Friday, 11 November 2011

New beginnings often require new directions

I am a cliché, wrapped in questions, framed by an enigma. 

Here I sit in my local Starbucks, hugging my paper cup, enjoying its warmth.   It’s mid-afternoon.  My white laptop open and Microsoft Word staring blankly at me, the thin black cursor tauntingly flashing.  Looking around I see at least 3 other people doing the exact same thing.  I am positive that this scene is being played out in countless locations around the globe.  Lowly, liberal arts grads desperately pecking away at what I can assume is the great passion of their life.  Consumed by their desire and a narcissistic drive, convinced that their words are the balm that will cure at least some of the world’s ills.  Not only must we write, write, write but that what we write has worth and must be consumed by the public.  Blogspot and WordPress, the enablers that continue to provide the needed opportunity to be heard and in so give the perceived gift of legitimacy to all that they do.

With so many writers writing, what are the chances that anything I write will see the light of day amongst the general public?  There are those who have studied and practiced this craft for years who still struggle to be published and a great many more who have never made a dime at it.  Why then, should I try?

I came across an excellent video that gave me pause for thought.  It is about a gentleman with a MFA in fiction writing who, upon not being able to sell his first manuscript, quit for 3 months and found a passion for knife making. 


I can relate to him.  Here I am just finishing my MEd and I can’t find work teaching leaving me to try writing.  But if he couldn’t do it, how can I?

Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers: The Story of Success, postulates that it takes 10,000 hours of work to achieve success.  This is mentioned in the above video.  That works out to 4.8 years of 40 hour weeks, do I have that much time available to me?

The answers to my questions are simple but contradictory.  Yes, I should try this writing thing because like so many I have stories that I want to tell, if only to myself.  No, I don’t have 10,000 hours readily available to me to achieve success.  As a stay-at-home parent I have responsibilities that take up a measure of my time and once the children are home from school I am otherwise engaged.   My evenings are spent with my wife, as this is a relationship I will not sacrifice for my writing.  The only time available then is a few hours each day while the kids are at school and my household duties completed for the day.   But that is not a reason to give up.

So I am left tilting at windmills while my inner Sancho Panza records this blog.  But in spite of my madness I have a plan.

So here it is:
1.       Try to write daily to build a habit.  So far I have been moderately successful over the last week, writing at least a couple of hours 4 of the last 5 days.  I hope that as the habit builds so too will my drive to write.  In a perfect world I hope to be writing at least 6 hours a day.
2.       Write a few short stories.  While I still am going to write my novel I feel I need to hone my craft a little more.  There are a few short story ideas that I have had stewing around my head the last couple of years and I feel I need to get them out.  In doing so I hope to improve my writing skills and hey, maybe I could even sell one … maybe.
3.       Think positively.   It is far, far too easy for me to get caught up in negative thoughts about what I am doing.   This is not even remotely beneficial to what I am trying to do.

And so continues the journey.  I don’t know what I’m doing and I have decided to take a small detour towards short stories but, what the hell, I am at least headed somewhere.

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