Being a Better Writer: Now is the Time

Hello readers! Sorry for the lateness of this post. I didn’t sleep well last night, and that kind of lead me to sleep in this morning once I actually did fall into slumber.

But you aren’t here for that, you’re here for Being a Better Writer. And we’re diving right into it, as is fitting when you consider the title.

What, you thought I’d name a post Now is the Time and wouldn’t dive right in? Buckle up, because here’s a writing topic some of you need to hear.

When you’re an author you hear a lot of things about writing from other people. Writing, it turns out, is one of those activities where everyone seems to have advice to offer on the topic. Everyone has something to say on it (to the degree that we even did an entire series on tackling cliche “common” advice) and most people think that they have a book inside of them that they will write “when the time is right.”

Because, if you ask any of them, writing is easy. And they’ll get around to it. When they have time.

Well, today we’re going to talk about some hard facts. Despite how “easy” a lot of people believe it is, the facts speak for themselves: There are more people playing semi-professional sports each year than there are writing and publishing books in the US.

Yeah no, I’m not joking. You have a better chance of playing semi-professional sports than actually becoming a published author. Not even one that makes a living at it, but just getting a book out there.

Actually, it gets worse. That same statistic applies even if you just count US football. That’s right, there are more people playing football each year in the US than there are published authors. By last count by about 30,000 people.

Published author number here, sports number here.

Right, why lead with this? To illustrate a point: According to writer Joseph Epstein, about 81 percent of Americans feel that they have a book in them they want to write. Over 200,000,000 people. But with all those people thinking that one of these days they could just sit down and write it … there are only 45,000 published authors in the US.

Or in other words, for a lot of adults it would seem that “publishing a book” is akin to what a lot of kids say when asked what they want to do “someday.” “Be a basketball star!” Only in a fit of irony, what we consider less realistic for the child is much easier to achieve than the adult dream of “write a book.”

Yes, there is a point to all this. I’m not just trying to depress you readers. I’m trying to jolt you into awareness. I pulled these statistics up to illustrate a fact: Writing is hard, and publishing is hard. Getting a book out there is hard, and few people ever succeed at it. Fewer still to make a decent income at it.

Now, with all that said, I do have some good news before we get to the bones of this post (the above was the meat): Publishing is changing. Part of the difficulty in becoming published for the longest time was the absolute iron-fisted lock the big publishers had on the industry. Whether or not a book was good didn’t matter, but whether they felt it would sell that year or not. Publishing’s numbers and difficulty have, in a way that does affect the end result, been squeezed by publishers who didn’t always have the best interests of authors and readers in mind.

But that’s changing. The rise of indie pubs and authors has opened the industry a little. Will the numbers climb above professional sports?

Well, no. Not for a long time the way things are currently. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to downplay the difficulty of writing and selling a book. That still is, and will remain, one of the more difficult tasks to assign to oneself. Publishing has gotten easier, but the act of writing a book is still fiendishly difficult, and that’s not going to change.

Okay, so we’ve got the meat above. Writing a book is hard. So then what are the bones of this post?

Well, it has to do with our title: Now is the Time.

As many of you have no doubt noticed, recently much of the world has found itself with an abundance of free time due to the pervasive spread of a virus known as Covid-19. Many people from working from home, and a large number aren’t working at all as countries around the world have shut down in efforts to curtail the spread of the virus. It’s been a shocking adjustment for a lot of people, but they’re getting the hang of it.

But the end result is that a larger chunk of the world than ever in the last few decades has a huge amount of unexpected free time. But do you know what I’ve noticed, at least when it comes to writing (and the writing forums and chats that I hang out on)?

Despite the new influx of free time, often admitted by those who profess an “interest” in writing themselves … many of them aren’t writing anything. Instead, they’re offering excuses, similar to the ones they made before they had all this time, but re-tailored for the Covid-19 outbreak. Some I’ve seen include “Well, I’d like to now that I have this free time, but I’m just too stressed out. Maybe later.” Or the classic ‘Well, the mood just isn’t right, right now. I need to be in the right mood.” Or “Oh, I’ll get to it. When it comes.”

Bal-oney. Or, if you prefer. Bo-logna.

There’s a common thread binding all these answers together: They’re wishful thinking. They ascribe their lack of writing to something nebulous, such as stress, or the ever unspecific “mood.”

Let me paraphrase another very successful author, who has this statement to give in return whenever he hears one of these phrases (or one like it) at a con or a presentation: ‘There’s no such thing as the magic bullet for writing.’

That’s what these people are waiting for. The “muse.” The “inspiration” that’ll descend from somewhere as soon as they find “the moment” and write their work for them. And it’ll be wonderful and amazing and not at all just as imaginary as a football league coach showing up at their job out of the blue, pointing right at them and saying “YOU! You will take us to the championship!”

Statistically, it would seem the second one is actually the more likely. If you’ve been waiting for the magic bullet, ruminate on that for a moment.

What I’m getting at is that there has never been a better time for most people who think they have a book inside them to try and let it out. Attached to that, however, I would add that with all this free time, if you cannot manage to work on it during this time … you probably never will.

To repeat the title, Now is the Time. Most of us have it, or have been given it. There has never been a better excuse to sit down and spend time writing. And if you can’t use it now … well, there are good odds you never will. Covid-19 has handed millions upon millions of people nothing but time, time they can’t spend any other way than inside doing an indoor activity not leaving their house.

You know, kind of like writers spent their working time before the outbreak.

All those of you who’ve been thinking “someday I’ll try?” “Someday” is now. Today. Right this instant.

No, it’s not going to be perfectly easy. There’s no silver bullet. Do you know what I did last night when I couldn’t sleep? I laid there and ran over the scenes I’m working on for the current episode of Fireteam Freelance, working on what I felt was working and where I wanted to make changes or adjustments.

Writing. Is. Work. Lots of it. There is no “silver bullet.” Just lots of hard work. Work you have to invest time into.

And time is now something many have in abundance.

I’ll say it once more: If you cannot find the time to write now, of all times, despite being handed time on a silver platter, you probably never will. The time has been handed to many of us on a platter, whether or not we wanted it, and now we only get to choose how to spend it. With fewer distractions or demands on it than some of us have ever seen.

Now is the time. Yes, it will be tough. It’ll require focus. Dedication. Effort.

That’s writing.

Now is the time. So make the most of it. So get to it. Find a prompt. Try that idea in the back of your brain. Put the foot forward.

Good luck. Now get writing.


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2 thoughts on “Being a Better Writer: Now is the Time

  1. Sage advice, excellent context — writing good stories IS hard work, even harder than writing a doctoral dissertation.

    Today would be a good day to start…

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Aye, publishing a traditional book is hard, but luckily anyone can write and publish blogs – statistics would be a bit different if all the people earning money from blogs were included I suppose.


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