[Originally posted on my former blog, Michael Runs the Gamut]
I’ve been writing all my life — plays, poetry, short stories, work-related writing, even a few stabs at novels — often with the thought of being published or produced, but I didn’t fully commit to it until five or six years ago. My excuse was always that “real life” got in the way. Earning a living trumped creativity. So, when I read accounts of writers who went through even tougher times than I did, and still managed to write (and get published), I wondered if I was ever really cut out for authorship.
I’m currently re-reading (for the third or fourth time) Stephen King’s biographical book, On Writing, and I came across a passage that resonated with my own situation. He had been finding time to write in between shifts at a local laundry, and was selling a few short pieces, but money was tight. Then he got a job teaching English at a nearby school. The pay was $6,400 a year, which seemed like a lot to him at the time. He said, though, that for the first time the process of writing became difficult. Here’s a brief quote.
“The problem was the teaching. I like my coworkers and loved the kids — even the Beavis and Butt-Head types…could be interesting — but by most Friday afternoons I felt as if I’d spent the week with jumper cables clamped to my brain.”
I could relate to that, after twenty-three years of teaching, and another seven years running educational outreach programs in academia, I knew how exhausted the body, mind and spirit can become after teaching all day, and grading papers and preparing lessons at night. Still, Stevie King managed (with a great deal of support from Tabitha, his wife) to break through and sell Carrie, which was the beginning for him.
Between 2002 and today, I made serious and not-so-serious attempts to write novels, and I now have three very good (I think) candidates for publication) in process right now. One is far enough along that I may be ready to send it out in a few months, another is in the nearly-complete first draft stage, and I’ve written over 100,000 words on another that might become part of a six or seven book series (it’s too early to tell).
[January 2021 Note: The “three candidates” at that time would have been, If a Butterfly, The Jagged Man, and The Lives of Franklin Roosevelt Jones. Jagged Man is the only one of those works currently in publication. Butterfly was bumped so I could finish my non-fiction, Aggravated, which was published in December 2020; Butterfly is next in the queue; and Roosevelt Jones will take a lot more work. It’s massive. Details on all of those can be found in other areas of the website.]
What happened to generate all the extra output? I don’t know. Retiring may have helped. I still have other things happening in my life which are distractions (some good, some bad), but I can choose when and how to deal with those much more easily than I could while I was teaching. I think I’m better informed about the business of writing than I was before (more realistic about the challenges), and I’m writing for myself. I’m (mostly) happy with the quality of my writing (but continuing to improve).
The journey is as important as the result. Publication will be a happy bonus.
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