The writer’s burden

Pilgrim's Progress, by John Bunyan

A heavier load than mine!

I carry around ideas. In my head are a number of concepts for books I want to write. Some of these have been with me since childhood, while others are more recent. But all of them I feel I have to write. At some point I must either, commit them to paper/keyboard, or decide to throw in the towel and give up. But the writer’s burden is that these ideas won’t go away, nor will the need to do something with them.

It’s possible to suppress the burden, but not to kill it. For quite a few years I gave up on the idea of being a writer, simply because I thought my life responsibilities would not allow for it. But after awhile I decided to get back to work, and I structured writing around my full-time job. So I began getting up at five o’clock every morning, and wrote Wanderlove over a period of perhaps two years. I had suppressed it for awhile, but so deep was the need to write that I was willing to get up before dawn to do it.

Part of the problem with writing books is that they take so long to complete. Wanderlove took me two years, Copout one year (if I ignore the 25 year gestation period), and Monster School (a book I have completed but not yet released) about two years. I’m still carrying around enough ideas for about eight more books. If I average one book every two years, it’s 16 years to finish them all. Not such a long time in a writer’s career, but a very long time to worry if someone else will come up with some of those same ideas and use them first. It often happens to me that I see a book or film being brought out that seems to have a lot in common with one of my ideas, and it scares me that I might not get to use mine because it’ll seem like a clone. Perhaps I should be relieved that I might not need to spend two years working on that book, but I don’t.

I’m forgetful. My wife and children will tell you that I can’t be relied upon to do even the most basic things if it requires remembering. “Call the plumber, dear,” my wife might say to me in the morning as she is leaving for work. “No problem,” I reply and kiss her goodbye. But does the plumber get called? Usually, no. But somehow I successfully carry around my book ideas in my head. I don’t forget those. At least, not yet.

Having decided what project to start next, out of the eight in my head, I then have to face the fact that a year or two of my life is going to go by before it’s finished. That’s hard. I can take the long view in theory, but in practice I’m not very good at it. I never went to university because I simply could not see four years into the future. Spend four years studying? How can I even commit to such a thing? It’s just too big. And a year or two for a book also seems too big when I think, where will I be in two years? Anything could happen in that time. But somehow I’ve got three books cranked out already, and I’m planning more. Now that I see it as my life’s work, the long-term commitment is not so bad.

So, a year goes by, and it’s finished. Hooray! A rough draft! There’s a certain euphoria to that because you’ve been working toward it for a year. But then the scary part is that it might take another year to proof read and edit. Oh dear!

At last, the editing is done. Hooray! I’ve got a completed book! That’s also a euphoric feeling, but then the worry sets in, because now I’ve got promote it somehow. I still haven’t got the hang of that. I know how to write them, but I’m not sure how to sell them.

If you’re feeling charitable, maybe you can head over to my books page on Amazon and consider buying it?

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