I'm a writer. This is the obligatory blog post about being a writer. Posts about movies and TV and politics and other things forthcoming, I imagine.
So here's what I do: I go to bed around 10:00 pm. I wake up around 4:00 am and make coffee. I go down to my computer and I write until 6:00, unless I have a draft to edit, in which case I edit until 6:00, unless I have a manuscript to query, in which case I do that. Then it's time to get the day started. Breakfast. Kids to school. Me to work.
And here's how I got to this point.
My friend and I created the idea back in 1999, and it quickly grew big enough for a novel. That's a long story, and a very interesting one—to me. I'll probably tell it to myself someday in an interview I give myself when I'm bored in the car, yet still strangely impressed with my own thoughts. I'll spare you the details.
I worked on it pretty hard for about 10 months, which at the time seemed like a really long time to work on a thing (I was 24). By the end, I had written about 650 pages and it was only getting started. It was a big ambitious story. It was pretty much total shit, but the story and the characters were alive, and they moved into my cranials, hunkered down, and bought furniture. I was fascinated by this story, compelled to tell it, excited to get going. I would talk about it to people. It's one thing people knew about me; I was one of those people who were workin' on a novel.
I didn't write another page for nearly a decade.
Life happened, is what happened. That's what I told myself. A new career that demanded increasingly more energy. Kids. Other interests. I played an awful lot of poker for about six years. I blogged mercilessly. The characters who had set up shop in my head got bored and fat and lazy. They became a bit more like people you see around the neighborhood but you aren't quite sure of their names. (Isn't the man's name J...Joe? Jacob? Jason? Pretty sure it's something with a J.) (It's Sean.)
But I was still totally writing the book. I was. I was going to start tomorrow.
Looking back, the truth is, I was frightened. I wasn't sure it would be any good. I wasn't sure it would be a success even if it was.
At a certain point, the fear stopped being: What if it isn't successful?
At a certain point, the fear became: What if you never write it because you're afraid it won't be?
Then I realized, it probably won't be successful. That's not being defeatist, that's just the numbers. Think of all the ways it might go wrong.
Failure is still very much an option—even a likelihood. I may fail to get an agent. I may get an agent, but the manuscript may fail to sell. The manuscript may sell, but the book may flop. The book may be a hit, but the critics might savage it.
Or—how about this one?—the book might not be very good. That's a chilly bowl of beans to have to someday eat. I'll be the last to know if that one's true.
One thing that can't be said anymore is that the book will be something I always talked about but never got around to writing. It is written. It happened. It's done. It's what I wanted it to be, and I had a hell of a lot of fun writing it.
I didn't start writing by convincing myself it would be successful. I did it by changing the measure of success.
So what is success?
Here's what success looks like for me:
I go to bed around 10:00 pm. I wake up around 4:00 am and make coffee. I go down to my computer and I write until 6:00, unless I have a draft to edit, in which case I edit until 6:00, unless I have a manuscript to query, in which case I do that. Then it's time to get the day started. Breakfast. Kids to school. Me to work.
No—that doesn't get at it. It's more than enough. It's wonderful.
I don't have to do this. I get to do this.
Maybe there will be more. Publication, readers, 55-gallon barrels full of cash to push through the desert. Super, if so. If all I get is what I have, it will be more than enough.