Greek philosopher Epictetus said, “If you would be a reader, read; if a writer, write.”
I suppose I could simply publish that quote if I wanted to express how I feel about the subject of writing. However, if I did that, it would leave open to broad interpretation my exact feelings on the subject, how it applies to me, and how it has come to be on my mind. And who am I to deny you the wisdom of my words?
Seriously – I need to write this more for myself as a personal reminder, a challenge almost, to find time in every day (including weekends) to sit down and write something, anything so that I can be truthful when answering the question placed to me, “What do you do?” As it stands now, I feel I am just on the border of honesty when my response to that particular query is, “I’m a writer.”
Jack London is quoted as saying, “I wrote a thousand words every day.” I have yet to be so productive in my craft. My New Year’s resolution was to write twenty-five hundred words daily despite even my writer friends telling me that might be too lofty a goal; they were correct. After a month of not meeting my goal, I decided to fall back to a reasonable number of daily words – one thousand. I wish I could state with integrity that I have been as dedicated to my passion as was the author of “The Call of the Wild.” I need to frustratingly admit, however, I have not.
It is not hitting the one-thousand mark with which I have difficulty; on the days I do take the time to put words to “paper,” I easily hit the target. My difficulty is exercising the discipline it takes to sit down at the same time every day and just do it. I’ve tried telling myself that my life is such that I just cannot dedicate the same time of every day to write for an hour or two, but if I just take the time to write in any two-hour period of every day, then I should easily reach my goal. In theory, it is a fantastic idea. In practice, not so much. The fact is I am lazy. I don’t like to get up early; on the days I do, I need to be at work at 8am so the thought of completing a significant amount of prose is definitely out of the question. I’ve been volunteering at Theater Rhinoceros on Wednesday mornings from 11am until about 1 or 2 in the afternoon and Saturdays is my homegroup meeting which starts at 10am in The Castro District after which I have been going to brunch with my fellows from the program. On the mornings I do not need to be anywhere before the mid-day sun, I remain wrapped in my fluffy comforter until at least 9am; I then jump in the shower, take my meds, get dressed, pack my laptop in my backpack and head to a noon meeting. On those mornings, I have every intention of sitting down at a café table and opening the laptop to write. What ends up happening more times than not is that I end up going out to lunch with friends from the meeting. After lunch, I frequently tell myself I will just write when I get home that night, but when I finally get home, have my dinner and answer a few emails (and, yes, update FaceBook), I convince myself that I am too tired to write anything (at least write it well), so I just put on the next episode of Star Trek; Deep Space Nine. I get through more days being unproductive than I do being productive.
Three things happened in the past month and a half that have made me decide to re-re-commit to having what I am going to start calling “Jack London Days.”
The first was when I was sitting in The Castro Country Club one random afternoon; someone had asked me if I had any upcoming plays in the works – either being produced or written. After answering that I was taking a year off from directing and producing, but I was submitting my most recently completed play, Living & Loving Again to various theaters worldwide, one person in the room added to the conversation, “Oh! You’re a playwright? So am I!” Naturally, I asked what he had written. His response was that he was working on a play and that he did not want to do anything with it until he felt it was just right. That made sense to me so I asked him how long he had been working on it and how long he thought before it would be ready to be staged even if just for a workshop-production. His response floored me: “I’m not sure how much longer it’s got until I’m done. I’ve been working on it since 1996.” To his shocked disbelief, I promptly informed him, “You may be writing a play, but you certainly are not a playwright.” Sure, I may have been a little too blunt and pompous in my statement, but I do believe what I said to be true.
The second thing that happened was that I actually got a paying writing gig! I was accepted to write for the San Francisco Historic Destinations section of Examiner.com. I am reluctant to admit that in the one month since I have been accepted by the site as a contributor, I have posted only three articles as of today; I only admit this as you would be able to figure out this fact for yourself if you look at the page and when each posting was made. Again, it’s not that I do not have an interest in writing on the topic for which I’ve been hired to do so – it’s just that I have yet to learn to manage my time wisely to accomplish all that I need to accomplish. So, I suppose I will put it in writing here that, beginning this coming week, I vow to you (and to myself) to finish at least two articles per week. Feel free to call me out if I break this oath.
The third and final thing to which I was referring is that, after following via FaceBook the progress of a writer-friend of mine, Ken LaSalle, for the past several months, he now has a new book coming out. Climbing Maya: An Exploration Into Success is soon to be released by Solstice Publishing. I have been in recovery long enough to know that the only person with whom I need to compete is myself, however, it still spurs me on when I see a fellow word-artist I admire and respect move on when all I am doing is standing still. It’s time for me to move on.
Even now as I finish this current post, I am not exactly sure what I am going to do to fix what I see as my “problem.” The most frustrating part of all this is that I know how to fix the problem; I’m just not sure I am going to do what it takes. I’m not quite sure why I’m not going to do it – yet. I just have to keep asking myself, “Am I afraid of failing? Or am I afraid of succeeding?”
The good news is that each of those two questions gives me something about with to write in the future!