Looking at this blog, it may appear as if I haven't been writing for a while. Actually, I have. I just haven't been writing on here. Day by day goes by and I neglect to add to this ongoing project. This shouldn't be the case.
In my time away from Blue Daisies and Purple Grass, I came to a few revelations about writing and life in general.
For starters, writers write. I got a job which required me to work up to nine hours per day dishing out up to seven well-written and well-researched 500-700 word articles daily. At first, it seemed almost impossible and I was pretty slow on the first day but then I realised that it was completely doable and in fact a requirement for any writer who plans to be successful.
If you cannot write a 500-700 word article in about an hour, you're wasting your time. Now I know how much time I've been wasting.
There's a short formula to success, or at least content, perhaps even happiness. It goes like this.
Talent becomes skills, which turn into experience and later that experience has the opportunity to transform into mastery. And if you fail to use the original talent, you lose it (apparently).
TALENT --> SKILLS --> EXPERIENCE --> MASTERY
I'm pretty much on a skills level now. For the first time, I've realised that I actually type faster than I write by hand. Thank you to all those Mavis Beacon games and tight writing deadlines. Should I fail, I can always do transcripts or become a secretary. But, failure is not an option.
As anybody with a passion for the work they do will tell you, you've just got to keep going. It's not about a means to an "end" but about the journey. I finally understood this a few days ago when I watched a TED talk (one of those things which I'm hopelessly addicted to). The speaker compared the journey to music. When you listen to a good song or go to a concert, you don't think to yourself: Oh, I can't wait until it's over. You enjoy the journey. You revel in the music and the waves of movement, rhythms, harmony and song it takes you through. That's what life is about - enjoying the journey, which from now on, I'm going to refer to as music.
Another thing I learnt (or rather re-learned) is to keep writing. You can't wait around for the next great job or spend too much time hunting for new gigs and editing old articles. No piece of writing will ever be perfect. It's not meant to be. I used to be slow because I worried about perfection. Now that I'm much faster, I've found that I haven't compromised on quality. In fact I'm getting better at it. And I'm getting better faster!
I remember when I was a kid I'd write and illustrate ghost stories and other short stories and poetry. I went particularly nuts when I discovered limericks and Edward Lear. And every time I was recognized for it, I kept going. That recognition, my words published in the school newspaper or magazine, a teacher's praise and later seeing my work published in print and completing whole books and positive reviews is sometimes what keeps me going but if that's all that keeps me going (aside from money, of course), I know I’m getting spoilt. That shouldn’t be my motivation. My motivation should be the music and the “musicality of language”.
Writing is a lovely but lonely world. You become trapped with only yourself and the computer screen. Nobody can help you write. Sure, they can suggest things and encourage you but ultimately it's up to you and you alone. This is especially the case if you're a freelance writer. Yes, there are the editors who act like bosses in some cases but nobody is there to breathe down your neck and make sure you're writing.
I am convinced now that writing is probably one of the most difficult careers out there. "Oh, wow! You're a writer." People say it as if it's a dream job and all that writers do is pen a few musings while travelling, sipping wine and indulging in other luxuries. Nope. That's not it. Like anybody else who works, writers have a job. We have a role to fulfil and for those of us who enjoy it, it can be wonderful to have your thoughts, ideas and characters come to life in print.
Writing is amazing. For me, it's transformational. It's almost like when you're writing about an idea, you become it. When you write about a character, especially in the first person, you become him or her. Writers are like actors. We need to understand different people and situations in order to portray them accurately and be good at what we do.
I just want to keep going, enjoy the music and then one day look back and say: "Wow, look at what I've achieved." Like an opera singer who brings people to tears or a rock star who spurs a revolution through chords and lyrics.
And to the naysayers, difficult editors and clients who pay late (or not at all), I have just one thing to say. "F*ck you, this is who I am and if you can’t appreciate it, f*ck you again."
I might come back to edit this post later, but for now I'm posting it in its raw form. I respect you as a reader but frankly I'm exhausted thanks to countless hours of writing and editing followed by self-indulgence in TED talks and MOOCs.
Now there's another topic for a later discussion. After discovering MOOCs (massive open online courses), my life will never be the same again.