Silk’s Post #89 — I think there’s a point in the life of every writer when this question must be answered: what am I willing to sacrifice for my writing?
I’m at that point.
Why is this moment inevitable? Because the muse is a demanding boss. Because becoming a really good writer, and becoming a published writer (though two entirely different things) require that writing be a writer’s top priority.
Because writing takes work, and work takes time.
“Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” — Stephen King
“I know you’ve heard it a thousand times before. But it’s true – hard work pays off. If you want to be good, you have to practice, practice, practice. If you don’t love something, then don’t do it.” — Ray Bradbury
“I don’t know much about creative writing programs. But they’re not telling the truth if they don’t teach, one, that writing is hard work, and, two, that you have to give up a great deal of life, your personal life, to be a writer.” — Doris Lessing
Ah! There’s the rub.
“Writing” and “being a writer” are not the same thing. Being a writer is a calling, not a hobby. And in our age of seemingly endless possibilities, it’s difficult for us not to want to check the “all of the above” box on our menu of life choices. How else could you explain the mind boggling statistic I cited in my last post: that over 80 percent of Americans would like to be an author?
But how many of them would put this desire above all (or at least most) others? How many would actually give up something else they desire to do – or more likely many things dear to them – to achieve that goal?
And am I one of those?
“The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.” — John Steinbeck
“I hold my inventive capacity on the stern condition that it must master my whole life, often have complete possession of me, make its own demands on me, and sometimes for months together put everything else away from me … Whoever is devoted to an Art must be content to deliver himself wholly up to it and to find his recompense in it.” — Charles Dickens
“There’s no point in fooling with [writing] unless you have to – unless you have a need to do it … A publisher friend of mine says that most writers are not real writers, they are just people who ‘want to have written.’ Real writers are those who want to write, need to write, have to write.” — Robert Penn Warren
Serious stuff, eh?
Maybe, like me, you’ve come to a kind of commitment watershed at some point in your writing life. In my heart of hearts, I’m a committed writer. But it’s time to admit that this is not truly reflected in my sustained commitment of time and effort. I give it all I can … without having to give up other things that are also important to me. And that’s not really enough. In fact, not nearly enough.
For me, the time has come to go beyond dabbling. To put up or shut up. I’ve known for a long time it was going to come to this. If I seriously want to be a real writer, I will need to make real sacrifices to feed my passion and inhabit my craft.
And what’s the reward for such sacrifice?
The greats who have gone before us down this road have sent back these eyewitness reports to inspire us who follow them …
“Putting a book together is interesting and exhilarating. It is sufficiently difficult and complex that it engages all your intelligence. It is life at its most free.” — Annie Dillard
“Who am I and why was I born and what is it all for? Who are these others and what have they to do with me and what have I to do with them? To answer these questions is to seek the essentials of some sort of philosophy of life. And to answer them in one way or another is the meaning of literature. Whenever a book, through the direct voice of poetry or through the voices of characters in a novel, recognizes these fundamental questions of the human heart, that book is read and lives on and on.” — Pearl. S. Buck
“Writing is an affair of yearning for great voyages and hauling on frayed ropes.” — Israel Shenker
“I write to find out what I’m talking about.” — Edward Albee
“The aim, if reached or not, makes great the life;
Try to be Shakespeare, leave the rest to fate.” — Robert Browning