They say that writing is an old man’s game. Sure, we exalt those wunderkinds who break in early or fast and jump straight to the head of the class, but by and large the old men get the jobs and the accolades. It takes a lot of life to become a great writer. Same reason most writers get better as they age, not worse. Writers, in effect, are the reverse athletes. Or, to borrow from comic parlance, the Zoom to their Flash. Okay… that’s a stretch, but comics are my constituency and I don’t reference them enough.
So what’s life like until you get all old and great? It’s tough. Damn tough. It’s a constant, unending grind of doing all sorts of things, some of which involve writing. My days are packed from start to finish. Usually they start something like this:
- Wake up
- Feed the animals
- Eat breakfast while checking E-mail/twitter
- Walk the dog
But those are about the only constants I can count on. After that I might have to jump into a script or a re-write, or work up ideas based on discussions with artists who are willing to collaborate on an original project. Other days I hop in the shower and head to work at CBR, but not before making sure all of my emails are answered and my editorial work for various companies and creators is taken care of. Or when the bank account is low, searching for and reaching out to line up more work to keep the roof above and the lights on.
I end up spending as much, if not more, time looking for work and setting up meetings to try and line up future work. And it’s exhausting. Looking for work is a lot like being a running back in the NFL. You have the ball and you know where you need to get, but often times there’s no hole. You just have to run the play and hit whatever tiny opening there is in the hopes that you can break some tackles or someone will lay down a block that allows you to get to the end zone.
There are any number of reasons it doesn’t happen. Timing, politics, random act of random. But more often than not, the only thing standing in your way is talent and experience. You’re not good enough because you haven’t written enough good stuff, and you haven’t written enough good stuff because you haven’t lived enough.
But you keep running. Yards per carry don’t matter. You’re not going for average. You have to score. So you keep pushing and pushing, and at the end of every day you’re exhausted. Sometimes you’re fortunate enough that you’ve done some writing before you’re ready to pass out. Other times you take a tally of the day’s work and it feels like a waste, but you know you’ve done exactly what you have to do to maintain some financial stability. For my money, I have more of the latter than the former.
I don’t write every day. Plain and simple, I fail. I’m not making excuses. I need to write every day, and it’ll be the subject of a future blog, but I often fail at this. I’m either too spent or too lazy, or sometimes I’m able to convince myself that doing the paid work justifies not advancing my career by writing something just for me (or a pitch that can be for the world).
But here’s the thing. You can’t just wait around and expect things to happen for you. Only you can make them happen. Just because writers get better as they age, doesn’t mean I’ll suddenly be great and successful at some later date. You have to put in the work to get there. I’m not talking about Malcom Gladwell’s 10,000 hours of perfect practice
; I’m talking about putting in the work on the days when you’ve got nothing left. Pushing, striving, moving
I’m a firm believer that most people need to write the bad out. Early projects are like the drafting process for your career. On any specific project, you write a draft to get it out there and see what works and doesn’t. Things are much easier to adjust once they’re done and on paper. You write another draft and it’s better, and another and another. So it goes for a career. Your first published work is often shit. Why do you think Marvel and many others don’t hire first-time writers. But then you do something that isn’t completely wretched, and the next thing shows just a glimmer of hope. Sometimes things align and you break out, and from there it’s all champagne wishes and caviar dreams. Other times you fall right back down to earth because it was a fluke or an editor/artist/influential review carried you farther than you were ready.
Point is, you can’t fake it. Every day is a grind. Life gets in the way. Making money gets in the way. Exhaustion gets in the way. I’d much rather spend time with my girlfriend at the end (and often the beginning) of a busy day than sit down in front of the computer. I’d much rather ensure my longterm healthy by hitting the gym than type up a new proposal. But I also have a plan. I want to be able to write for a living. I’m in a place now where writing does pay some of my bills, but that’s not enough. I want to wake up and not have to look for work, or take on part-time jobs out of necessity. I want to wake up and write, and write all day, then write some more before I go to sleep. It’s not just what I want to do, it’s what I’m supposed to do. I can feel that in nearly every fiber of my being except the lazy ones.
It’s not easy. No one said it would be. I can throw in the towel any time and get some square job that puts money on the table and give up this crazy dream. Or I can do whatever it takes to keep pushing, write out the bad, and turn myself into the writer I need to be to get where I want to go.
I’m not there yet. I’m not even close. So for now, I have to put in work and stop making excuses. It’s not easy. Nothing worth having comes easy.
Time to write.