I did this questionnaire last year at one of my RWA meetings. It was a lot of fun. It also caused some head shaking, but mostly it forced a bunch of writers take a hard look at themselves and come to terms with what exactly their commitment to writing was.
My opening question to the group was: should you write on or not?
Before you answer the question, understand the answer is neither right nor wrong. Each answer is individually personal, and yours. The answer should not be what you think you should say or what you think we want to hear. At the end of the day, it’s you and your keyboard. No one else is going to be as vested as you are or aren’t in your goals and actions.
So, be 100% honest with yourself when you answer the questions. (Grab a piece of paper and a pen. The answers are quick jots.)
1. Why have you read this far into this blog topic?
2. How many new words have you written in the last week? If you can’t say exactly how many words, then how many pages of new words? Zero is an answer.
3. How many new words or pages have you written in the last month?
5. Are you a hobbyist? And before you answer this question, let’s define hobbyist. Merriam-Webster’s definition: a noun: a pursuit outside one’s regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation.
6. Are you a writer whose goal it is to be published?
7. Are you a writer whose goal it is to be published and to generate a respectable income?
8. Are you a career writer, as in, is writing your full time paying job?
9. Or are you working to become a career writer? Be honest with yourself. And as an aside, since making a living at writing is all relative, put the income level you are striving for as opposed to what Nora makes.
10. What is your next goal in your writing pursuits?
11. What are you doing to achieve it?
Now, go back and look at questions 1 through 4 and tell me again what you are really doing and have done in the last 6 months to achieve your goals.
Ok, now set your answers aside.
I’m going to guess, some of you, regardless of where you are with your writing, have set some lofty writing goals but for some reason you’ve gotten stuck. As in, no results or slim results.
So, let’s get to the heart of the matter. I’m going to borrow a few words from writer John Scalzi on this topic of writing on or not. Mostly I’m borrowing them because they are my exact thoughts, he just said it better!
As John, I get asked a couple of the same questions all of the time. The first being: how do I stay focused and inspired to write. Which is usually followed up with, how do you find the time to write?
My answer to the first question is the same as John’s. I’m a working writer. As a working writer, I have been given money to produce words. Legible, entertaining words. With that exchange of money for words comes deadlines. Not to be confused with inspiration for a certain story, I am inspired and focused to write by money. Not very glamorous, but the fact is, I will write for food, clothing, shelter and the occasional bling. That I happen to enjoy the hell out of it is a good thing.
Second question: How do I find the time? This is my job, I get up and go to work like most of America. If I don’t, I get behind and don’t get paid. I can’t file for unemployment. Before I was able to focus my working hours 100% on my writing, I owned my own company and ran two offices. I had three kids still in school. I made the time during the day to write. I wrote at night. I wrote at the boys’ football practices. I made the time to write because I wanted to, and no one else was going to do it for me. Let me interject here and say, there was many a day when I had to fight for my writing time. If I didn’t, no one else was.
Fight for it, if you want it bad enough.
So boiled down you have to make a decision: You either want to write, or you don’t. It’s really that simple: If the answer is, yes, then do it. If your answer is, yes but, then as John said, “What you’re doing is using six letters and two words to say, no. And that’s fine. Just don’t kid yourself as to what, yes really means.”
Now, go back and look at your answers 2-4. Are you really saying, no with six letters and two words? It’s ok, just realize it for what it is.
Now, if your answer really is, yes, as in one word and three letters, then make the time. You know your schedule better than I do. Work it in. Get an alpha smart, that’s what I did and wrote like a fiend on the sideline of football practices. If you can’t squeeze in time during the work week, eek out some weekend time. Bottom line, if you’re answer really is, yes, make it happen. If you won’t (not can’t, can’t means, cannot as in you aren’t capable, won’t means you will not, as in yes, but) do that? As John says, “Then you are lying to yourself when you said your answer was yes.” And to paraphrase him this way: If you wrote 250 words a day, that’s one measly double spaced page, you could write an entire 90,000 novel in a year! Trust me, you can write one page brushing your teeth!
So, if I ask you what you’re working on and you give me excuses about why you haven’t written anything, you’re telling me, you really don’t want to write. And that’s ok, just don’t fool yourself or try to fool me.
Because here’s something I see every day: some folks like the idea of being a writer without doing the work. The work being the writing. I mean it’s cool when someone asks what do you do, and you answer, “I’m a writer.”
Again, it’s ok if you really don’t want to do it, just be honest about it. If you aren’t sure, try it. You may like it or you may realize it isn’t for you. And we’ll still be your friends.
But, if you want to be a writer, BE a writer. Writers write. It’s not that difficult. Type a word. Then another and another. Create people in your head and talk about them to yourself by way of your keyboard.
Remember, every single writer began in the same exact place: with one word. And not one of them was published either! They had to write a few words to get there.
And also remember, your goal may not be the same goal as the next person, but that doesn’t make it wrong.
The end game, so long as it’s what we have worked toward is neither right nor wrong, it’s just our choice.
Now, if your answer really is, yes, what’s stopping you? Or if you’re burning up the keyboard, what has you so hot to trot?