This year no excuses

This year, we’re finally going to do it.

We’re going to buckle down and write more. If you haven’t started your dream project, you’re going to. If you’re stalled on the novel, you’re going to plow ahead. If you are mid-career and writing so very slowly, you are going to trust your fingers and type faster.

We’re going to pin our ears back and go straight down the middle to the goal posts.

Because if you’re not on the field, you’re not going to have the ball (pardon all the football talk, but ’tis the season) and if you’re not going to do it this year, then when?

The thing about writing

The thing is, you’re going to have to write a lot to have a career. It really won’t do to be a one-book wonder or a v-e-r-y s-l-o-w writer. The reasons for this are many, but generally have to do with visibility, dependability, building a base of readers, giving publishers something to sink their teeth into, promote and have faith in.

That being the case, it’s time to hustle, people.

I know that sounds a bit crass. But look at it this way: You need the practice. You wouldn’t expect a dancer or an actor to develop a reputation based on a thousand hours of work. No, they–and we–need about 10,000 hours of work to develop mastery. (According to Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers.) So it’s artistic practice as well as content we’re after.

And once you are publishing, prolific is a lot better than slow. If you are prolific you can satisfy your publisher, dependably give your readers the experience they crave (your books) and perhaps even publish under different names and in different genres to diversify your portfolio against publishing misfortunes.

Don’t think of it as speed-writing. Think of it as self-discipline. However much you’re writing now, increase that by fifteen percent. And next year, again. In three years you’re producing half again as much as last year. Um. If I got the math right.

You don’t need an iron will

You may not be one of those cast iron personalities who do 100 sit ups every morning. I know I’m not. But just because you can’t write as fast as some, doesn’t mean you should write as slow as most.

There will be time for other things, I promise.

One of the reasons is that when you consciously write a little more, a little faster, you get better at it. You might even end up writing more in a shorter period of time. So then, yes, you can watch another episode of Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. You’ve earned it.

This isn’t about suffering and feeling inadequate. It’s really a bracing acknowledgment of what a professional writer’s life looks like and what the standard expectations are.

This ain’t a tea party

If your dream is a smoking jacket and staring at the swimming pool with your fist around a glass of whiskey, you’ve seen too many Hollywood dramas. It ain’t a party and it ain’t an angst-driven stroll. It’s an art and a bit of a game. And both have rules.

And so . . .

You’re in the locker room. Your beloved coach–here picture a person you really like but whom you’re a little afraid of–is pacing back and forth exhorting you to get out there and play your heart out.

You know you haven’t quite had the bit in your teeth; you’ve been slacking a little, to tell the truth. You were hoping nobody noticed.

But coach did. And now coach is giving you holy hell for it.

He loves you, he really does. But he knows what you’re capable of, and wants to see you do it. And he may not say this, but you can pretty much count on it–if you don’t try harder, you’re going to find yourself sitting on the bench and watching others play.

So get out there and carry those stories through to the end. Give it your energy, your intention, your time and your heart.

You hate me now, but you’ll thank me some fine day.

It’s 2012. This year, no excuses.

 

 

4 Responses

  1. My mantra for last year was “No excuses.” It’s good to see it again. Thanks for the pep talk!

  2. Kay says:

    I know what you mean. I wrote this to remind myself, too.

  3. Dona Watson says:

    Ouch. Talk about hitting me where it hurts. But you’re absolutely right. Thanks for reinforcing what I’ve been telling myself over the past couple of weeks. It’s good to know I’m not alone. :).

  4. Kay says:

    Dona, I just e-chatted with someone today who’s an aspiring writer who has been feeling totally crushed by her lack of forward momentum on her novel. Hey, a Little guilt may help push us to action, but a lot of it has the opposite effect, I’m thinking. But you’re welcome!

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