I took last weekend off from the blog for no reason other than the fact that I had an extremely full week of having fun. That kind of admission would probably get me fired from any other job, but not from what my friend, Mike Orenduff, would call the REAL job.
I was interviewed by the Alamogordo Daily News on Saturday by a young journalist who confessed to being an aspiring novelist herself. Naturally, I got the question all published novelists get asked: What advice would you give an aspiring young writer? And it's the answer all published novelists give: Write.
I don't know if she was disappointed by my response or not. Perhaps she thought it's what we published novelists are supposed to tell young writers and that we keep the "real" secret of writing to ourselves. Apparently, telling young writers that the secret to getting published is to keep writing sounds too much like work.
Well, the truth is this: Writing IS work!
It doesn't matter if your writing is absolutely brilliant and awe-inspiring or if it's boring and clichéd. Trust me, it's hard work to just get your words down on paper. It's actually easier to take your boring and clichéd first draft and edit it to awe-inspiring brilliance. It really is. You have something to work with. Staring at a blank page or screen is probably the most exciting and most terrifying thing a writer has to face. The blank page has so much potential, but as Linus of the "Peanuts" comic strip once said, "There is no bigger burden than a great potential." Carrying that blank page around can become quite a chore... a chore that you don't know how to do. But put a few words down and suddenly, you have a focus of sorts. You can see, even dimly, the direction you're supposed to take... or at the very least, a path. Whether it leads to where you want to go, or it leads to another path that is actually the one you want to take, matters little. You might be at a crossroads with no sign to give you direction, but you've made a decision, committed to a path and now you're on your way... even if you're not sure just where it is you're going.
The blank page is the crossroad and the first word you put down is the first step in any direction. And once you get going, you must keep going. Every day. One word, one page at a time. All roads lead somewhere but sitting in place gets you nowhere... except run over by the other writers/travelers who are following the road to its conclusion.
Nothing is more encouraging to a writer than to actually finish. Whether it's a novel, short story, article, whatever, finishing it is what gives you the assurance that you CAN do the job, even if it requires a lot of editing, or even if it goes no where but to the circular file. Finishing writing a manuscript was the biggest step I ever took on the road to becoming a published author. I really have no idea where that manuscript is now and I probably wouldn't look at it if I did. But I know I finished it and I knew I could do it again--only better the next time. And the next.
But the hard truth is this: Writers write. Every day. It's what makes them a writer. It's a lot like being a mother; you can't miss a day of caring for your children just because it's hard and you're not sure you're doing it right or if you have another job. It must be done, so you do it.
For a writer, writing is the REAL job.