Thursday, February 14, 2019

At the Tone, the Time Will Be...

What sacrifices have you made for your writing career that you're better for?

From Jim

What have I sacrificed for my writing career? That’s simple. I’ve sacrificed time. Years, and in more ways than just butt-in-the-chair writing, though there’s that, of course. You have to write to be a writer, after all. In the same way you’re not a skydiver if you don’t jump out of airplanes. That’s not to say you have to publish to be a writer any more than you have to pull the ripcord once you’ve jumped from the plane to be considered a skydiver. I recognize, however, that publishing—and ripping the cord—is usually the preferred route to a happy career.

But in addition to sitting down and writing, I needed years to reach the point where I was ready to succeed at writing. I landed my first agent in 1991. I had written a couple of books and was sure it was my time. But it wasn’t. I wanted so badly for it to be my time. But it wasn’t.

When my agent failed to sell my books, I kept writing anyway. And when she and I differed over the new direction I wanted to to take, we parted ways. And, yes, I was sure it was my time to succeed. Only it wasn’t.

With the lack of early success, I gradually lost momentum in my writing career. Instead, I concentrated on making a living. As I began to achieve success elsewhere, the writing fell by the wayside. I still wanted to be a writer. Talked a lot about being a writer. But didn’t really do much to make it happen.

I moved to Los Angeles and embarked on a wonderful career in the subtitling industry. For seventeen years, I traveled to foreign countries, started new businesses, and met amazing people. I learned a lot about myself and the world around me. And I lost time. I sacrificed it for the experience I obviously needed to become a writer of any merit.

About twelve years ago, however, I realized that the sacrificing had to end if I ever wanted to make a go of it as a writer. I needed to write. And I needed to approach that goal as if time were dwindling. In fact, I asked myself that very common question: If not now when? Time, which I’d needed to accumulate the skills and knowledge and maturity required to write words of worth, was no longer a chip I could trade. It was the capital I needed to hoard. Since then, I’ve written and sold seven novels, thanks in great part to the time I’d spent getting there.

Not every writer follows the path I did. Some are simply more talented earlier. More talented later, too. And others still wait and toil and hope even longer than I did. But whether writers find success—however we wish to define that—early or late or never, they all must sacrifice time. Then they must cherish what’s left—decades, years, or months—and exploit it to the fullest. At least that’s what I’m doing.

Write like the wind!


7 Criminal Minds said...

Your post should inspire unpublished and published writers. Not everyone writes that best seller first time out! Thanks for sharing your journey.

Susan C Shea said...

An honest look at the process as it plays out for a lot of us. And the best part is you're now award-winning author of a great series. Glad you pulled the rip cord!

Kathy Reel said...

I for one am delighted you became successful when you did for purely selfish reasons. I was deep into reading mystery and crime as my preferred genre, and you and Ellie Stone came along shortly after that began. You, Jim Ziskin, are an awesome writer and person!