Thursday, June 16, 2022

Rage, Rage against the Dying of the Light from James W. Ziskin

Would you ever consider retiring from writing? 


Under what circumstances?


How does it make you feel to consider retiring?

Like Dylan Thomas: Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

I love reading. And I love watching sports. Listening to music. Eating, too. And let’s not get started on drinking. I would never willingly abandon those joys, so why would I retire from writing? It’s more than a job, a hobby, or a pastime. For me, it’s a pleasure and a fundamental need.

I wrote my first novel at the age of twelve. It was a terrible book. About what you’d expect from a kid. But it sparked my desire to write stories and set me on a lifelong pursuit of that dream. I don’t look at the publication of my first book, Styx & Stone, as the end of my journey. I did not “make it” when that happened. In fact, it represents nothing more or less than the starter’s pistol and my first steps out the blocks. Everything I’d done before that—the five unpublished novels, the countless hours of revision and polishing, the unsuccessful query letters, and the dreams put on hold until I was finally prepared—was nothing more or less than my training for the race.

So why would I quit when I’ve only just begun?

Writing isn’t a job like others. At least not for me. Yes, I approach my work in a professional manner, but I don’t watch the clock and long for the weekend. I don’t complain about the difficulty of the task. And it hasn’t made me rich, either. That’s why I think of writing more as a calling than a job. And, short of a crisis of faith, one never leaves one’s calling. I’m always thinking about characters, places, and devilishly clever plot twists. And I spend entirely too much time sitting alone, searching for just the right word. How could I ever consider hanging up my cleats? (That’s “boots” for our British cousins.)

Retiring from a calling is like dying. Or at least living a life with a huge hole in it. I think I’d feel hungry. You know that hypoglycemic void in your belly? That’s what it would be like for me.

I suppose I’ll write until I’m no longer able to think coherent thoughts or type on a keyboard. Apologies in advance. You’ve been warned.


Dietrich Kalteis said...

Well said, Jim. It's not a job, it's a calling.

Linda C. Wisniewski said...

Written like a writer! Starter's pistol! Hanging up my cleats! Good one, Jim. Looking forward to more Ellie Stone books over the next few years.

Catriona McPherson said...

This! I can still remember how confused I was the first time a fellow writer said she was thinking about stopping. (She didnt.)

Anonymous said...

The five unpublished novels. New writers need to hear this. That it takes a lot of “almost” before you finally write a satisfactory book. Good post!

Anonymous said...

I figure I'd quit writing when the stories quit coming to me.

Anonymous said...

- Keenan

Vinnie said...

Glad you are heeding the call, James Ziskin!

Susan C Shea said...

For me also the question is quit and then do what? Take up hang gliding or competitive macrame knitting? I have a hunch any quitting I do will be more like when you lose your driver’s license because you can’t find your way home from Safeway.