Let me ask you: What you would give to have finished a good first draft last year? To have spent the last several months revising, shaping it into something readable, maybe even looking for an agent?
Recently, I asked myself the same thing. My answer: Almost anything. Because in hindsight, getting back that lost year–one among many–would be worth the sacrifice, the price.
And as that thought settled, I was reminded I still have this year. I can prevent this year from feeling as wasted–writing-wise–as the last. After all, the Mayans, Aztecs, aliens and John Cusack may just destroy us before there is a next year.
When we started this writers conference, I thought that doing so would mean I’d write more. Really it just means I know more interesting people than before. However, in our fourth year, that’s changing. How? I’m busier today than I’ve ever been: a husband and father often working 10-hour days.
The difference maker for me–and maybe for you–is all about, as Chuck Wendig says, stealing back time. That is, it’s about making the decision that writing is what you’re going to do… not what you’ll do when you have the free time.
It’s like giving up cigarettes.
I smoked two packs a day for about ten years. I “tried” to quit a few times but smoking was always more pleasant than not smoking, so I constantly failed.
I’ve been working on one novel or another (or another) since I was 17. I’ve filled notebooks with random scribblings and probably six dozen first chapters. But because thinking about being a writer has always been more pleasant than the difficult and dirty job of actually being a writer so… I’ve constantly failed.
As with smoking, I have now, with my writing, come to–wait for it–a crossroads. Either I quit not-writing or quit thinking I’ll ever actually be a writer.
Oh sure, I’m a writer. I get paid to write and have for a little while, as a reporter and blogger. But journalism is to my desire to write fiction what a hard pack of Camel ultra lights were to my attempts to quit smoking: never enough.
I only quit smoking when I make the decision to actually stick with it. I think about un-quitting every day, just as I imagine I will be tempted to stop writing, to cruise baseball box scores or watch TV instead of grinding out a few hundred words about the sick and stupid imaginary people in my head.
This is easier for me now because I’ve tried (and nearly succeeded at) NaNoWriMo. Not only did I have a daily goal but I had a community of people supporting me. In the process, I learned how to make my self-editor shut up long enough to get a bunch of words out so I could find the story that I’d later revise.
Now, inspired by Camp NaNoWriMo and the fact that the man who invented all this stuff, Chris Baty, will be joining us at Crossroads, I’m going to complete a draft before the conference.
And then… I can stop asking myself what I’d give to have finished my book already.