“I want to write books too.”

“That’s great!” I’d reply eagerly, once upon a time. Now, my response is an eyelid twitch. A grind of the teeth, and a thought:

Please tell me what I’m supposed to do with your statement. Please tell me what to tell you, to make this conversation end. My imaginary friends need me.

One does not simply want books into existence. There’s a long part in the middle, with tapping sounds. And coffee, and sighs. And rage. At stupid o’clock in the morning, through to headache o’clock at night. And repeat.

Writers aren’t special. They’re not tortured artists, and they’re not some ethereal class of people doing the work of the gods. We’re a keyboard peripheral, made of bones and tendons and squishy staring brains. We’re strange and often alone, and may well tick the boxes on the crazy test. But we work. We read, watch, listen, learn. Until we can never really switch off.

I want to write books too, or the closely related I really want to be an author, are fantastic aspirations. But if that’s all you’ve got in that bag of ambitions, expect people to get real tired, real quick.

An aspiring painter can want to beat the sistine chapel. The working painters of the world won’t fall prostrate before them, and wonder starry-eyed at their grand ambitions. That painter learns the sistine chapel in detail, and works.

Wanting things to happen is bullshit. We get to work like everyone else, or we don’t eat. If we don’t have the time, then we make time. There’s no easy way.

So here it is: the truth we should be told in college. There is no creative community. It’s pure meritocracy, and we’re largely in it alone. We’re in this for a love of the work itself, and for the fans we might attract along the way. There’s plenty of guidance out there, to encourage us and point us in the right direction. But when it comes down to it, you’re on your own. You work, and work bloody hard.

You don’t tell anyone that you want to write a book. It fools you into thinking that it’s already well underway. You keep your mouth firmly shut, and let your keyboard do the talking. You publish something crappy, and improve next time. That’s the only way it’s done.

Anyone can want to write a book. Anyone can want to do anything.

Be the one who stops talking about it, and do it.

 

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