12 Oct

Have you found your Long, Lonely Hours?

Long, Lonely Hours - Ben Bova quote

Long, Lonely Hours - Ben Bova quote

In the end, it is those long, lonely hours when there is nothing in the universe except you and your writing instrument that will determine how successful a writer you will be.
– Ben Bova

I’m tired. My head hurts, I’d like to talk away from the computer.

I don’t.

This here, right now, is where I decide my career, what I’ll be doing in ten years time. The seconds tick away, the Bollywood music plays in my headphones. My hands clatter on the keyboard. That is the sound of my future. That is the way that I create what I want to be.

There is no one stopping me. There is no one stopping you. Time? Money? Stress? Those are excuses. You can excuse yourself. You can excuse yourself from all your dreams. Just make sure to take a good look at them for tomorrow they’ll be gone. Not because you can’t fulfill them anymore, but because you chose to ignore them. You chose the way that didn’t lead towards your dreams and so you walked away from them. I know. I’ve been there.

I’ve spent years with my head in distractions. Things that were easy. Things that were urgent. Things that gave me money, or appreciation, or a sense of not being quite so useless as I was.

Things that were unimportant. Worse, those things killed my dreams. Day by day, second by second, I killed my dreams, chipped away at them until there was nothing left.

Fortunately that isn’t quite true. I kept doing stuff that rebuilt my dreams, somewhat. I learned to write. Not fiction, that I loved, but something safer: non-fiction, copy, marketing. I did things that soothed the pain of not writing and I got good at writing things that weren’t I wanted to write. I could handle words and I made myself believe that this was the way to write. Couldn’t plot worth a damn and I wondered why my stories weren’t any good.

I always wanted to write, see. That was my dream. I wanted to write, I wanted to design games. I didn’t do anything to that effect. About two years ago I started this blog. Not because I needed to, not because I thought I’d make anything of it, but because I wanted something that would keep me focused on designing games. And I was good at writing non-fiction.

I got better. I got better at spitting out blog posts. It wasn’t designing games. It wasn’t writing fiction. It was yet another distraction but one that I enjoyed. I could justify it that someday, somehow, I’d make a living as a blogger. That was a worthy goal, right?

Wrong.

Follow Your Dreams - Douglas Smith quoteI didn’t want to make a living as a blogger. Not then, not now. Oh, sure, it would be nice to get some extra money but that’s not what I want to do. I could do it, but I would do it because it would be easy, not because it would be my dream. Following that goal, right now, would be killing my dreams. That goal is consolation. It isn’t anything that move me closer to my dreams. Yet I kept blogging because it was easy, and fun. It didn’t take me further away from my dreams but it was still going the wrong way. I was circling my dreams while hoping that they would magically shift and suddenly be right in my path. That magic happened not quite a year ago.

I started keeping track of my writing and game designing. I stared to write fiction, actual fiction, the type of things that I wanted to write but had been too scared to. And strange things started to happen. I started to feel that I was an actual writer. I had to fight myself, my upbringing, my family even, but I did it. I wrote. Last year I wrote 12 000 words of fiction.

This year I’ve written 33 000 and the year isn’t over.

Most of those were written in the past two months. That’s the time since I started practicing deliberately.

I took a look at what I was doing, or not doing, that kept me from achieving my dream of writing fiction. And I came to a startling conclusion: I did write. I wrote quite a lot. I just didn’t finish anything. I’d start writing and after an hour or two the steam would run out and I’d have a story that didn’t go anywhere and I’d quite. Then, a few days or weeks later, I’d do the same thing over again with a brand new idea. I figured out that I needed two things: I needed a road map, something to help me get past the low points in the story, and I needed to stick with one story, even when it was hard.

That’s the stuff that made me finish. And I more than doubled my longest story record – I wrote a 7 000 word story when previously I’d only written a 3 200 word one (and that one was a long, long, long way in coming).

I started to take deliberate steps towards my dream. I turned, ever so slightly, and started looking for a way towards the middle. I identified two things that held me back and I started doing them over and over and over again. For a month I did nothing but write plots. No real writing, just outlining a plot. JOE wants the GOLD, does he get it? No AND JANE comes and shoots him in the head. JOE wants to live, does he? Yes, BUT he’s paralyzed from the neck down. JOE wants revenge, does he get it? No, because JANE is married to SUPERMAN and SUPERMAN kicks JOE’s but. Well, you get the point.

It was hard work. It is hard work. But there’s something more there. I finished stories. I finished them and I felt that I’ve actually accomplished something. I felt that my writing was good. Maybe not great but good. I was coming closer to my dream.

I was feeding it instead of razing it.

So feed your dream. Feed it with all your heart. Find that thing that’s holding you back and practice it, only it, just one small, insignificant thing. Practice it until it isn’t hindering you anymore. Then find the next thing and practice that. And the next, and the next. Put in those long, lonely hours.

And watch your dream shine.

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