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Notebook Finds: Reactions

My daily reading has three parts. There is the Bradbury Challenge reading of one essay, one poem, and one short story every day. I read the Holy Scripture in accordance with the Church calendar. I also read what I call my professional or secular scripture. I originally did it a decade ago, reading one section of The Pragmatic Programmer every day in my effort to get the job I have now. I dropped it within a year of getting my current position.

With the release of The Pragmatic Programmer 20th Anniversary Edition, I restarted daily reading of it. I also took a James Scott Bell writing book, The Art of War for Writers, and began reading a section of it each day. The second section, “The writer must understand the essentials of success for a long-term writing career, and count the cost accordingly” ends with three quotes and space to react to those quotes. It also recommends you save those reactions and revisit them a year later.

Today’s post contains my reactions, copied from my journal, and cleaned up a bit. Next year we’ll revisit them.

I decided that I would continue to write as long as I lived, even if I never sold one thing, because that was what I wanted out of my life.

George Nernau

I talk to myself.

I imagine an audience when I do it, as though I’m holding court. The whole process is an affectation that became a habit. While in High School I read Isaac Newton would lecture to his walls during the plague years because he had not students. In a mix of ego and loneliness I began to imitate him.

Forty years later I still do this, often in the car while driving.

What is my writing, but that habit in ink as opposed to air? I have not quit lecturing and telling stories to the air. I will never quite writing either.

You must want it enough. Enough to take all the rejections, enough to pay the price of disappointment and discouragement while you are learning. Like any other artist, you must learn your craft then you can add all the genius you like.

Phyllis Whitney

What is enough? Isn’t it a measure not just of desire relative to time? Stephen King, among others, has said your first million words are learning the craft of writing. If you take Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours of practice, that number will be closer to 1.5 to 2 million. If I take twenty years to write those words, did I want it enough? What if I take ten years?

My target date to “retire” to a final career as an indie author is five years and five days away. To do that, I need to have learned to write and have written enough to build a fan base that will sustain me. My rough numbers now require 20 to 30 short novel-length works out there and a base of reliable fans. The number of reliable fans and how many books I can put out a year are dependent, but I’m looking to have enough fans to replace my current income on six to seven books a year. However, one of those could be secondary works such as audiobooks, boxed sets, or relaunches of earlier books.

Do I have enough desire to build that foundation of craft and business knowledge in five years?

Well, that’s the question, isn’t it?

In Boot Camp, tough sergeants deliberately try to break the morale of the inducted men. Those who break they send back to civilian life, or to some more or less ignominious chore in army life. There are two or three hundred thousand ‘writers’ who ‘write at’ writing in this country. Ninety percent of them make next to nothing. The few who do get by are those who were not “broke” in the Boot Camp of their own wills or lack of same.

Jack Woodford

I was a boot once, long ago. To this day I’m not sure what, if anything they broke. I know they broke me down and rebuilt me. They did it so well that I cannot remember the parts that are gone from pre-Navy me. It is easy to say that was so long ago of course I can’t remember it. That would be true if it were not the man I was when I left boot camp is still a vivid memory.

What will the discipline of learning the craft and business of writing break down and rebuild? Will I remember that part after? Will I fail and instead of being broken down and rebuilt just break?


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