(originally posted on November 3rd, 2008 at http://www.panhistoria.blogspot.com)
I was tidying up this morning (shocking but true) and I came across my copy of the Gary Robert’s biography of Doc Holliday – which I had been reading last month, the month before? Anyway it reminded me that not too long ago I had been back in deep with my idea of writing the Great American Novel (i.e. the unfinished manuscript). I try not to talk about writing the book too often for the very reason that I keep putting it off, getting distracted, and just generally pissing about and not doing it. As an artist, as a writer, I know those people that are always talking about wanting to be something, but they never just DO IT.
Really the doing is the key. Back in art school I remember one of my professors disparaging ‘talent’. Now I’m a firm believer in talent, but what he said really sank in that day. In his years of teaching he’d seen lots of talented students that never made the grade as artists; they’d just piss it all away in ego and laziness. It was determination and discipline that made the artist. It was the one that worked at it – no matter the starting point – that achieved success. I’ve been judging myself by that standard, and frankly I flop as a novel writer. I piss about and I don’t actually write the damned thing.
Yet I’m different from other wannabe writers. Why? Because I actually write at least a page a day, and often much more than that. Every day I log into Pan Historia and participate in the writing there – perhaps it’s not a fictional piece that I write, maybe it’s this blog, or maybe it’s instructions on how to participate in some contest, or it’s my email correspondence, or even it’s just the conversations I have with people online via our instant messaging system. As an aside on my counting online chat as writing I have to elucidate: I never use emoticons, I always spell the entire word out, and I endeavor, always, to use correct grammar and punctuation. When I describe something I’m aware of the words I choose, always.
I do value the writing I do at Pan Historia – like the re-enactment I talked about in my recent blogging – but deep down I feel like all this practice should be going towards the ‘real deal’. What is holding me back? Is it fear of failure? Ultimately I do hesitate to claim ‘writer’ status for myself. I happen to know some incredible writers personally and I cringe to suggest I can do what they can do, no matter how I strive to learn the art of word craft, but I don’t think that’s really what stops me. After all I keep painting even though I know I’m no Picasso.
It’s more like I’m a glutton and I need to be more single-minded. I grab hold of so many things, pulling them towards me, my mind always searching for the new and interesting. I have to read The New Yorker on the john because I have two novels on the go (and that biography of Doc Holliday), and then when I’m the computer I’m working on Pan Historia or learning my Adobe Suite programs, or talking fiction, art, history, or god knows what. Even when I paint I have sitters and we talk and I can only manage a couple hours at most and there are numerous other projects too numerous to mention.
I have no point of stillness.
To truly write is to hear the story in my head and just follow it, hour upon hour. Even if that is an hour set apart in a day it needs to be one still hour. I’m not even doing that now. While I type this blog post I’m holding a conversation with three people at Pan via instant messaging and I have my Twitter going. In fact I was just ‘gone’ for ten minutes as I posted at Pan regarding our Halloween Home Contest, left a message for someone about their prize, and generally futzed around – and did I tell you that my feet are cold and I need to get some socks on?
Good thing I don’t believe in Attention Deficit Disorder. I would be on drugs now. Wait… I am on drugs, but just painkillers folks, no need to call the cops.