Pushing The Boulder: Finding Your Drive to Write

Sisyphus and his friendOnce, I basked in the sunlight of destiny.

Most of us writers do, it is a repercussion of reading too much fiction growing up (all heroes and heroines have destinies, don’t they?). And, honestly, when one reads a biography of a writer doesn’t it always feel like some other worldly power gave something somewhere a nudge? You can feel the word just hanging on everyone’s lips, hiding behind each quote:

Destiny.

Another reason why we writers feel the tide of destiny is because of ego. All writers have an ego! If we didn’t, we wouldn’t believe that we have something worth saying! There is a reason people should waste their time with our words!  Yes, egos are a prerequisite for picking up a pen. Some are big, some are loud, but they are all there for each of us, whispering in our ears and telling us how pretty we are.

When I look over my life, I have a collection of experiences (that feel like short stories) that make up my mental autobiography, the chapter that made this man the writer. The funny thing is, after all this time, I couldn’t tell you exactly which earlier chapters were fiction and which were nonfiction. See, things blend together with me over time. (If you think this is silly, ask my wife. It is a common occurance for her to ask me if I am exaggerating something; and, to be honest, I do it all the time.)

So why am I bringing up destiny? Well, after years of trying to make it as a novelist I have a great truth to share, one that may not be easy for many to hear.

There is no destiny.

No destiny, no fate. The life of a writer is something you have to earn with sweat, blood, and a lot of luck.

And if you walk away, you walk away.

My goal is not to make a pep talk.

There are more than enough books and websites that spin the positive; giving you little nuggets of fake gold to make you feel rich with success. Heck, some even may inspire me from time to time, believing I am going to make it or some wonderful possibility is awaiting me in the future. It’s just…

How do I explain this better?

Who is that guy in Greek mythology with the boulder?

Okay, I know this…

Sisyphus!

There we go! I knew it would come to me. Do you know this story? I don’t need to go into the particulars of how he angered the Greek God Zeus (there are variations on this tale), but he did and the moral is don’t be sneaky, especially with gods.  Got it! Don’t be sneaky! No sneakiness!

Anyway, so as punishment, for all of eternity in the dark of Hades, Sisyphus is forced to roll a giant boulder up a steep hill. But Zeus, being the bastard that he is, had bewitched the boulder so that when it gets to the top he will always lose control of it, rolling back to the start.  And there is poor Sisyphus, standing on the hill, looking around, releasing a deep sigh…  then walking down the hill to get the boulder and start again.

And that is what my writing career felt like for me at one point in my life.

That stupid boulder.

For three years I walked away from writing. This to me was a huge deal, incredibly big. I had defined myself with the title of “writer” since I was a teenager, so to say no more to the dreams and the lifestyle was quite a major departure.

Frankly, I had enough of all of the games. I had enough of playing with agents, debating with writers at writing tables, or trying to get a publisher (or producer) to take my writing seriously.

That evil treeI was Charlie Brown with his kite stuck in a kite-eating tree and I was done trying to pull it out from the branches. The tree could eat my damn kite now, I don’t care.

And, looking over my life at the time, I was very happy without the stress of writing. I just couldn’t imagine, why the anxiety, pressure and ego-crushing experience was worth it anymore.

Okay, I know this was dramatic of me, so very dramatic. But most writers are dramatic, right? We like to do things big. (Yes, actors are dramatic souls, but remember it is the writers that give them the words to be dramatic with.) So I did this big. I told contacts I had, fellow writers, everyone that would listen that I was walking away from the typewriter. Friends, family, everyone was in on the “secret.”

It was one of the worst-kept secrets ever.

Now here is the real secret.

I wanted someone to stop me. I wanted destiny to peek its head up and say “We didn’t think you would go through with it! Jeepers! Here is that book publishing deal! We are so sorry.”

But destiny didn’t, destiny didn’t even flinch!, and life had a way of slipping ahead of me, moving faster without the burden of the “boulder” on my shoulders. Before I knew it, I had not created anything new in three years.

Three years…

There are a lot of facts out there to depress a writer.

They aren’t difficult to find, and any writer can list them for you.

The one I always find the most difficult to deal with is that we live in an ever-growing, overly-congested market, from traditional publishing to indie publishing to self-publishing.

