Writing and Working Fulltime by Eric Penz, Cryptid: The Lost Legacy of Lewis and Clark

by | Apr 23, 2007 | Book Marketing Basics

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If I Can, You Can

I began writing my first novel in 1997. Six years, five drafts (give or take), two sons, and one major surgery later it was finally complete. Then it took another two years to get Cryptid published and on bookstore shelves. And don’t even ask how much Cryptid has earned me. The gravy train is certainly gaining speed, but don’t ever fool yourself that writing novels is a get-rich-quick scheme. Even the big boys like Crichton, Koontz, and Cussler will tell you that. The best-case scenario is a get-rich-slow-eternally slow- scheme. Which is to say, don’t quit your day job.

Ah, but then where does one find the time, resources, energy, and muse to write after coming home from slaving for the Man (or Woman) all day? Well, that’s the million- dollar question. Actually, it’s only half the question. The whole question is where does one find the time, resources, energy, and muse to write after working all day… and then cooking dinner, doing the dishes, helping the kids with their homework, paying bills, cutting the grass, washing the cars, checking your email, doing your nails, going for a run, seeing a movie, getting the flu, finishing your degree… need I go on? We all have twenty-four hours in the day, even the big boys like Crichton, Koontz, and Cussler. Life happens to us all. Just ask Stephen King what a crimp his car accident put on his writing.

We all have a list of reasons to not write. They’re not excuses, really. Life doesn’t leave much room for excuses. So don’t add guilt to that list. But that doesn’t change the fact that you’ve only written a thousand words in the past six weeks, does it? Then what’s the answer? How did I do it?

Well, it took me six years. So one answer is simply that I didn’t quit. Little-by-little, day- by-day, year-by-year I worked at it until it was done. But be more specific. Exactly how did I find the time? OK, well another answer is that I woke my computer every night at 9 PM, Sunday through Thursday, and worked until midnight or 1 AM. I did this religiously for six years, sometimes working seven days straight. I took a two-year commercial fiction course at the University of Washington. I was part of a weekly critique group for three years. I immersed myself in the craft. I did everything I could to make myself the best craftsman possible. Does that help?

No, I’m sure it doesn’t, because you’re not me. You will not be able to work at the craft in the same way I do. You may work a double shift for the Man and the Woman and not be able to write from 9 PM to 1 AM every night. So here’s the answer you’re really after, though you’re not going to like it because it means there’s no short cut, no magic recipe that you can simply follow and be assured success.

You see, the million-dollar answer is that I quit.

Or at least I tried to; many, many times I tried to. But I couldn’t. You know why? Because writing is not something I do, it is something I am. I’m a writer. So there is no quitting. I cannot quit being who I am. I can only accept who I am. And once I did, I never failed to find time to write. My cars may not sparkle, I hired someone to cut the grass, and I often sleep less than eight hours a night, but I write.

So my advise to you is to quit. And if you can, then you’re not a writer. It’s OK. Not everyone is. Then find out what you are and do that, but don’t go back to writing. The craft is too hard and the rewards too slow in coming to labor at it unless you have to. And writers have to. However, if you can’t quit then you are a writer. And once you realize that you can only find joy in life if writing is a part of your life, then you will find the time. I promise you. And it won’t be my way; it’ll be your way. Just don’t quit your day job. It may not be who you are, but it will pay the bills until who you are is a writer whose name is listed in the same sentence with the big boys.

Eric Penz is the author of Cryptid:The Lost Legacy of Lewis and Clark.

1 Comment

  1. Jason Denaro

    Hello Eric.

    I totally agree with what you’ve written. I have over 200 original wildlife paintings published over the past 40 years and they were each created not because I was painting for financial remuneration. I created each work because it had to be better (in my opinion)than the previous work.

    Of course, my N.Y. agent was the ultimate critic, but we worked well as a team. Over the past four years I’ve not painted.My time has been devoted to another of my passions…writing. I’ve completed my first two adventure novels, “What Tomorrow Brings” and “The Beijing Prophecy.” Each book is now published and represented by all major bookstore sites.

    It has been an absolute obsession creating the characters, the action, the plots. I think of very little throughout the day. My current manuscript is constantly on my mind every waking minute.

    I write each morning 7am-10am the off to my regular profession. After dinner I research and write ’till my brain is no longer able to visualize the particular manuscript’s action, to create the banter between the characters. It’s hard on the neck muscles hunched over a keyboard, squinting at a monitor, but you know what…when you’ve been bitten by the creative bug, there ain’t no stoppin’…and I love it, so you throw down a few pain killers and onward ever onward.

    Jason Denaro Ph.D


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