Starting Late . . .
Last week, Neil Gaimin posted a story on his blog about discovering some of his old writings, from age 17, in his attic. Every time I stumble across a post like that, or listen to Mur Lafferty from I Should Be Writing talk about how it took her 10 years to get her first book published, my mind stops.
I lose track of the blog post or the podcast for a few minutes and start worrying. If these giants of the field spent so many years to get where they are, what chance does a guy like me have? Brandon Sanderson mentioned on a recent podcast that it took him six novels before he got published. In Brandon Sanderson-sized novels, that’s something like 2,000,000 words. How long is that going to take?
There’s so much out there to intimidate a new writer. There’s the constant question as to whether my writing is any good. Is my style and story as engaging as I think, or is everyone else just going to be bored? And I haven’t even begun to probe the maze of publication. I can deal with all of that if I look at it as a series of incremental challenges. But when I step back and think about the time it’s going to take to overcome all of them, that number looks scary.
. . . Is Better than the Alternative
On the other hand, my other choice is to not start chipping away at those ten years, and that doesn’t get me anywhere. I can chip away another five hundred or a thousand words today, or I can sit back and worry that I’m never going to make it. Put that way, there’s only one choice.
Once I got past that am-I-ever-going-to-be-successful-at-this hiccup, I finished reading the blog. I may never get to a similar point in my writing career to where Neil Gaimin is today. That’s ok. I don’t have to. All I have to do is finish this book, then start the next one. Like he said in his conclusion (as written on his hand): Write. Finish Things. Keep Writing.
The blog post was the first time I heard of the Hand-in-Hand project: Advice from famous writers, written on their hands. Many were a variation of “sit down and write.” Nothing about secret tricks, or must-have talent. Just persistence and belief in yourself. And you know, that time issue doesn’t seem like a big deal anymore. I can get over that.