There’s an old adage, ‘Everyone has at least one book in them.’ Is that just a bunch of hooey or do you believe that?
Everyone might have a book inside them, but few can actually get one out.Or as the late, great Christopher Hitchens reportedly said, “Everyone has a book inside them, which is exactly where it should, I think, in most cases, remain.”
It’s a terribly hard, demanding, unforgiving process to write a good book. To write something that’s beyond a stream of consciousness. Something with fully formed characters, conflict, dialogue, tension, and suspense. To sustain those things for 80,000 – 100,000 words.
Everyone I know who has made writing a career has needed or felt compelled to write. Did not feel complete unless they were writing.
It’s not a vocation but an avocation. You just do it regardless of whether you’re getting paid for it or not.
However, I’ve done it both ways, and getting paid is better.
So maybe the more useful question to address is this:
What is your advice for writers who want to get published and read?
For me, it can be summed up in a word: persistence. I desperately wanted to be a published author, but it took ages.
I was 45 before my first non-fiction book was published by Harper Perennial.
I was 60 before Harper bought my debut novel, The Ocean Above Me.
While I’ve been writing my entire life as a journalist, becoming a published author was certainly the ‘long game’ for me. It literally took a lifetime.
You have to be willing to keep writing even when no one seems to notice. Or worse, when people advise you to stop trying and do something else.
For someone not infected with the need, stopping can be quite a relief. A chance to pursue something else.
For someone who has to write it’s just another naysayer trying to divert you from your purpose.
If you feel writing is the only path to a fulfilled life for you, write as much as you can. Every day is best. Even just a little 200, 300, or 500 words. Get better, learn your craft.
Read about the craft. Read the works of others. Keep notes, quotes, and anything that helps you to improve.
Write, write, write. Read, read, read. Eventually, you may get to where you want to be. Or maybe not.
But even then, there is no such thing as a wasted moment in a life spent in contemplation and attempting to reach others with your words, thoughts, and secrets. A sublime and noble passion, free of regret.
Powell’s City of Books (Portland, OR)
“As the world’s largest independent bookstore, and with numerous locations throughout Oregon, Powell’s should be on the bucket list of all book fanatics.”