If you crammed a bunch of authors into a room together, it might be hard to see the similarities. We range from shy and quiet to loud and boisterous, from young to old, and from ridiculously simple-minded to brilliantly complex. There are more possible differences between individual authors than there might be in any other field, which is exactly what literature needs. But we’re not here to talk about our differences; we’re here to talk about an author’s life, and how it is similar to other authors’ lives. Without certain lifestyle choices, it is not possible to be an author.
The most obvious thing is time spent writing. I’ve heard some people say that they can’t stand to be alone, and I suppose a few of those people could be authors. One of the ways that I have surprised myself is being able to write no matter what is going on around me. I’ve written in busy airports, in rooms full of conversation, and on our porch while our neighbor let the whole block know how bad their taste in music was. Those aren’t ideal circumstances to write in for me, but I can do it.
Ideally, I like total silence and complete aloneness. It could be argued that I am never alone, with all these characters that live in my head; but by all outward appearances, under perfect conditions, I look like I’m alone when I write. No music, no white noise…just me and the company Appletop. I don’t get distracted by all of the portals on that device, and I’m always surprised to hear that some other authors do. I spend time on social media, because it’s a great way to reach and interact with readers; but I don’t find it more interesting than the story I’m working on, or more compelling in any way. The portals in my head show me way more interesting stories than the electronic portals that lead to those sites, so I don’t consider them distractions.
Even if an author writes in a busy coffee shop every day, as some like to do, they still need to be able to focus on what they’re writing. They also have to spend all that time doing the actual writing. Even if that were the only thing all authors share, it’s a big one. We each have our own way of doing things; but in the end, there is no way to avoid the writing itself. That time spent is special time, time that changes you; and I think it should be treated as sacred time. I don’t just schedule writing each day; I look for other times that I can write, and try to never miss an opportunity to crack open the Appletop for a few minutes. There are very few things I love like I love writing, and those are other things I make sure to put my whole self into. I may not share some authors’ same avoidance techniques; but I do have my own, as well as my own ways of dealing with them. We both write, though; that’s a guarantee.
Just a few years ago, holding a copy of my first published book in my hand was still a dream for me. Reading books on writing and publishing revealed some strange things. A lot of books on writing books like to point out that the word ‘author’ has roots in the word ‘authority’. Some even try to appeal to a writer’s desire to be seen as that authority. I say that the two words are as similar as ‘bull’ and ‘bullshit’, and that the correlation is aptly described by their common meaning. The author who writes books to honestly share the lessons they have learned doesn’t see themselves as an authority on anything. A constant state of growth is the only way for an author like that to be happy and fulfilled, and they have no desire to be seen as complete or done with learning. I am that kind of author, and I would rather be seen as an imaginative inner adventurer than any kind of authority on anything. It’s definitely how I see myself.
If you consider yourself an authority on something, and others agree, you should definitely write at least one book on that one thing. Then you can be an author and an authority. In many cases, one props up the other; and it only makes sense that one should go with the other. If you’re an authority on something, and writing a book about it interests you. I am blessed to have ‘A Good Day Job’, and I could definitely write a comprehensive guide to central office and headend equipment installation if I wanted to. I don’t want to, though; I am an author, not an authority.
This blog series will be compiled into my first book that might make it look like I am trying to find some authoritative niche. Don’t be fooled; I’m learning about being an author, and sharing what I have learned. The only thing I claim to be an authority on in the writing world is being a dedicated amateur committed to sharing the lessons I am learning in this world. As I move into what others might consider a more professional realm, I look forward instead of back. I can clearly see that the learning goes on forever, and that I am far more comfortable positioning myself as a perpetual student who shares than a teacher who knows.
One thing I do know is that my life as an author is a lot different than my life as an aspiring author. My books are the best of what I have to offer the world, and people are finally reading them. They couldn’t back when all these characters and stories lived only in my head, and it took a lot of work to get from one side of that room to the other. Now everything in my life has something to do with my books, and it’s hard for me to imagine it any other way. Actually, that’s not true; I can imagine it, I just can’t imagine accepting it. Most of the moments my face isn’t in the Appletop are spent considering or researching ways to make my books an even bigger part of my life, and things have continually moved in that direction for a couple of years now.
It might be a completely different life than other authors live, but that isn’t really the point of any of this. The point is that we need to gravitate toward the thing that feeds our soul when we feel it pulling on us. We need to let it draw us in like nothing else ever has, and trust that the path leads eventually to our best selves. We need to find the things that make us most happy and do them a lot if we want to be happy. It sounds simple, but I know from experience that it’s easy to fall into the perspective that says ‘life is what happens while we’re making other plans’. Our passion is there to pull us out of that, and into a kind of happiness that gives back directly in proportion to what we put in. First we find that passion, then we pursue it with all we have.
For me, it’s an author’s life.