11 Lessons From Writing A Book
“Writing is hard for every last one of us… Coal…
“When I was starting out, and I was struggling, and so stressed and freaking out, and I felt like I was muscling everything through, everything was through the force of will. Nothing was being given to me. I had to fight for every single thing, and I was broke and I was just bummed and frustrated and so ambitious. But it doesn’t happen overnight.
So many people that were more veteran than me would just tell me ‘dude, just cherish these moments, because it’s never going to be like this again, and you’re doing cool sh*t, and just appreciate everything that you’re doing in the moment, because whether you make it or not, you’re doing it. You’re trying. You’re having fun. You’re making stuff that you believe in.’ Now I look back on those times of finding it, and the struggle, so fondly.” Ruben Fleischer, director of Gangster Squad.
Do you ever put your headphones on and walk down the street with Eminem – Lose Yourself on full blast thinking about the future? No? Oh. Me neither.
The vibrations of the motors, rain on the train windows, buzz of the TV’s, jingles on the radio. The commuting eyeballs that stare at the ground and only occasionally glance up, and a sound of static if we’re not careful. Sometimes this is like being an addict, searching for that forgotten sense of clarity, creativity, flow that a few months ago came so easily. Everyday life finds a way to take over and those things we desire are pushed to the back. The classic struggle. If we’re not careful, at the back Clear is chilling with Inspired, and at the front Mediocre is getting chummy with Secure. It’s up to us to bring what thrills us and gets us excited back to the front.
The last few weeks have been full on. There’s a Vague Direction book churning away in the background. It’ll be worth it, but it is becoming apparent how much of an undertaking it’s going to be and how much longer it will take than first anticipated. Classic tortoise and hare, but that’s fine – it’s gotta be good. Why rush if taking a little longer means better quality. Pushing that to one side, real life requirements have meant at the forefront of my mind has been to find sustainability and regularity that comes with a pay slip that someone else gives you. For a moment I fell off the self-employed horse and tried to jump on the wagon of becoming a full-time employee, being employed by somebody else, working on their mission, and getting their paycheck. The mission was irrelevant and I was irreverent.
It was a worthwhile test regardless of the outcome, in one way a confidence boost. As someone who’s just come back from ‘a year off to go on a bike ride’, to an outsider my CV probably looks like it has a gaping hole in it and a hint of this-guy-will-probably-leave-after-two-months, so I was pleasantly shocked at the ease in going from interview to offer. With two full-time offers on the table, and the prospect of settling down in England’s capital, committing to the hustle and bustle was imminent. In one way it was quite an exciting thought and in another something wasn’t sitting right, so I went to chat with two trusted comrades for advice.
They’ve both carved their own paths and built their own foundations. I told them about what was about to happen and they looked at me like a crazy person. One said “you’ve done part of it but you’re not done yet. Can you imagine saying yes and looking back in 6 months to what could’ve been?”. The other said, “These are the seeds. You don’t know it yet but eventually you’ll be able to trace back and it’ll be these moments that count.” They were both conversations that were very similar to the chat 10 months earlier that’s quoted at the top of this post. The meaning applies to anyone on their own mission who has doubts about the struggle and their ability to see it through.
From the earliest stages of this project, the mission was to create a foundation. It’d be a standalone epic experience, and there’d be a good book that would be worth reading as a tangible output, but more than that it would be the beginning of a sustainability that would allow new encounters, moments to remember, location flexibility and more adventures. So the advice from the mini-mentoring sessions resonated and internally I knew it was true. It was a relief in many ways when, whilst many people would’ve advised the obvious option, their advice went the other way.
They were inspiring. It took moments for my priorities to shift to what deep down was the only way. I’d do everything possible, any freelance work, any video contracts. Anything that would provide a way of getting by with enough flexibility to finish this project and see what comes of it. Any other option was the wrong one.
A common thread that came up when chatting to folks on the road last year was that lots of people give up too soon. Saying yes to one of those offers wouldn’t mean anything. No output or change. It would mean working on someone else’s mission all week just because they’d provide a comfortable way to get by, and then trying to pluck up the motivation to work on everything else in occasional spare moments, probably under the haze of stress. Striving for perceived security would be giving up and letting go of any momentum that had been built.
It’s not all slotted into place yet, but I’m grateful to talk to people who have opted for the potential rewards of the unconventional route themselves, because sometimes it seems like those trying to build a path of their own are the few who realise why it’s attractive in the first place. Of course we all have different circumstances, needs, requirements and desires, and it’s not for everyone, but working towards a mission you believe in, creating something, seeing the progression of your work and taking ownership of it is one of the most worthy things I can think of. Maybe it’s ignorance, immaturity, ego, selfishness or a cracked sense of drive, but it seems like a bad idea to let ambition slide just because there’s an easier-for-now option on the table.
Perhaps this will hit a dead end. Perhaps a year spent on the road and the immediate impact was all it was. Perhaps being a full-time employee will become the most desirable option. Fine. But not yet. Right now is time to play the grit card. It’s not a decision about sabotage, it’s a decision about fidelity. The sabotage would be quitting too early, not getting through the dip, and not getting this to a stage to see what could come from it. There’s few secure paths now anyway. Every day people who think they’re on the secure route face insecurity. The only guarantee left is in great work that only you can do, and you can only make great work if you believe in it. This is what I believe in. What about you?