As I warned earlier here and here, I’ve now spent the past two weeks reevaluating my online presence and, by extension, my writing life. So much of my time on the ’net has become a myriad of not-so-subtle forms of procrastination, taking me away from actually putting words down on the page. Add to that friend base, build that platform, follow that blog roll, comment/review/submit to contests that often have little or no relation to my writing interests.
I’ve also been reading Gail Sher’s introspective One Continuous Mistake: Four Noble Truths for Writers. Her words kept me grounded during the chaotic holidays which arouse such anxiety in me that I can’t write anything of substance. The focus of her slim volume is to guide readers to developing and nurturing a writing habit, something I had, briefly, during November’s NaNo sprint but lost again with the holidays. (digression: As a devoted wordsmith, I flounder searching for a better term for the hysterical upheaval which strikes from Halloween through New Year’s Day. For me at least, the period is certainly not holy or holly-jolly. But that is a musing for another time.)
Sher’s Four Noble Truths are plain enough:
1. Writers write.
2. Writing is a process.
3. You don’t know what your writing will be until the end of the process.
4. If writing is your practice, the only way to fail is to not write.
If writing is your practice, the only way to fail is to not write. I need that emblazoned over my desk, looping on a soundtrack, tattooed on my forearm. The only way to fail is to not write.
All the other mileposts, the gauges of a “success” that the writing community imposes on us all, are distractions from who I am. I am a writer. See #1 above: writers write. Not writers publish; writers blog to develop a platform; writers tweet; writers Facebook/G+/review others’ work on Amazon or Goodreads. Writers write. All those other things are distractions with limited usefulness.
Almost two years ago, after yet another of my sessions of despair over ever “making it” as a writer, my grad school faculty advisor asked, (and I paraphrase), “If no one ever saw anything you wrote, would you still write?” At the time, my “Yes” was grudging. Today it is stronger, yet it wavers with the emotions of life. Sher’s book strengthens my response.
I often quote Emerson’s “Life is a journey, not a destination,” coupled with Lao Tzu’s “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” I need to learn to see my writing in the same way. It’s a process, not a product. I think that’s why the continuous communal buzz to market/self-publish/sell-sell-sell has always bothered me. Far too much of what is rushed to market is ragged, immature, and worthy only of standing as a step on that journey. That’s not to discount its value; rather, to delineate between exercise and performance recital. Right now I’m on the rehearsal schedule for that future recital. I may never make it in the eyes of the publishing world, but I’ll grow and learn and write every step along the way.
Because I’m a writer, and writers write.