“I don’t teach writing. I teach patience. Toughness. Stubbornness. The willingness to fail. I teach the life…” Richard Bausch
Many of you know by now that I’m working on a book called A Writer’s Guide to Persistence: A Toolkit to Build & Bolster a Lasting Writing Practice (Writer’s Digest Books, 2015). Many of the posts on this blog over the next year between the writing and release of the book will be on subjects related to building and sustaining a writing practice.
I prefer that phrase “writing practice” to any other describing the career of a writer. For one thing, “career” seems to link hands specifically with money; you learn pretty quickly, if you’re in the writing for the money, well you’ve picked the wrong vocation. More importantly, there has to be more to your writing practice than just making money. Writing is too powerful, too timeless, to tender to be reduced to something as transitory as currency. Nonetheless, it’s easy to be swept up in the instant gratification of our entertainment culture. Everything’s on-demand, which makes writers feel that they must be, too. There are self-published writers turning out a book a month to keep serial readers happy and mainstream authors busting tail to put out a book a year to keep their publishers happy. I’d rather you look for inspiration from writers like Donna Tartt who produces one masterpiece every 8-10 years. This is not to suggest that you must write at her pace, but that you train your mind to see all of your efforts as words that go into the larger body of your writing practice. The investment you make in time, practice, patience and persistence will show in everything you do.
In light of this, perhaps you can see why it’s a waste of energy to get discouraged, depressed or consider giving up if writing is an important part of your life.
In the book I say, “Your writing practice is a changeable, fluid creature—it ebbs and flows, squeezes down to the size of a pea and then expands to fill multiple universes.”
This means that there are times, due to stress and responsibilities, fullness and family, that your writing practice will exist in tiny little drips. And then, sometimes for reasons you can’t even pinpoint, it will expand and open up—your time, your inspiration, your productivity.
If you only look at the fallow periods, the stretches where rejection outweighs acceptance, where words stick in the cracks rather than flow, you’ll fall into discouragement. Instead you need to take a macro view, pull back the lens and see your writing practice as a long-term entity, a body of work, a part of your life. Just as you don’t raise a child or build a house overnight, you don’t create a writing practice without some time and energy.
Apprentice yourself to your craft rather than ambushing yourself into an implausible standard.
Your writing is worth it.
If you like what you’ve read, please subscribe to this blog or sign up for my newsletter. Also check out my books: Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time and the suspense novel, Forged in Grace. And check out my Plot & Scene Writing Retreat with Martha Alderson at the Mt. Madonna Retreat Center in May.