix, get off Facebook, step away from Instagram (whatever that is) and write. A recent scientific study conducted by Cambridge University found that 0% of books were written without an author writing them (+/- 3% margin of error.)
The more complicated answer to persevering as a writer is passion. I suppose it takes a lot of discipline to delay sleep and start writing at 10pm. But for me, it isn’t discipline at all, because I want to do it. Sure, I wish I had time at noon, but I don’t, and I want to write books. If I’m going to have 7 novels in 7 years, I’m going to have to write when time allows. I love writing. It isn’t a hard decision. An article in last Sunday’s New York Times talked about why child prodigies so often flame out. A child may have an uncanny ability to play the piano at 3 years old. But unless they develop a passion for it, they’ll never put in the hours of practice it takes to become exceptional at it. If sitting down to write is something you dread, is it really something you want to pursue?
I mean, really, we all have this rosy image of the “life of a writer,” retreating to a remote cabin with the family in tow, writing at big mahogany desk, sipping tea (or bourbon) and occasionally zipping off to New York to meet your fancy editor. But we all know that those writers end up getting stalked by serial killers through the woods, or their kids attack them with farm tools because that cabin was haunted. And that New York editor? They’re looking for a job. In reality, by the time you have your “overnight bestseller” you will have spent thousands of unpaid, unrecognized, unappreciated hours writing hundreds of thousands of words you may never share with a soul.
After the first book in my series came out, I spent 2015 writing the sequel and laying the groundwork so that I can build an audience with two books in my catalogue (it’s called a sales funnel.) I just got my 1099 from Amazon. With the hours I have in invested, there are shirt-makers in Bangladesh who pity my wage as a writer.
Yet I keep at it and I just do it, with passion. But don’t get me wrong. I’m not special. I don’t have some rare insane motivation that other people lack. There are days and sometimes weeks that I don’t write a word. In fact, I stewed for almost three weeks before writing the climactic showdown in my next book. It took me over two months to write the last 5,000 words – something that could have taken me two or three days. But I kept at it, and behold, I have another novel to publish.
Hemingway could have written this 750 word blog post more concisely. In fact, he did when he said, “The shortest answer is doing the thing.” Go do the thing.
Thanks Jonathan for such an inspiring and hilarious kick in the pants! Always needed on a Monday. Want to know more about this author and his work? Explore his website at Well Oiled Author.
Transporting a family heirloom across the country seemed like an easy task for disillusioned Michael Chance. But before he can cross the Mississippi, the secrets of his family’s grandfather clock and a mysterious French woman put him on an uncertain path. The life Michael knew is about to be left behind as he searches for answers amid a dangerous conspiracy that will lead him from the museums of Paris to Nazi havens in Argentina.
The Grandfather Clock is a globe spanning thriller with rich characters, history, action, romance and mystery.
This is a timely post for me; I’ve been growing increasingly frustrated with my lack of writing output. One thing I’ve found is that I am the main culprit for eroding my writing time, not anyone else. Your comment about discipline is an important one. I’ve become pretty disciplined at dragging myself out of bed at 5:30AM to write every morning. It also takes sacrifice – like you said, giving up Netflix or whatever to get your goals done. Me and the husband are currently watching the entire series of ‘Breaking Bad’. Man that show’s addictive. Frequently we ‘binge watch’, watching 2-3 episodes a night. Last night I drew on some great inner force and told the hubby I could only watch one episode. Now, I think he believes that he’s making sacrifices for the writing too, haha!
I like the dream of the ‘life of the writer’ you mention, though, and I don’t want to give that up, minus the serial killer bit of course. But, yes, we have to face reality for now. Great post!
Breaking Bad will totally suck you in. That show had some amazing storytellers on staff, so don’t berate yourself too much. I try to pick apart HOW the show I’m watching snagged my attention, from a story perspective, and try to use it as a craft lesson. Yeah, it’s akin to watching TV while folding laundry, but hey, at least something is still getting done. I agree though, discipline is the key to word count. That Cambridge University study Jonathan mentioned will back me up on this:)
Pingback: Check Out My Guest Post on “Amid The Imaginary” | Jonathan Kile - Well Oiled Writer