Tuesday, December 29, 2009

There's no such thing as overnight success....

Sorry for the sparse posts of late. "Real writing" (as in, the kind that kinda-sorta pays the bills) has stolen all my time lately, and forced me to temporarily neglect my bloggy blathering. Actually...this reminds me of something I've been meaning to discuss here -- a big bad four-letter word: TIME.

Whenever a working writer attends a cocktail party, it's pretty much a guarantee that someone will tell him: "I could be a writer too, if only I had the time."

And in a sense, that person is right. In the same sense that I probably could have been an Olympic gymnast, if only I'd "had the time."

If only I'd started at the age of five. If only I'd gotten up at four o' clock in the morning every day, to practice. If only I'd practiced after school every day, late into the night. If only I'd kept practicing every day for the next ten or twelve or fourteen years -- forsaking friendships, dates, hobbies, entertainment, and other activities that most people consider normal. Yep...if only I'd been lucky enough to have that kind of "leisure" time on my hands, I might have been an Olympic gymnast too.

Of course, on top of all that effort, I'd have to possess the natural talent to be better than all the other thousands of hopefuls who'd also spent their entire lives working towards the same dream. And the cruel part is, I wouldn't really know if I had that kind of talent, until after I'd spent all those years practicing.

Guess what -- that's what it means to be a writer, too. You don't do it on the occasional weekend a couple of times a year when you feel "inspired." It isn't something you hope to do eventually, or force yourself to do every once in a while. It's what you ARE. Your whole life is designed around it. You've been doing it practically every day since you were old enough to read. And it's the only thing you could ever imagine doing.

Everyone who earned good grades in high school English and can compose a decent paragraph imagines he has some special writing ability, and all he needs is a bit of free time to crank out a bestselling novel or a blockbuster screenplay -- just as every kid who can do a split or a handspring probably thinks he can be a gymnast. But the level of excellence which distinguishes the elite from the mediocre in any highly competitive field does not come cheap.

It costs much more than most hopefuls are willing to spend.

Because the price is time.

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