I feel like I'm failing in many areas of my life and I've struggled with whether I want to write about it or not. There are many emotions swirling around inside and I just want to express that I'm frustrated, tried and angry. I'm angry because I'm working so hard but feel like I'm failing miserably as a writer, a parent and just as a person. I put a lot of effort and energy into all that I do, but my goals aren't any closer. As many of you know, I've been working on my next novel. I started writing the book on June 30, 2014. Over the summer and fall, I've been recovering from a torn Achilles and struggling with walking again and building up my strength so that one day soon I can run again. I've been working at the day job really hard, trying to be a good parent, make time to exercise morning and night to build my leg strength up and make time to write.
So why do I feel like I've failed? I'll be brutally honest: Because I've wasted a lot of time. I just finished reading Write. Publish. Repeat. and the ending of the book has struck a chord with me. Sean Platt writes: "The more you treat your writing like a business, the more likely you'll be to have a businesslike result rather than a starving artist's." Platt goes on to talk about how many writers wait for inspiration, write when they feel like it and set no deadlines. We can rationalize and watch TV because it's "research" or waste hours on Twitter and Facebook instead of sitting down and getting our butt in the chair and writing. Many writers treat their writing like a hobby and not as a business. And that's why I feel like I've failed. That's why I'm angry.
I read that section and I felt disgust. I don't want to compare myself to Platt and to his coauthors but they're doing something that I'm not: Treating writing like a business and they're getting shit done. I've spent the last four years writing off and on and, yes, I've published three books, but I've also took off major stretches of time to "allow myself to have some distance" before rewriting a draft. In looking at my work habits, I do get up early and write, but I've also wasted a lot of time. Some mornings I'd struggled away and knock out only 300 words and think, "Oh, well, I have to get ready for work now. I better stop and get going so I won't be late." I'd put in a 10+ hour day, come home and say to myself: "Self, you worked hard today. You deserve to sit your butt down on the couch and watch some TV."
Do you know what I did earlier this week? I read that section by Platt about many writers treating their working like it was their hobby and it pissed me off. It really fired me up and I got up the next morning, sat my butt down on the couch at 4:30 a.m. and wrote. I knocked out more than 1,100 words that day. For those of you who know me or have been following me on this blog, I'm pretty consistent: I make a mistake, fall down, dust myself off and get back up and fight. I have this clear light burning inside me today. It's raw energy of anger and frustration. If you're not a writer, let me share a similar story. When I first wanted to run a marathon (like writing a book in many ways), I had to first learn how to run a block, then a half mile, then a full mile, then rest, eat well, sleep, and slowly, over time, build up until I could actually run a marathon. I have fun three marathons. How did I do that? I had a schedule and I kept to that schedule as best I could.
But for writing, what I love to do and have dreamed about doing since I was ten, I have no set schedule. I have a very loose one and have even bragged about it: Before I injured my ankle this summer, I was writing on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and maybe (if I felt like it) on Saturdays. I've never counted how many words I wrote each week. I have railed against word counts because I think it's been counterproductive. Although I have never had to deal with writer's block, I have struggled with resistance and not wanting to work. That has now changed.
The first book in the Cinderella's Secret Diaries series took me 18 months (!!!!) to write, the second took me 13 months and the third about the same. It is really, really hard not to compare myself to other writers who are working full-time but still knocking out 4 books a year. When I look at my productivity, I have to come clean and admit that I have not been treating my writing as a business. I'm not holding myself accountable to deadlines, but for work I'll do whatever is necessary to meet a deadline. I've worked at 4 a.m., stayed up until 3 a.m., worked on weekends, gotten hardly any sleep--I'll do that because I see that as my career, but with writing, I don't even come close.
Again, I'm frustrated, angry and I've decided to put my money where my mouth is. Early this morning I put together a Google doc that tracks my word count for every day. I have made that doc public so that all can view, and if you'd like, comment and give me some words of encouragement. A writer's life can be lonely. Yes, we can be on social media, yes, we can go to conferences, network, have friends, family, but, at this time in my life, I write alone. I'm sitting at a laptop and it's my imagination and the keyboard. Maintaining that level of creativity over time is really hard. I have failed. I don't know if I ever shared this, but when I was writing Lost, there was a time in which I gave up over the holiday break. I think I took more than a month off from writing.
But what got me back into it? What made me sit back down and overcome my fear and frustration? What was it? I had a story to tell and I needed to get it out. I needed to fight against the demons and to struggle with my art and put the fucking words on the page. It was that simple. I wanted to show Cinderella after the ball, after the happiness and what truly happens over time when you realize that everything isn't what quite what it seems. I grew up in a broken home and there were lessons that I learned that I must share. I know that I'm not the only person out there who have felt lost, abandoned, fearful and alone. I know that. Each time I finish writing a book and release it to the world, I have this fount of happiness leap up out of my heart and makes me want to cry. I overcame my past, found the best words that I could and put them into book form. I then start over, come up with another idea and start writer another and another. Each time struggling to become a better writer.
I have failed more times in my life than I can count. But that does not mean that failure equals "the end." No. Instead it means that I need to scream and shout, get that angst out, and get on back up and work again. Learn, try, read, be, pivot--I do whatever I can to inch forward, but I will not quit. Too much is at stake. Everything that I ever saw and experience can be shared in these little words on an electronic page. Some things I write are shit. I know that. But sometimes they're not.
I can't be all things to all people. I can't write like crazy, be a good dad, work like superman on my career and still be sane. It's just not possible. But here's the secret that I've learned: Life isn't black and white. It's filled with gray. The reality is that I have not been treating my writing like a job and making deadlines to meet. Now that I've decided to change that, it's a whole different story now. You see, I've been afraid to stand up and say I'm writer. I'm afraid because I don't think I deserve it. I don't think I'm good enough and I stumble forward, but haven't been fighting for my goal. And deep down, that's why I'm angry at myself. I'm holding myself back from the great joy I can have if only I try. If only I admit that I have failed and now burst out of my shell and become someone new. The me I've always wanted to be but was afraid.
In The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho writers:
"Before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way.... That's the point at which most people give up. It's the point at which, as we say in the language of the desert, one 'dies of thirst just when the palm trees appeared on the horizon.'"
I read that book right before I started writing the Cinderella's Secret Diaries series. Now, looking back, I understand it better. Most of my life I have struggled to be a writer but not felt worthy enough. Deep down I am proud of the books I have written. So now it's time for me to shut up and get to work. Who's with me?