While at the San Francisco Writers Conference last month, where I served as a volunteer, a “book doctor” and a panelist, I had the opportunity to hear several great keynote speeches. Typically I’m not too interested in the speakers at conferences; they tend to be novelists of one sort or another. They focus on the craft of writing fiction or their particular niche, and this typically has little to do with publishing nonfiction. However, I took note of one thing in particular that thriller writer Steve Berry, author of The Paris Vendetta, said during his talk.
He said he writes because the little voice inside his heads tells him he must. He shared that he quit writing once…until the voice in his head became loud enough that he had to go back to writing. He said writers are only happy when they listen to the voice–and write.
How many of us actually hear that voice? And when we do, how many of us heed its call?
Those writers who sit down each day and write listen to that voice. Those writers who make writing a priority and feel compelled to not only start but to finish their manuscripts hear the voice. Those writers who write despite the need to also be good promoters and business people listen to the voice.
I thought about Berry’s words for a long time, and I realized that much of the time I am unhappy because I do not write–at least not what I want to write. My books remain unfinished. My ideas for articles remain in my head. My essays remain unwritten. I do a lot of writing each week, but I’m not writing what I really want to write.
I could tell you all the reasons for this sad state of affairs: I don’t have time; I am busy completing client work; I have articles to complete for publications; I’m waiting for a publisher to offer me a contract; I’m building platform. The reasons are valid, but they also constitute excuses.
It’s true that nonfiction writers today must spend a huge amount of time building platform, but much of that time can be spent using writing skills to do so. I blog daily as a platform-building activity; that’s writing. I have a column with Examiner.com (which I choose to write to build platform); more often I could write about subjects of interest to me. I also could be writing those essays and articles I would like to compose if I just took time to send out a few queries to land the assignments–or if I listened to the voice in my head and wrote the essays and sent them out. I’d be building platform at the same time.
While nonfiction writers don’t need to write a whole manuscript to submit it to agents and publishers, nothing stops me from continuing to write my books as I wait for a contract. I’ve left at least four projects unfinished as I waited…and lost interests… in worthy ideas in the process. Only now am I reviving a few of those projects and planning to self-publish them. Today we have so many options when it comes to publishing; we need not rely on a traditional publishing house…and we need not let our passion dwindle for our projects. We can move forward and write those books and get them published–if we listen to the voice in our heads and just keep writing.
Indeed, these days, thanks to Berry, I not only hear the voice in my head, I’m actually taking its advice. I know that if each day–or even if a few times a week–I actually make the time to write and write something I wanted to write–not something I have to write–I’m a happier person. I’m a happy writer.
It’s easy not to listen to that voice, to say, “Not now. Later.” However, in my experience, later never comes. All those other things–your reasons (excuses) end up coming first, and in the end you never get any writing done. At least, that’s what happens to me. That’s why when the voice says, “Write,” you have to say, “Okay. Now.”
How about you? What reasons (excuses) do you have that stop you from hearing the voice in your head that tells you to write? Are you ready to start listening? Are you ready to be a happy writer?