Many people want to become authors these days, to be published and make a living writing fiction. And many of them work hard on their books. Yet only relatively few writers bloom into authors in the true sense of the word — dedication doesn’t guarantee success. I sometimes wonder what makes the difference between those who work hard and succeed and those who work hard and don’t.
Is it a question of talent or discipline?
Are great writers born?
Does luck, whatever that is, play a part in it?
Has the fickle world of publishing become too commercial?
What do we do if we feel the urge to write but are always dissatisfied with our writing?
Quit or carry on?
A few years ago, when my urge to write stories grew out of my joy of reading books in English, I was resolved to write a great book that readers couldn’t ignore. I withdrew myself from society and, working part time as a freelance writer to earn a living, taught myself English and devoted myself to writing my book, which I hoped I would finish in a year or two.
A few years have passed since then, and my book is not yet finished. I have written several versions of it so far, but I know I can do better. I’m not even going to bother about sending it to publishers until I can make it as best I can. Now I take my time with it.
It took me a while to understand that writing without experience is like soup without salt. Not quite tasty. And with this realization, I understood that a story, like a child, cannot be forced to grow. It needs time to develop, and it needs mistakes to learn from them life.
Did you know that J.D. Salinger worked on The Catcher in the Rye on and off for about ten years?
I feel that these days, many of the people who want to become authors pressure themselves — like I did — to write something good, something that sells, and to do it fast. Sheer talent helps some pull it off, but we shouldn’t forget that one of the key ingredients of most great books is the author’s personal story, his or her experience and acquired perspective. If all of us sit behind our desks and live normal lives, can we hope to write great books? Can we rely only on our imagination?
For my part, I write every day – it’s the first thing I do in the morning – even on those days when I’d rather linger in bed. But I no longer force myself to write all day, like I used to do. I take things easy, making writing my foremost pursuit, but leaving enough room in my life for other people, for intimacy, for nature, for cooking.
It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around. — Stephen King
Most of us writers are by our nature solitary and prefer the quietness of a locked room. But in our day and age, when technology keeps us so connected and enables us to work from home and buy things online and have them delivered to our door, there may be the risk of becoming a little too withdrawn. That can put unnecessary pressure on us. And it can leave us yearning at night, before we go to bed, for something more than what we already have, for something more than the freedom to do what we most enjoy.
Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash. ― Leonard Cohen
If you want to write a novel, I urge you not to make the mistake I made. Write every day, but don’t put your life on hold, don’t turn your back on the many opportunities that life offers you. Cherish writing as a way of life, with all its ups and downs. And don’t be afraid to take your passion out there into the world. If it’s a true passion, you won’t lose it — the world will only make it burn fiercer; if it’s not, you will discover out there another passion, perhaps more rewarding for you, that is worth pursuing. Even if something else comes between writing and you, you’ll always have writing to go back to when life gets tough. The blank page will always await you, no matter who you are, no matter what your day job is. Don’t write to live; live to write.