Saturday, May 03, 2008

The Writer Must Earn His Living Writing

"Writing while holding down a forty-hour-a-week job is possible. Thousands have done it. But in time, exhaustion sets in, concentration wanders, creativity crumbles, and you're tempted to quit. Before you do, you must find a way to earn your living from your writing."

This is a quote from Robert McKee's STORY, sub-title Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting. I bought the book after attending RT in April and heard Randall Toye of Harlequin talk about their editors taking McKee's workshop. I figured it wouldn't hurt for me to work through the book, as well.

Turns out there are wonderful insights to story structure in the book and I'm, of course, still working my way through its 450-some pages. There are a few snippets of text, several turns of phrase in the book, however, that interested me almost as much as his take on story structure.

The above quote is one that jumped out at me and hit me full in the face.

When I turned 50, I made a goal for myself. That goal was to write full-time by the time I'm 55. I felt then, and still feel, that having that sense of freedom to write and support myself with my writing, without the constraints of the day job, would be pure bliss. Honestly, I'm not kidding myself here, I know this will be hard work. I know there will also be hurdles. And I fully understand that in this business there is no guaranteed paycheck -- no guaranteed contracts, print runs, sell-throughs, advances, royalties, etc... I understand the pitfalls and have taken them all into consideration. Still, this is my goal. And a particularly lofty one since I am my sole support. There is no one else to supplement income or provide insurance. And still, I strive to reach this goal.

McKee's statement made me really stop and think. I'm not a newby at this writing thing. I seriously started working my way toward publication over 20 years ago. I start publishing non-fiction not long after. I published my first novel 11 years ago. Five more books followed. And then I quit. Why? Because of a new day job. Because of being a single parent with two teenagers and no time. Because of life. Because I was exhausted.

I have vowed that no day job will now put me asunder. I will not give up my writing again, particularly since I've worked diligently the past few years to build back the career. I have a great start on my goal. I'm 1 1/2 years into it. And I will make it. Sooner rather than later, is my hope.

McKee is right. Concentration is comprised, creativity flies out the door, and exhaustion just takes over your body. You can't write...or perhaps I should say, I can't write and do it well. Can't write and be satisfied with what I do.

I wrote a couple of days ago about taking a vacation day. I did. I slept. Deep. Hard. Weird dreams. I always do that when I'm very tired. Most importantly, I feel somewhat rested. And in the past day, I've added a few thousand words to my current wip. And damn, yes, they feel good.

McKee makes it sound easy -- find a way to make it happen is basically what he is saying. Easier said than done, however, it can happen. I will do it. As have others.

Perseverance can be a beautiful thing.

Happy Derby Day,


1 comment:

Magdalena Scott said...

Good for you, Maddie! I know you'll achieve your goal!