When I was in college—many, many, many years ago–I was on fire to become a writer. Then I graduated, got married and started looking for a job. I had in my mind that someday, someday SOON, I would become a writer. And I would be really good.
Four years later, I was still waiting for the writing thing to happen. I still believed that I would be really good someday, but I had no evidence one way or the other because I didn’t write. Real life happened.
And then it hit me: I wouldn’t become a writer until I actually wrote something. Hello! It sounds simple enough, but the reality of leaving school and starting out in the Real World is that the Real World doesn’t owe you anything. If you want to sit on your sofa and watch cartoons for the rest of your life, no one cares, except the guy who comes to collect your rent and your power bill. And even they don’t care as long as they get paid.
Writing is important to me. And my wife and children know it is a part of my psyche. But if I decided I would never write another word, they would worry about me a bit, but probably wouldn’t miss my writing that much. I am the only person who really cares if I write or not.
So if there is no one pushing me to write, how do I motivate myself to get writing? Any way I can. Frankly, I use guilt a lot to motivate myself. I have two voices in my head: the one who wants to play all day, and the disciplinarian who measures value based on accomplishment. The Fun Me wants to sit around and watch Who’s Line Is It Anyway all day, but the Disciplinarian Me says, you can watch a little, but then it is back to work. There is a lot of arguing that goes back and forth, and somedays the Fun Me wins, but most of the time the Disciplinarian wins. It’s what works.
I’ve been teaching college for 16 years now, and had a handful of really promising writing students come through my classes and our Creative Writing club, the Rough Writers. Many of them leave college like a ball of fire, ready to take on the world. And then they meet reality: the fact that the rent has to be paid, the dog has to be fed, and work requires you to be up and dressed five mornings a week. And for a writer, the biggest reality is that no one cares whether you write or not. Only you care.
So how do you get words on paper if there’s no one to push you? Any way you can. You stumble your way through your life, learn what works and what doesn’t and get those words on paper. Often it won’t be fun, it will be ugly, but it is who you are.
You’re a writer. And a writer writes.
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And now, for something totally different….Word has apparently gotten out, and my summer has been filled with writers sending me their manuscripts for me to critique. I am more than happy to read, critique and review other people’s work, especially indie writers, but while that is happening, my own writing time is suffering.
And then I heard of a website that helps writers with that very thing. It’s called LegendFire.com, and it is built around the idea of writers critiquing the work of other writers. So if you are looking to help someone else, or need someone to look at your work, try it out. Check it out and look me up while you are there.