My journey to digital self-publication is far from original but it almost didn’t occur due to an almost fatal (to my career) ability to procrastinate.
I’d wanted to “be a writer” for almost as long as I can remember, but the proof is in the pudding (to daisy-chain two clichés together). For years, I managed to write a paltry short story or two a year. I’d toss them in the mail with little market research or editorial diligence, then wallow in self-pity when the rejection slips came back. The wallowing was made worse by my firm belief that I, indeed, had “it” and just needed to be “discovered” by a Big Six editor (before I knew what that was) while pausing at a rest-stop on I-95 or by chatting up a NYT best-selling author as I stood in the lunch line at Subway.
And I didn’t bother bolstering whatever natural talent I had with a scrap of education or self-edification. I figured I could always get my MFA (ha!), but why bother? Hemingway hadn’t gone to school for writing, Melville barely left his farm after returning from the sea, Bukowski was a postman for Christ’s sake. I’d eventually get around to the act of writing…and when I did, watch the hell out world, because life would never be the same. They’d make Hallmark calendars centered around the day I published my novel. Animals would come up to me in the forest to sit on my lap and eat out of my hand. Weather patterns would form around my house as the creative power of my brain caused a micro-climate to form in my neighborhood.
Needless to say, actually sitting down and writing something didn’t figure into this equation. Since it was understood that you had to write to be a writer, I glossed over that small fact and thought a lot more about hypothetical acceptance speeches and book signings than I ever did about creating anything. Writers call this irony.
By the time I woke up (mmm…around 30?) I realized I not only had to start writing, I had to start writing–and learning–now. I had serious ground to make up. There were writers my age who had finished two or three novels in college…and considered them “drawer novels”, not fit for anything except propping up a table. And writing had to begin with learning and re-learning all those things I’d ignored or given short shrift to for years: plot, character, pacing, theme, rhythm, voice, point-of-view, continuity.
Long story short, for the past ten or twelve years I’ve been applying myself as much to learning the craft as working towards publication (of any sort). It’s been frustrating watching others catch success along the way while I’m re-reading Elements of Style, but I’m not going to write anything I can’t stand behind and that’s going to take patience and a dedication to the craft.
There are only two important rules in this game: are you writing? And, is what you’ve written the best it could possibly be? The second rule implies immersing yourself in the creative art of writing. But the first requires the act itself.
If you’re not actually writing, you’re not a writer. Please don’t make my mistake. Get in your saddle and ride…now.