My final post as blogger-in-residence for the ACT Writers Centre can be found here (or below, as usual). Thanks for coming along for the ride, and prepare for the brutal honesty…
Keeping the Dream Alive
I want to be a writer.
For the longest time I found this difficult to admit. I guess I thought it an unrealistic aspiration, or that I would be perceived as lazy or self-indulgent for wanting to turn a hobby into a profession. But now, after six years, three novels and with an ever-growing desire to turn the escapades in my head into adventures on the page, I see this ambition not only as possible, but as necessary.
I want to be a writer.
Four months ago I embarked on a journey. I took leave from my job so I could write full time. For the past six months I have sat before my computer every single day, penning an entire novel, several short stories and the articles for this blog in that time. I have forged a second office at the National Library, I have been outside my comfort zone at a poetry slam, I have frequently hidden from my children to tap out a few extra words, even though this contradicts my own advice. It has been eye-opening, it has been a blast.
And it has to end. Come July my leave is over and I return to my full-time public service job. My family needs to eat. My mortgage needs its ego stroked. My car needs to fit those kids I foolishly purchased before I realised I wanted to be a writer.
So how am I to continue pursuing my dream when the pressure of the daily grind begins to rob me of the confidence, momentum and motivation I painstakingly fostered over the last six months?
This is how I will do it. Let the following be my manifesto for success.
I will read and write
SPOILER ALERT! All advice on writing boils down to this: read, and write. Check with Professor Google if you must, but the expert consensus is clear. If you do not read—a lot—you cannot be a writer. Similarly (and more obviously), if you do not write—and regularly—a career in the field will never be yours.
To keep the dream alive after my leave ends I will continue to write, every day, in any nook or cranny of time I can find. And I will continue to read, every single day (as long as Phantom comics count). And this will be the rhythm that sustains me, that propels me toward my goal no matter how tired and jaded I become.
I won’t set a timeframe
I love this article, written by Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner. Matthew’s road to success (and authoring Mad Men is certainly story-telling brilliance) was paved with failure, perseverance and depression. His story is frank, miserable and inspiring. Read it.
Matthew’s most important message, in my mind, is this: don’t set a time limit for yourself. All you can do is write and read (see?), write some more, put your stuff out there and put up with the rejections. The ingredients are clear—effort, luck, persistence—it is how long you will need to bake them for that is uncertain.
So I’ll keep baking. Every, single, day. And one day I will get there.
I will accept I may not get there
In my previous blog post I interviewed Daniel O’Malley, author of The Rook and the forthcoming Stiletto. In case you missed the inspirational quote, here it is again: “For me,” says Daniel. “Writing fiction is a pleasure, a challenge that I enjoy. It’s not easy, but that’s one of the things I like about it. I’d write even if I knew it could never be published.”
I have written three novels that haven’t even reached the outer orbit of planet publication. But does that matter? Well, yes (please call me!), but I would have written them anyway. And I will write more. Of course my ultimate goal is for people (and lots of people, not just my mum) to read my work, but there is such pleasure and fulfilment in writing my adventures that I would—and will—do it anyway.
So I will keep writing and reading and persevering, and maybe I will get somewhere. Or maybe I won’t. Because it doesn’t really matter.
You see, I don’t want to be a writer.
I am already a writer.
I’m just not published yet.
(This is my final blog post for CAPITAL LETTERS. I hope you have enjoyed my articles. Come say hi on twitter (@matthewclamb), Facebook (Matthew C Lamb) or via my website (www.matthewclamb.com) some time, and when my first novel finally comes out let me know what you think.)