Writing is a strange business. I’ve been doing it a long time and really date my life as a writer from the fall of 1988, when I committed myself to getting published. I’ve chocked up some successes, and plenty of failures. I’ve gotten plenty of rejection slips but have had over three hundred pieces published, if you count, books, stories, poems, and nonfiction articles. That’s not counting anything I’ve self published.
There have been years when I’ve done very well—2007, 2009, and plenty of years where I didn’t—2013 through 2015. There was a year, or at least most of a year, when I quit—1997. One thing I’ve realized about writing is that there’s no resting on one’s laurels. You slow down, you lose momentum. You lose momentum, your carefully nurtured career begins to fall apart. In board gaming parlance, you go back a few spaces, even if not quite all the way back to the beginning.
Unfortunately, losses of momentum seem inevitable if you have anything approximating a normal life with spouses and children. People get sick, have crises. Sometimes, one crisis runs into another and another in an almost seamless fashion, leaving little time for the recovering of energies between. And age brings the magic dust of tiredness along with it. Sometimes it gets easier and easier to let the writing slide while you try to keep your head above water against the vagaries of fortune. At least it has been that way for me.
Maybe if I’d had the courage to choose writing as my only career, things might have been different. But I always liked to know where my next meal was coming from. So, I chose an academic career with writing on the side. And when you do have a job that pays the bills, and you come home tired, and the stress of life is beating on you, it becomes a lot easier to say, “screw it, no writing tonight.” You’re still pretty sure you’re not going to starve. Though maybe you starve in another sense.
Writing, for me, used to be play. I worked hard at my play but it was a helluva lot of fun. There was also an element of gambling that went into every story. Maybe this one would take off. Maybe this one would be the one that broke me through to a bigger audience. Maybe this one would get the nod from one of the biggest magazines, or maybe—even—attract the attention of a film group. Maybe, maybe, maybe.
They say that age brings wisdom. Maybe it just brings cynicism. At this stage of my life, the gambling odds get longer and longer against me. And I never quite reckoned with the truth that one often has to run faster and faster just to stay in one place. The death of Robert Reginald, my editor at Borgo Press, a man who loved my Talera series and supported my writing at every turn, showed me that. He’d issued me contracts for a couple of more books that I could have had out while he was alive. But I just kept thinking, “there’s time.” There wasn’t. And that has led me to a kind of crisis of faith.
I’ve got to find a reason to keep on keeping on. And I understand pretty clearly that the reason can’t be one that comes from outside of me. In the end, there’s only yourself to blame. For the good or the bad.