I’ve written that discipline is about having a vision and letting go of most everything else. The Japanese saying, fall down eight times and get up nine, adds meaning to that thread. How often do we personally and professionally find ourselves iterating endlessly on some idea, trying again and again to make something work? If you’re like me it is a constant factor in your life.
Take writing a trade novel, for example. I wrote my first novel in the early eighties. Even then I thought about writing as a way to support myself in semi-retirement. I knew I would spend a lot of time writing in order to accomplish the goal. In some ways I’d like to forget how long ago I started down this path, but I’m still working at it, and I continue to enjoy most of the process.
That first novel, though, was so bad that I completely abandoned the project and returned to college to pick up a minor in creative writing. One of my best friends read some of that work and hasn’t read anything I’ve written since. That faltering first step to a minor in creative writing and dozens of short stories, one of which was published. I’ve formed friendships within writing groups and went back to writing novels and yet I still have a long way to go. Of course I’ve been preoccupied with a lot of other things since then as well, but gradually the vision or being a novelist is becoming a reality.
I recently completed a novel that I’m rather proud of. Is it great? No. Nor have I sold the novel. I continue to send out queries and cycle through rejections. Like falling down eight times only to get up nine, I’ve learned a fair amount about what it takes to become a commercial novelist. It takes constant reading and writing, a little skill, letting go of other things I could do with my time, luck and determination.
Maybe I won’t sell this work or the next. So be it. The vision is fixed and except for the distraction of having to survive financially in other ways, I’ll continue.