“A writer writes,” my editor told me once. “That’s all there is to it.”
It was a good pep talk. It’s something I needed to hear, and something I remind myself of often. If I’m going to make a go at this full time at some point in the future, I need to not just land more work, but produce enough to keep it all selling and keep the cash flowing.
If a writer has nothing to sell, then he’s not going to have anything to eat. Even doing it for the love, or as a hobby, requires the work to be out there and available in some form or another.
It took time, but I’m at a point now that things are moving again. The latest draft of Lie with the Dead is sitting on my editor’s desk. I have an invitation to write some novella-length work and I’m now under contract for a graphic novel, both of which I hope to be able to tell you more about in the near future. I have a short story due, a column due, and if I can get it done by 8/1, an invitation to submit a short story to an anthology.
And that’s the firm work. There are still things circulating in the background, some of which may jump to the foreground at any moment to demand my attention.
I told a local friend about all this, and he said, “Man, you must be stressin’ hard.”
Nope. I love this. It’s good to be in demand, and to see fan response to “Bravo Four” and have them demand more.
This is what writing is all about.
So how, then, does one get the work done? The three keys: sort your shit, make sacrifices, develop discipline.
Sorting one’s shit involves a number of things, ranging from resolving personal problems to simply having a plan. Sitting down to develop my Exit Strategy was a big one for me, as was cleaning up some of the personal issues slowing me down last year. I also have a lot of things pulling me in many different directions, and I came to realize tackling them in a catch-as-catch-can manner wouldn’t do any one of them any good. I sorted those, refocused, and figured out how I can tackle each in the appropriate manner.
Making sacrifices doesn’t have to be as scary as it sounds. Dumping satellite and switching to Netflix got rid of a lot of my idle television viewing and the temptation to become a couch potato after a long day at work. My family is out of town this weekend, making it a perfect opportunity to catch up on Breaking Bad season 4 and Justified season 3, but there’s work to be done. When I put a dent in all of it, then I can make time for Walter White and Raylan Givens.
Developing discipline, then, is a matter of remembering how badly you want to accomplish something. My physical goals require a lot of effort and practice, and I make it happen every day, whether it’s running, lifting weights, or getting out to karate class. Once I sorted my other shit and made a few sacrifices, it became a hell of a lot easier to develop the discipline for writing.
When this post goes live, I won’t actually be at the keyboard, I’ll be in karate class and then on the way to a dinner celebration with some friends. Keeping up the blog requires the same attention and focus, though, and I’m writing this post during a moment I’m stuck on another project. Discipline means not wandering away from the keyboard when I’m stuck. It means finding some way to keep busy, to jump start the word machine.
And guess where my ass will be as soon as I get home from that dinner? Yep, sitting in the very chair I wrote this post from and working on one of these projects. The wee hours are very productive for me, and I’m going to take full advantage of them until the day job hours go back to normal in August. (And then I’ll either develop a new schedule or invest in 5-Hour Energy.)
On Sunday I’ll sleep in, get a short workout in and eat breakfast, then ride Lenore into town and write in a coffee shop until they throw me out. Then I’ll come home and keep on going until at least two of the current projects are done.
Sort your shit, make sacrifices, and develop discipline. This is how I am balancing a day job, Daddy Daycare, family time, writing, working out, and karate class.
It can be done.