Many times in life I’ve been given the advice, “Live in the now.” Dwelling on the past robs you of the present. If you live for the future, you will never get there. Philosophically, I agree. We can only affect what we are currently doing. Guilt for things we’ve done saps energy and sours today. Constantly reaching for future goals means never experiencing the greatness you could be feeling.
So, from the perspective of living, it’s great advice.
From the point of view of an author, however, it’s terrible.
Writing a book takes a LOT of time. Few have the luxury of sprinting through a manuscript un-distracted. So that means dedicating a lot of “right nows” to something you only vaguely hope will pay off in the long run. The biggest enemy of an author is “the now.” If you want to have a great experience, you’ll go out with friends or binge watch the latest TV show. Those things feel better in the moment.
Don’t get my wrong. Writing is emotional. It’s a lot of great moments. But they are solitary, and the good times are punctuated with outlines, edits, and confusion. That’s where the emotion driven artist falls down. The passion to create can only fuel so much writing. So you either have to stick to short stories, or you eventually have to face the long dark of the manuscript.
It means choosing not to have fun or relax during your precious few hours after work. It means not going out on a Saturday sometimes. It means closing Facebook, turning your phone to silent, locking your door and sitting in a desk chair. Those hours have to come from somewhere… and that means a lot of “right nows” that you don’t really live in… rather you work through.
I’m not saying you have to become a hermit. See friends. Watch TV. Have great experiences and moments. Those are all fuel for future characters and scenes. However, you can’t live in it. Some of your time has to be the fitful typing when you’d rather be at a movie.
That’s the price of writing a book. And if you want to get good, you have to write MANY.
So when people say, write what you love, it’s because you will be dedicating a lot of present hours to something unsure in the future. Learn to love the journey. Find enjoyment in slogging through proofreading or tweaking an outline. Only when those difficult tasks become something you enjoy will the actual time spent writing become something rewarding enough that you don’t have to rely on the end payouts to make it worthwhile.
In the long run, that’s the only way to get from “Once upon a time…” to–