Here is one of my (many) flaws: I don’t like talking about things I’m going to do before they’re done. I’ve never liked the kind of person that always talks about things they’re “planning” to do but never seem to take any action on, and so perhaps I’m overly-aware of the possibility of becoming that kind of person.
For some goals, though, it’s easier for me to get over this than for others. Every month I publicly state my resolutions, and even when I don’t hit them I’m comfortable with talking about why and making improvements.
Not with writing a book, though. I’m going to talk about why, and it’s not really a comfortable thing for me to talk about. But here we go.
When I was a young adult, I was very different from the person I am today in a lot of ways (and distressingly similar in others). I loved to write, and I did so all the time, but I wasn’t trying to write anything particularly positive. I thought I was going to be the next Great American Novelist, but I also thought it would just pour out of me due to my obviously undeniable genius instead of, you know, requiring any actual work or struggle.
I was surrounded by “creative” types, all who had big dreams of being actors or rock stars or what have you, but none of whom were willing to do anything other than live the lifestyle that they imagined came with it instead of working towards the dream itself.
My father is one of the most talented amateur musicians I’ve ever met. He’s absolutely brilliant. When he was younger, he played in a band with a group of guys who were all also very talented. One of those guys went on to become an actual successful musician; a dozen albums, decades of tours, music for tons of movies and television shows, and now his own radio show. I asked my dad once why that guy “made it” but none of the other guys, including him, didn’t.
He told me: “Because Ben was willing to do nothing but practice music for twelve hours a day, and spend the rest of the time chasing the business side of it, making deals and putting in the work. The rest of us had other stuff we wanted to do; raise families, have other jobs, that kind of stuff. Being successful doesn’t just take talent. It takes a kind of obsession that he had, and we didn’t.”
The fact is, I didn’t have the kind of obsession it took to become the writer I imagined I already was. It would be years before I discovered how to make myself have that drive towards other things. Because I was such a miserable youth, I had wrapped a lot of my identity up in this creative, brooding writer persona despite having never published a single word (I’d filled notebook after notebook, imagining how someday they’d be so valuable because I’d be the next Bukowski or Kerouac, barf). Which meant that as I dedicated more and more time and effort into improving myself in other ways, becoming successful in my career, finding a family, all of that – some part of me was always dragging me backwards, calling me a sellout, and reminding me that for all my talk I’d given up on writing.
That “in-between” stage was the worst. I kept saying I hadn’t given up, that I was still going to write novels, that I was still that person. Instead of owning the (honestly, significantly better) person I was becoming, I was still clinging to this idea that all my career development was just to “pay rent” until my explosive entrance onto the literary scene.
There was no single moment when I finally realized it wasn’t going to happen, but I did eventually understand it. More than that, though, was the realization that I didn’t really want it to. If I had actually wanted to write a novel, I’d always had the ability. But I never had the drive, the obsession to do it. Plus, looking back at who I was then, it would have been terrible.
So now, I’m writing a book. Not a fiction novel, but a business book. On a topic I am obsessed with – that I write and talk about all the time, that I work with every day, that I think about when I first wake up in the morning. I do media interviews on this topic. People literally pay me to talk about it.
But it’s still hard to get over that voice that says “You said you were going to write a book before. You said it for years, and it never happened, and it hurt you to go through that. Maybe you just don’t have what it takes and this is the one mountain you can’t climb. You can try if you want, but you shouldn’t tell anyone that you’re trying, because then when you give up (when, not if) it’ll hurt less.”
That voice is a huuuuuuuuuuuuuge jerk.
And I try to make it a point not to listen to huge jerks. So here I am, publicly, talking about writing a book. I’m posting progress. I’m asking for market feedback. I’m working with a writing mentor. I’m not going to quit.
I’m not going to quit.