I got a nice little write up in the Boing Boing Summer reading picks! Sweet! Hmm, Its really too bad that the book is sold out already. But don’t worry folks, a second edition is in the works, and I hope to add some new chapters and possibly even more artwork! We shall see.
I was talking with a couple of writer friends the other night at the bar. Yes, it’s true writers like to sit around and drink whiskey and talk about Norman Mailer, Italo Calvino, Cormac McCarthy and that sort of thing. For hours, which adds up to a lot of whiskey.
The conversation then turned to writer’s block. My friend B. complained that he hasn’t written anything for a year and a half, and that when he does write it’s usually just a paragraph that sucks, and he deletes it as soon as he is done typing it. The other writer present, an older and more experienced fellow said “Look man, if you’re not writing every day, you’re not writing.”
There is this weird Hollywood idea of writers, that it is something that happens in a mad feverish trance. You get inspired and then scrawl off a novel in the space of a few months. While I am sure that has happened a time or two in the history of the novel, it is by and large the exception. Vonnegut compares writing a book to inflating a blimp with a bicycle tire pump.
It takes a long ass time to create something out of thin air. I think this probably holds true for any creative endeavor, from music, to art, and so on—don’t fall for the cliche about inspiration. To write, or do anything well just show up, patiently, day after day, and work at it a little bit every day.
Boxers call it putting in the roadwork. Because you know what the secret to being Rocky is? You don’t win the boxing match during round 10 . . . you win it by training, and jogging up those museum stairs. Eye of the tiger baby!
The key is to put in that hour or two, every day. And the key to putting in that hour is to make it automatic. Make it something that happens immediately after something that you do every day like wake up, or eat dinner, or get off from work etc. The trick with forming any habit is that it seems like a struggle at first, but after a little bit of time it becomes automatic, and you do it without thinking about it, like brushing your teeth. And then before you know it:
That long awaited moment is finally here—I found a literary agent. I think you say you “landed an agent” like they are an airplane, why is this? It sounds like a fishing metaphor. Writing is filled with fishing metaphors. The agent said she is going to show the book to publishers and see if we can get some “bites”.
This is the moment that aspiring writer’s aspire for. Getting published is a heavily guarded fortress and agents are the gatekeepers that let you in. In my daydreams of the future, of “becoming a writer” landing an agent is usually about as far as I ever got — the rest of the daydream generally devolves into magically turning into Ernest Hemingway and being pursued by “literary paparazzi” while I hunt big game or fish of the coast of Cuba. Now I have caught up with the daydream and it is unsettling, like walking past where the sidewalk ends.
The awful truth I have come to realize is that landing an agent is just the begining. Ugh, and here I thought I was finished! No, the fact is I have just finally won permission to get published on a slightly larger scale, and to continue to write and put out books. Shit just got real. I have toiled away on different projects for the past few years and it was easy because in a way I wasn’t that worried about anybody reading them. I was my only audience. It’s easier to dance when you think no one is watching you. Suddenly there is a bit of pressure, and as (hopefully) my audience grows so does the pressure to write stuff that is entertaining, valuable, and worthy of being read by more than just myself.
But everybody knows that’s the wrong way to dance! What’s that saying dance like nobody’s watching?
I know,I know, the lesson here is obvious, but we often forget the obvious until we come face to face with it. I think most people have dreams, goals and aspirations that once they reach they realize are just the beginnings to further dreams and a longer journey. No sooner do you reach your destination than you realize it is time to set out for the next place! it is the classic hero’s journey that every one of us is on. And yet we need the illusion that the penultimate goal is just around the corner, or else it would be too exhausting. Every ending is just a beginning. Life can at times seem like battling the dragon Hydra, every goal we achieve is like chopping off 1 head, and two more grow back. But the truth is that life is like the dragon Ouroboros, and the wheel goes round and round.