Books, Miscellaneous

Just Do It

02.03.06 | 2 Comments

As an RPG publisher, it’s quite common to get gifts from fans, politicians, and the Hollywood “elite” seeking to curry favor. It’s just one of the perks of the business. Why, without those gifts, I’d never have my cabin in the Rockies or have developed a taste for hard-boiled California Condor eggs. However, by far the nicest gift recently came from Neal, who out of the blue sent a copy of Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. Some of you may recognize Pressfield as having written The Gates of Fire, while others may recognize his book The Legend of Bagger Vance. He’s a heck of a writer, and reading his thoughts on the job of writing has been very inspiring. Thanks a million, Neal!

When you start getting the same message from multiple, unrelated sources, that’s usually a sign that it’s time to sit up and pay attention. Having been in the publishing business for three years now, and specifically having worked on Skinwalker for six months, I recently verbalized my own theory on writing, publishing and life. Very simply, it comes down to this: We all make choices. If something is really a priority in your life, you choose it. If you don’t choose it–even if you pay all the lip service in the world–then it isn’t really a priority. If I were to say Skinwalker (or 12 to Midnight business in general) was important but didn’t actually work on it, then it must not really be important. Since it was important to me, it made me look at the choices I was making. Consequently, by the end of last year my life had really focused down to work, family, and 12 to Midnight.

In early January, Mur Lafferty began saying much the same thing on her various podcasts. She said it in I Should Be Writing, she said it in Geek Fu Action Grip, and she might have even said it in her Dragonpage essay. We can only serve so many masters and we can only spread ourselves so thin. There comes a point when, if you want to accomplish anything, you have focus on one thing. You have to choose. Do you watch TV, or do you write five pages in your novel? Do you play a game on your Playstation, or do you work on the strings section of your symphony?

Then, last week came Neal’s gift, as one writer to another (“another” including all of us at 12 to Midnight). Pressfield echoes Mur’s sentiments and my own recent experiences, but takes it even a step farther. He instructs us to treat our creative endeavor like a job, with all the discipline that implies. It doesn’t matter if you’re sick, or if you feel “inspired”, or if you’ve never sold a word you’ve ever written. It’s your job. It doesn’t matter that it’s difficult. War & Peace was written by a guy who had 13 kids. (Okay, in all fairness all 13 weren’t born at the time of its writing, but you get the point.) Suck it up and just do it. Pressfield reminds us that the hardest part of writing isn’t writing. It’s sitting down to write. So the only solution is adamant discipline. We show up and do the job whether we feel like it or not. Nor do we do it for riches or glory, because that makes our inner fulfillment dependent on others. We do it for the glory of creation or we set ourselves up for failure. What is failure? The failure to finish (or even start) your creative endeavor.

With all of these messages overlapping in my life right now, I think it’s pretty clear that I’m on to something. Discipline. Something I hitherto haven’t had much of. I think I’m getting better all the time, but I know I have a long way to go. For one thing, I need to look at my priorities and decide if there’s room for my own creative expression. Is administering a company enough, or should I be making room for writing a novel? I’m not sure. I get a lot of satisfaction in keeping 12 to Midnight running, and in that sense I’m “creating” a growing, vibrant company. The longer I do it, the more I enjoy it. Once a year I get an opportunity to write something of my own, so for now that may have to be enough.

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Comment by Jason Chapman
2006-02-04 08:21:22


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Comment by Jerry
2006-02-06 11:46:46

Discipline is the most important thing in life. Most failures can be attributed to a lack of discipline. I sure would like to crank out a novel too.

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