Your Most Valuable Asset

As you probably know, I’ve committed to running an indie publishing empire since the beginning of 2012. So far, no one is getting rich, but as they say, it’s all a matter of time.

And that’s the rub. I need time to write all those gorgeous books. I need even more time to edit and format them. And then there are the countless hours necessary to make my name and my product’s name known via social networks like Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads. This is all in addition to having a day job as a professor/webmaster/magazine editor, playing the role of a loving husband and father, and keeping up with my reading so that I will have new ideas.

There’s only 24 hours in a day. God planned it that way, for some reason. What you do with those 24 hours is up to you. I hear stories of ambitious novelists who lock themselves away in the garret of their rickety old house, spending hours, days and even years refining their craft. Jack London did that. He was obsessive, just as most of us are. And in the end, it paid off for him. But just because you become obsessive, forsaking all else–life, health, relationships–there’s no guarantee that you will become the next Jack London.

Writing takes time. It’s a major commitment for the rest of your life. But on the other hand, as the sign in my office says, Don’t spend so much time making a living that you forget how to live. It’s a balancing act, and it’s a decision that each of us has to make. Will you have a life beyond writing? Do you want one?

The secret is in holding onto those things that are still important to you (family? paying your bills? your belief in God?), while letting go of those things that aren’t that necessary and yet creep into your life and take it over (TV? computer games? sleeping in?). As my mentor and friend Arthur Milward used to say, “You can always tell where a successful writer lives. It’s the house whose lawn hasn’t been mowed.”

I’ve talked before about the writer’s commitment of a million words in order to master their craft. According to another mentor, Julianna Baggott, that translates to 10,000 hours, or roughly writing eight hours a day five days a week for five years. Since I have been writing for 40 years, but didn’t do it eight hours a day every work day, it took me longer, but I got there somewhere along the line. But then comes the constant drive to write more once you have the skill down. And so it goes….

The bottom line is to look at writing like being in graduate school. It’s not just a “thing” that you do. It’s a lifestyle commitment. But at the same time, because it is a life-long commitment, you have to find some balance.

Something has to give. Just make sure the things that give aren’t important to you.