I love to talk about how good writers have it these days. We’re super lucky in so many ways, simply to have the calling that we do. Some authors may feel like they chose to write books; many of us feel that writing chose us, or that there was no choice. There’s a part of us that has to write, to get those stories or ideas out there in the best way we can, and not stop no matter how many times we type ‘The End’. It’s nice to realize that the thing that chose you has so much flexibility and longevity built into it, and that those things are getting better every day.
Did you ever dream of being an athlete? I didn’t. I knew back then what they’re finally telling us now: the most rewarding sports are the most dangerous, and success still means minimal brain damage and constant pain for the long period of your life where you can no longer compete with others. One season of football in junior high taught me that smacking into someone or something full speed gave me headaches and an inability to focus. That’s American football, by the way. There was no organized futbal (uh, soccer?) going on in high school when I was a kid, and even those guys retire awful young; so I withdrew back into drawing and reading. Like public school programming, I realized pretty early on that eager participation would result in the loss of some precious part of me that I would need later, so I withdrew for the most part from both.
Books got me through all that, like they did pretty much everything else. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t dream of being an author, or admire how much work went into writing a good book. Even now, it’s a great way to get me all choked up. Just remind me, quietly, sometime: “Hey Jay, you’re an author. You’ve published several books, and there are folks out there that have really enjoyed reading them.”
Is that simple, or silly? Well, I guess that means I’m both. Honestly, I’m not too picky about how and when gratitude rears its gorgeous head; I’m just happy when it does.
Authors often write into their eighties and nineties, and they are as sharp as ever when they do. It’s been pointed out that Hunter S. Thompson lived at least three hundred years, even if he did it in way less time than others might; and he was writing right up until the end. In fact, studies show that the greatest way to prevent senility is to keep learning. How convenient; that’s what is required of today’s writer, too! You can bet that it will be equally important for tomorrow’s writer as well, when all the folks rushing towards old age today find that they have arrived.
For a minute, I was a little bummed that I seemed so late in getting started. Then I realized that I have a lot of things now that I didn’t as a young man, and I was relieved that I had waited. The timing wasn’t right until I could predictably publish two to five books a year minimum indefinitely, and it certainly wasn’t right until I knew that and other such basics. I’m grateful to have learned so much in the last couple years, even if so many of those lessons were lessons in humility. With more than five books published, it’s a great place to properly feel like I’m just getting started.
It’s also a great place to make predictions from. Last year was the first year I did it, publishing two books in one year. That was the minimum minimum, though; and I knew it. The entire month of December 2015 was dedicated to familiarizing myself with some time-saving devices recommended by other accomplished authors, and this year has been about brightening up that long future of writing that I see shaping up ahead of me. It almost doesn’t matter what response I get from getting my legacy out there at last; a big part of doing it is the doing it itself. At last, I have a way to do that that both satisfies the guidelines of a fickle market and doesn’t depend on it at the same time. The best way I have found to handle any task or profession is to consistently do more than is expected of me; I am finally at that place as an author.
From here on out, it’s all about making sure I keep the skills and the schedule and the level of commitment that I’ve garnered while working to refine all three even further. The one thing I don’t have to worry about is running out of ideas: there are thirty books on a shelf in my mind, that keep getting pushed back further as new ideas take shape. Of course, that’s not counting the ideas I have for next year; I see those as partially completed, and completely scheduled out. Naturally, next year’s schedule consists of more books than this year’s does as well…and the only way I can fulfill that schedule is if I keep doing what I have been doing up till now…keep learning, stay humble, and look constantly for new ways to get more done.
You know, like anyone serious about following their dream would do.
Since there’s no expiration date on when an author can write a great book, there’s no need to plan any far-off retirement date; in fact, it’s one of those few careers that keep you sharp rather than grind away at your soul. Talk about nothing but good reasons to be in it for the long haul. Any thought of quitting writing is as silly as giving thought to quitting breathing…I mean, they’re both so good for you!
Of course, any career needs a planned trajectory. So do many stories. We’ll talk about that next week, in a post called ‘The Outline’.
Thanks for reading!