I find it interesting how some authors complain about the job of writing. For example, in a recent article, a fairly well-known author lamented about having to work, raise kids, and write. The author complained how difficult it was to get things done, how long it took to finish a novel, and how interrupted her day was with. . .real life.
I knew what this person was talking about. I’ve been in similar situations. After spending six years in the U.S. Air Force, I found myself just having gone through a divorce, two young boys living with me, and a full-time job. That’s not all, although I wish it were. I was also going to college at night (and weekends), often taking a three-quarter load. Oh, and trying to date, but that’s a whole other story.
Here’s what I learned in the Air Force: get the job done. It didn’t matter if you were being shot at, yelled at, or pressured in any other way, the job still had to be done. Lives depended on it. When I got out of the Air Force, I found another piece of advice from a book by Hugh Prather—a little light reading. In the book, he wrote, “If you say you want to write and you don’t write, you don’t want to write.” Let me put that in another way. “If you say you want to finish college and you don’t go to college, you don’t want to finish college.” Or this, “If you say you want to play the piano and you don’t play the piano, you don’t want to play the piano.”
I wanted to write. I had always wanted to write. Sound familiar? I started writing in fifth grade, then again in sixth, and again in high school. I looked back and found that I wanted to write, but I wasn’t writing. So, I figured, “Get the job done. Because if you say you want to write and you don’t write, you don’t want to write.”
From that time forward, I wrote. To this day, I write every day, even if it’s only for fifteen minutes. Even if it’s just to clear my head of what I’m going through in my life. When I first started to write regularly, I wrote late at night after everyone was in bed. Eventually, I learned to get up at 4:00 a.m. with little more than four or five hours of sleep. I wrote at that time not because everyone else was sleeping, but because that’s when I was fresh. I had decided to do what I loved first. Another thing I learned along the way.
Writing has kept me alive. It’s kept me happy. It’s kept me sane. Now I look at it as feeding my soul. Before I feed my wallet, my mortgage holder, my family, I feed my soul. Without that, nothing much matters. Over the years, this has gotten me better at putting words onto the page correctly the first time. I think of it like a baseball player taking grounders all day. After a while, he gets to know exactly where the ball is going to bounce. It becomes intuitive. That’s how I feel about writing. I still rewrite and rewrite because I’m always changing, always looking at things differently, and always learning more about writing that I want to explore.
So, when I hear people complaining, or read how some people are too busy to write, I shake my head. I think that if they don’t write, they don’t really want to write. It’s okay, no one ever said you had to actually do what you said you wanted to do. But think about it, is that really getting the job done?
Terry’s new novel THE RIGHT THING is now available! Be on the lookover for his other novels, THE KILLING MACHINE and THE HUMANZEE EXPERIMENTS, coming Spring 2022 from WildBlue Press.