Lessons

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I’m often not sure what it was that led me down the writing path. I can remember several distinct moments in my early life when I wanted the ability to harness the mind of others and have them enjoy a story as much as I do. Most of these stories come from books. There are too many to list here, but some examples of them might be – Dune by Frank Herbert, Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, or Neuromancer by William Gibson. Each one of those three books is a slice of my childhood placed on a plate and served up at a child’s birthday party. Each one, can be ingested, chewed, and consumed until you’re forced to scrape the plate for the last crumbs. And like any aspiring writer, those are the stories we wish to tell.

Since I was young I remember having books around. I was reminded of this when we moved last weekend. The stacks of cardboard boxes placed in my front office area had to wait for our bookshelves to be in position before we began the great unpacking process. If we are here for the next ten years I may hire a team of professionals to carry the library that will exist at that point! Books are a loving touchstone when it comes to my life. The colorful spines tell an endless story of influences, from legendary authors to those few know. I don’t discriminate when it comes to books, and neither should you. Knowledge and the ability to tell a great story isn’t a lockbox that the trusted few have the keys to. Great stories can come from anywhere, but the caveat is you have to read them and then learn how to tell them.

As a writer I split time between writing and reading. I used to worry about cross-contamination, or bleed over from whomever I’m reading at the time. I don’t as much anymore, and maybe that means I’ve found my voice, or maybe it means I think I know what I should be writing. Reading more can make you a better writer, just like listening to more music can make you a better musician, but that’s only a part of the game. The real work is the hard work, the one you hide from or push off. The stuff you know you should be doing, but the television is on and you can’t find the motivation. I’m not saying it isn’t hard, because all creators know the truth. Finding your life’s passion is one thing, measuring up to the idealized version you’ve placed in your own head is another thing altogether. Pressure makes diamonds, but only over time, and when the pressure becomes too great those wishes can crumble.

So how do you find your break limit? How do you decide what your mind and body can take before you know you can’t give anymore of your time and energy to it? By doing it. You’ll never know how great you can be until you try and then fail. I say that because arguably failing teaches us more about what we need to know to succeed than by becoming a breakout success. The more lessons you learn in this method, the more experience and wisdom you can put toward the next opportunity you create. Key word there is can. I’ve learned lessons over and over because sometimes it just doesn’t stick. I’d argue that the past five book releases were the best I could produce at the time, yet looking back I question whether or not I worked hard enough.

The next novel will be the best I can create right now and I’ll do my level best to keep in mind the lessons I learned along the way.

Addendum: Learning the ins and outs of a new house is something I am not used to. I travel all the time, but each house has its own set of creaky floorboards and strange noises in the middle of the night. I haven’t lived in a two story house since I was a teenager, but I am glad to be back. With the move done and a Winter to settle in, I am looking forward to being a bit of a hermit while Winter’s cold sweeps over the midwest.

I blinked and it’s almost 2018.