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Category: Inspiration & Quotations

It Doesn’t Matter How Long It Takes, If You’re Working

Chuck Wendig is my new favorite Twitter account to follow. I have learned that every link is worth the click-through and every Tweet is a gem in itself. For example:

Screen Shot 2015-07-20 at 6.17.57 PMSometimes I lament that I’m approaching two years of work on my first novel and am six months into my second novel. I see people online churning them out in a couple months. People who are selling these books in droves. I read about famous authors who’ve published four dozen novels in their lives. And I’m thinking, “Wow, I’ve got one and a half that nobody but my family has read so far. What the heck am I doing with my time?”

Well, actually, I can tell you the answer to that. In 2011, I moved from Los Angeles to Oregon with the idea that I could focus more on my writing. Since then, I’ve been:

  • Working full-time for a living as a writer and editor
  • Writing every single day in one form or another – copy writing, ghostwriting, fiction writing, article writing
  • Editing other writers five out of seven days per week
  • Taking courses non-stop through local writing institutes like The Attic, as well as UCLA Writers’ Program, MediaBistro, LitReactor, and more
  • Doing freelance work as a ghostwriter and proofreader
  • Reading craft book after craft book on fiction writing
  • Reading book after book on grammar and the English language
  • Reading article after blog post after article on how to write for the Internet, for novels, for short stories, for copy, and for just about anything else you can imagine
  • Reading, reading, reading, all day long
  • Teaching other people to write (this one is big)

So yeah, I’ve got one “finished” novel that I’m now querying the bejeebus out of (ask me about South Central if you’re an agent reading this – thank you!) and half of a second novel I have half an inkling I might actually be able to sell. And yeah, a whole lot of other people have like half a million novels to their name.

But most people don’t.

Most people don’t have one.

But really, that’s kind of a snotty way to think (but let’s not kid – it does make a person feel better). Really all that matters is that I said I would write a novel and I did.

Now I’m saying I’m going to finish this second one, and I will. And I already have an idea for number three. So even if every one takes me three years from beginning to end, I’ll have spent nine years writing three more novels than 99.9% of the people I know.

And, most importantly, I’ll have spent nine years doing what I love, getting better at what I love, and sharing what I love in some form or another. That is hardly a description of wasted years.

So what are you working toward? How long have you been doing it and what are you doing to keep moving forward? Click “continue reading” to post your comments.

The Work Is the Thing

Don’t make stuff because you want to make money—it will never make you enough money. And don’t make stuff because you want to get famous—because you will never feel famous enough. Make gifts for people—and work hard on making those gifts in the hope that those people will notice and like the gifts.

Maybe they will notice how hard you worked, and maybe they won’t—and if they don’t notice, I know it’s frustrating. But, ultimately, that doesn’t change anything—because your responsibility is not to the people you’re making the gift for, but to the gift itself.

– John Green

The work is the thing. If you do not enjoy it, if you would not enjoy it if it never became something “more,” then you might be happier if you didn’t do the work at all.

You might be happier not writing. You might be happier doing something else, giving up, and letting go. You might not really want to write. Or rather, you might want to write, but you haven’t the need.

My Greatest Fear as a Writer

I’m going to share with you my greatest fear as a writer:

That I am not good enough.

My fear is that I am not good enough to tell my own story. That I can’t live up to the story inside me. That I’m not a good enough storyteller to get it right, to get you to see what I see. To do justice to the thing the muse has gifted me with.

But I take heart in the fact that I am not alone in this. I am a story structure junkie. I love reading books about story structure. But from time to time, I prefer to read books about an author’s experience of writing. Books like Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, Stephen King’ s On Writing, or Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones.

And the theme of inadequacy runs deep in all these books. Not that they truly think themselves incapable or inadequate, but even the most successful writers have moments of doubt. Moments of thinking this isn’t the right gig for them or that they’re just faking their way through and no one has noticed yet.

But these moments aren’t reality. Check this out:

We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”

—Ernest Hemingway

Who hasn’t studied Hemingway in everything from high school literature class to college-level writing courses? And even he says, “we are all apprentices.” That includes himself.

What Joyce Carol Oates Teaches on Twitter

Joyce Carol Oates is one of the most celebrated, successful, and prolific authors of our time. But did you know she is also prolific on Twitter? Yes, that’s right, JCO is all over Twitter and makes a regular habit of instigating controversy there, as well. Over dinosaur hunting, no less.

But a couple years back, she went on a tweeting spree intended to share her advice on writing. As both an esteemed author and teacher, she is someone worth listening to. And can you really resist the easily readable nature of tweets? They apply to all types of writing, no matter your medium, genre, style, or intentions.

Here are ten tips on writing from Joyce Carol Oates via Twitter:


Neil Gaiman’s Advice: Make Good Art

If there are any comic book fans among you, then you know the name Neil Gaiman. And if you spend much time on the Internet you may have already encountered this video and not wanted to commit twenty minutes to watching.

If you consider yourself a creator, an entrepreneur, a writer, or an artist, then you need to sit yourself down and watch this video. It is a commencement speech given by Neil Gaiman and it gets at the core of what it means to live the life of an artist, and truly, if we are all living as fulfilled human beings, then our lives are artwork.

Gaiman, Neil (2007)” by pinguino k from North Hollywood, USA – Neil Gaiman. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Writing Tips From George Orwell

The following are excerpted from “Politics and the English Language” by George Orwell:

A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus:

  1. What am I trying to say?
  2. What words will express it?
  3. What image or idiom will make it clearer?
  4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?

And he will probably ask himself two more:

  1. Could I put it more shortly?
  2. Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?

One can often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phrase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
Copyright 2015 Hunt Gather Brew