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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Cold, Hard Truth..... this:  people have been very kind and complimented me on how early I get up every morning and write.  They remark on my consistency and dedication, tell me how much they admire that, and because of this, I'm bound to be a success someday.  That sounds all nice and everything, but the cold hard truth is this:

That's not necessarily true.

At all.

Because I'm guaranteed nothing in the publishing business, am I?  Getting up every day at 3 AM doesn't guarantee that my writing career will continue, or improve.  It doesn't guarantee that I'll get better, even.  It doesn't guarantee anything except the following things:

1. that I'll write a lot of words in a year
2. that I'll have done my very best

Not being pessimistic or cynical, here, just trying to have an adequate grasp of the facts.  See, even though every writer should search out their favorite writer and read their biographies or memories on writing, there's a real danger of filling our heads with their stories, assuming that if we suffer and write and persevere like they did, then we, too, can succeed and be just like them.

And that, of course, is patently false.  

See, I'm the sorta person that believes in two things:

1. some things are either meant to be, or they aren't
2. even though writers can learn and improve and become better, I do - even though this may be an unpopular belief - think it's a gift.  Some people "have it".  Others don't.

I draw my beliefs concerning #2 from my basketball career.  Once upon a time, I loved basketball more than anything else. Lived, ate, drank, breathed, slept with basketball. And I worked hard, every single day.  And I did enjoy moderate success, fulfilling enough in it's own way at the Junior College and DIII level.

But, no matter how hard I worked, there were two things I'd never get around:

1. I was only 6'3
2. I was kinda slow, couldn't really jump, and was only an average shooter

So it's the same with writing.  I've been doing this early morning thing for 5-6 years, and I plan on continuing it for the foreseeable future.  And I've made some progress, done a few things.  But the cold hard fact of the matter is this: I could very well never see anything published, ever again.  And maybe I'm only an average writer and storyteller, and that's all I'll ever be.

And I've faced that fact.

Accepted it.

And I'm still going to get up and write, every day.  For now.  Will there be a time when I'll have to decide to continue or not? Really, seriously contemplate hanging it up? Possibly.

But not anytime soon. 


  1. You've touched on a couple themes here that have always interested me, Kevin. And I'm with you 98% of the way...

    1) Agree 100% that there are *no* guarantees of anything. Hard effort is a necessary, but not sufficient, part of the equation. Without it, you're very unlikely to succeed (whatever that means to you, individually). But hard work is only a means of getting your foot in the door. It's your entry ticket. From that point, a multitude of other variables take over...some within your control, some not.

    2) The only part of your post I have to take exception to is this: "So it's the same with writing." I would argue that it's *not* the same at all. In athletics, skill mastery is closely tied to genetic advantages. I may love NFL football, but at 140lbs, I'm never gonna get a job playing, no matter how many hours I put in. Most human endeavors don't depend on raw physical attributes to that degree, however. People have learned to play guitar with their feet, paint by holding a brush in their mouth, play chess despite blindness, etc. And they can master these skills at very high levels. Skill mastery, in most arenas, is about Time + Concentrated Practice, because most skills are reliant on the brain, not the body.

    As you correctly imply, though, there are two different topics in play, here: Mastery, verses Success. Acquiring some level of Mastery is *not* always equivalent with Success (financial or otherwise).

    Two books on the subject I would recommend to any writer: "Talent is Overrated" by Geoffrey Colvin, and "The Talent Code" by Daniel Coyle. Both are very readable explanations of the research into this question of what we call "giftedness."

  2. Yeah, #2 is something I've not quite settled on myself, really. Think it's probably more a mesh of several things than just one thing.

    And I certainly don't think of writers as "superior", having something others just can't have - because I count myself in the pretty inferior category - but what I'm probably guilty of is reading work of people whom I adore, and thinking to myself: "No matter HOW many hours I put in, I'll never be able to write like that."

    BUT, I'm also probably doing what I do with my Dad and I all the time - I look at him, and how he's able to fix just about anything, has built small barns by himself by HAND, and try to measure myself against that standard and fall short every time. Of course, it's not a fair comparison - he's got, like, what: 30 years experience on me?

    Which I suppose highlights again the need for young writers to read ESPECIALLY the work of masters, because how else to judge our failings bit by holding ourselves up against those who HAVE mastered the craft...

    Thanks for posting!