A few days ago I got a text from a friend: Thinking about coming to L.A. Thinking about being a writer. Want your advice.
I then started thinking about all the things I could impart on this girl. Certainly my journey, full of colorful ups and downs, could be summarized into some kind of epic statement that would neither encourage her into thinking it was all about sipping wine with a notepad in hand as genius ideas danced through your head, or discourage her from ever opening a New Document in Word. A statement that would diplomatically paint a realistic picture of what it really means to be a writer.
And then I got distracted by email.
Scrolling through spam advertisements, and newsletters, and sales at one clothing store or another, and event invites, until something caught my attention. It was a message from LinkedIn about recommended job openings, so I clicked it open. The list of jobs included a couple of managerial positions, and one at Warner Music that looked interesting. It was basically creating and managing content for various musicians and bands. I would be writing blog posts and twittering and posting on Facebook (as them) and making sure there was enough advertising on these sites to pay my salary. How cool…I thought. I love music, and taking on multiple personalities. I should totally apply. This could be a fun job.
And then I thought: What the hell am I thinking? I have a full time job already, and actually, I have TWO full time jobs already, because as it turns out, being an author is one of the biggest jobs I’ve ever taken on.
When I first started writing in 2004, it was a hobby; something to fill an evening with every now and then at a leisurely pace. But a year later, once I decided to publish a book (and not just publish, but self-publish), there was nothing leisurely about the pace. Everything from finding an editor, designer, and printer, to managing the production process, not to mention crafting the content of the book, demanded an awesome amount of attention, and once the book was done and printed, the marketing demanded even more.
Now, a lot has changed for me as an author in the last nine years. I no longer print or ship books, I do very few events and signings, I manage my own websites and cyber presence, and I get to hire an assistant every now and then to help with the huge task of marketing. But the one thing that hasn’t changed is that it is still a full time job, because there is no other way to keep growing your fan base than to continue writing and publishing books, and that demands an awesome amount of time and discipline.
I get several inquiries every year from people wanting my help in publishing their book project. My first question for them is always: Are you ready to work? Because once the excitement of that awesome idea fades, and we’ve created a scope and schedule, you’re left with a blank slate and the quest to fill it with 50,000 words, and that is a lot of hard work. You will have days where the words flow, and many more days where you question your sanity, but in the end you will have spent many, many, many days…just writing. Not attending glamorous parties with beautiful people or reading romantic articles about yourself in national papers, and whatever other fifty shades of fabulous you think being an author is all about…just writing.
Patton Oswalt summed it up best in last month’s issue of Esquire:
The truly great actors, like Charlize Theron, are just like, “I’m an actor. For hire. I show up, I do my job.” There’s no “I’m just waiting for the inspiration.” They just do their jobs.
And the same can be said of truly great writers.