Still Writing After All These Years: The Line between Luck and Love
I met my old lover
On the street last night
She seemed so glad to see me
I just smiled
And we talked about some old times
And we drank ourselves some beers
Still crazy after all these years.
—Paul Simon, Still Crazy After All These Years
If you are a listener to the podcast The Shared Desk, hosted by Pip and myself, you may have heard of my nervous disposition right before a book release: I clean like a maniac. The weekend before my latest book, Dawn’s Early Light, I spent two-and-a-half days cleaning Imagine That! Studios where I write, I podcast, and I operate creative endeavors of all kinds. This was actually more than a cleaning spurt though. It was a full-on purging. I replaced a printer that had stopped working months ago. I vacuumed under the desk in places where the upright couldn’t reach. I rearranged my bookshelves, finding better homes for my steampunk references. In the end, the studio feels more than just in order. It feels in balance.
In the middle of this great purging I came across a fistful of business cards from events I’ve attended over the years as an author and as a podcaster. These cards were from authors of nonfiction, of fiction, of computer how-to books, of epic fantasy, of science fiction, and of social media’s best practices from as far back at 2005. Sorting out those I remembered well from others that I had no recollection of when we last talked, I took a moment from the purging to hop online and look up a few of these “up-and-coming authors” from circa 2005 to today.
Out of the random ten cards I checked, three were still writing. Sort of. I say “sort of” because their last books came out in 2009 or 2011. Three years between books? Once upon a time that kind of gap was not unheard of. Now in the days of independent publishing and the expected turnaround from traditional publishers, three years between bylines means trouble.
That was for the three still “kind of” writing. What happened to the other seven? And these are only ten of many, many cards I had collected over the years. The cards I kept.
I have heard more than once “You got nothing to worry about. You’ve arrived.” Much like I am here, I opened up on Chuck Wendig’s blog (of infinite awesome), TerribleMinds.com, about the reality behind every book I’ve released since my first back in 2002. With everything Pip and I have riding on this latest release, I feel not only a sense of powerful (but not crippling) fear but deep and passionate gratitude that it’s been over a decade and I am still writing. I have been lucky enough to fall into so many wonderful projects over the years.
But how much of this is luck and how much is simply determination and drive?
I’ll admit to solid performances from the previous books. Phoenix Rising and The Janus Affair still appear in Amazon’s Top 100 in Steampunk, even after three years. The second edition of Podcasting for Dummies, coming up on its sixth anniversary, is in Amazon’s Top 20 of book covering Wireless Networks. There is a measure of luck in that, sure. Then I consider the Podcasting for Dummies companion podcast, revolutionary for its time. I think about podcasting MOREVI which launched a movement for writers of all backgrounds. For Dawn’s Early Light, Pip and I—with the help of some amazing people at Foreword Literary and at home—orchestrated an epic tour of blogs and podcasts, and a third season of our award-winning Tales from the Archives, all leading to appearances in Richmond, Virginia.
So, with that in mind, am I lucky or am I making my own luck?
I look at the cards scattered across my desk, and wonder what set me apart from these talented people? Did they find there was too much work behind being a modern day author? If you are truly measured by your last book, what does it say about the up-and-comer who released his one book with great fanfare and praise, and have that 2006 title be their one and only title?
I believe in luck, but I don’t believe this much luck exists. Maybe in the world of Harry Potter, (provided you get the recipe just right), but not in the world of the modern day writer. There is a lot of power in the mantra of “You can’t give up. You’re not allowed.” A touch of madness, peppered with bull-headed determination helps, too. When I look on these reminders of where I was, I feel a deeper appreciation for where I am now. I also see with a clear head and crystal vision of where I want to be next. The success rate in this industry is not easily measured and all kinds of subjective; but in many instances, it is the crazy ones who make the unforgettable impression, isn’t it?
Considering the lessons of this office purging, the more appropriate wish you’d want to grant me at present isn’t “Good luck, Tee.” but more accurately “Thanks for the blog, Tee. Now get to work.”