Stop Reading About Writing

Photo by Edurne Chopeitia on Unsplash

The last article you should read about writing

Writing about writing and reading about writing are things we do instead of writing. It’s a weird anomaly: do painters paint about painting? Because I write and write about writing and freelancing, Medium shows me an endless feed of advice, advice that from story to story, contradicts itself. Don’t do this, do this, the secret to…

The actual secret is something every creative inherently knows. Doing it is all that counts, not thinking about it too much. This is actually true about virtually everything human activity, which is why Nike’s slogan is so resonant.

When I got my first non-fiction book deal I had never written anything in-depth. A few magazine articles, false starts on novels, etc. This was pre-internet, pre-blogging, pre-digital everything (except email and word processing- without them I would never have become a writer). And I was suddenly faced with a deadline, a contract and money sent as a deposit against royalties, all of which add up to responsibilities. So, I wrote the book. And then got two more deals from that publisher and three more from another.

Was that luck? No. After my third book I asked my editor at the first publisher why she had taken a chance on me and why she kept accepting books. She said the risk at the beginning was normal with new writers but that they needed them. And here is why: a startlingly high percentage of new writers who get their first deal fail to deliver. Some take months beyond their deadline and some simply stop returning calls. Once I was proven capable of delivering, I was a known quantity, a lesser risk.

Think about this. You aspire to success at a creative endeavor for years and you finally break through. A legit major publisher wants your book, will pay, and can get it into bookstores and libraries everywhere. And then you don’t do it. Sounds crazy, right?

Well, I am willing to believe that a lot of those would-be writers spent a lot of time thinking about writing and being a writer. If they got that far they probably had done some of the work (my first deal came from a 35 page book proposal that included sample chapters, an extensive outline and a marketing plan). Then they gave up.

I imagine this was an incredibly painful thing for them, especially today, as they read endless words of wisdom from other writers. Wisdom that is more speculative than anything else. I think that in a lot of ways, this helpful advice is actually intimidating. It is certainly a distraction from doing.

Do you have a book in you? A solo show of your artwork? A hit record? A successful startup? There’s only one way to know. Do it, and find out. You’ll feel much better knowing you could, regardless of the outcome. I need to reiterate that. The knowledge that you are capable of something you’ve dreamed of is far more valuable than money or fame. Even if it sucks, you know you can finish something and do better the next time.

Former software marketer. Former musician. Writer, nine non-fiction books, two novels, Buddhist, train lover. Amateur cook, lover of life most of the time!

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