When you do a scan of Twitter, for example, you can’t help but feel that there are not enough readers out there for all of these writers. And the fact is there are more writers added to the pool each year, as new talents emerge from colleges, high schools, or simply the older souls deciding to chase that dream in retirement. Each year, each month, each day, it gets harder to have your voice heard over the growing onslaught of noise.

All those writers, all those destinies.

So what drew me back to writing?

Easy! I missed creating.

See, when I started writing so long ago as a kid, it was not about finding success or making a pile of money. It was just that I loved literature and I wanted to make some of my own. It’s fun to me, and I missed being writer Scott as compared to normal Scott. Normal Scott was nice and all, but writer Scott was just cooler and more me.

How I jumped back into it was via this blog. It was my New Year’s resolution that year, and starting almost on the day after the holiday I began, writing one blog post each day, all in the hope of seeing if I still have my voice, my creativity, and to see what I can do with it.

That is the thing I think that all writers need to realize. It can’t be about your readers or destiny or money or awards and pats on the back.

No, writing has to be about you, and only you.

If you enjoy writing, great!, do it.

If you don’t and you find it cumbersome or difficult; well, there are a lot of wonderful things to do in this world. Something else might make you happy. Because writing is a big boulder. It will always be a big, freaking boulder.

For me, the difference, the big difference, is that I now own my boulder.

I have drawn pictures on it! I have even named it (“Large Marge” after PeeWee’s Big Adventure). And yeah, it still is difficult to get that boulder up to the top of the hill each time, and, yes, it might fall back down each time, I get that. But now, I really don’t care anymore.

See, now when I write, I write only for me. And if success comes down the line, it will be because of what I did to make it happen.

Destiny be damned.

A Jane Austen DaydreamIf you liked reading this post, why not check out one of my books? I’ve had four novels published in the last few years, A Jane Austen Daydream, Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare, My Problem With Doors and Megan. You can find them via my amazon.com author page here, or as an eBook on Google eBooks here.  Thanks for reading!…

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21 responses

  1. I enjoyed the blog. This is something I should cut out and frame so I can refer to it when the need arises.
    Thank you very much for sharing-

  2. I appreciated reading this today. I need to remember to write for myself, choose the story I want to write and to find joy in the simplicity of creating something I wanted to create. Thanks.

  3. Scott, I’m so happy I “stumbled” onto your tweet. I like this blog mucho; i.e. I get it!
    I have spent the last few months promoting the books I’ve written instead of working on the one in progress, and I’M NOT HAPPY. I’ve been writing essays, etc. but it is just not the same as creating a new book. We must keep the thing we truly love in the forefront. Best of luck with your new book – and keep us posted.

  4. Nice post. This is very inspiring. I have always written, even if it was only scrawling stories in a notebook and it always made me feel better about life. Now I am trying to be “serioius” but it is only when I enjoy it that things get done. Thanks for the post.

      • I wrote a lot of outlines and notes during my break, but had a ‘what’s the point?’ attitude. Fortunately, I got over that. I’m glad you did, too, man.

  5. Well said, Scott. For me the boulder is fear that I can’t write a good novel. Some days I’m near the top of the hill, feeling that I’ve almost conquered the fear, and other days I’m standing at the top looking at the boulder on the bottom, realizing that I will be pushing against that self doubt the rest of my life.

    • Sounds like you are thinking too big picture. I sometimes get overwhelmed with thoughts like that too (Heck! I just wrote a 400-page book in the voice of Jane Austen! Trust me I know stress and fear about an end product. LOL).

      What I do then, is step back, look at my outline and just focus on each piece one at a time (usually never in the right order, but by what feels more doable at that moment). It can be a struggle, but I always end up with a first draft.

      If you write first for yourself and are happy with the result, like I say in the piece, anything else positive is a bonus.

      Good luck with the writing!

  6. I’ve had the same journey with acting and writing. Too focused on external recognition and frustrated when it wasn’t happening. Took a break (kinda forced because of kids) and then as the emptiness grew I remembered that all along it was never for them. It was for me. It always has to be for me. So great that you shared your story. The ego is a powerful and can push you to great heights, but it needs a dose of reality sometimes!

    • The funny thing with reality and the creative mind, it can slip away easily. Every time something happens for me and my writing, I have to reign myself back in.

      I once recommended to writing students that after you send a query letter or a sample or a requested excerpt from your book to a publisher or an agent give yourself only one minute to imagine the possibility… then assume it is negative and ask yourself what you are going to do next. It may sound harsh (and can feel that way) but it keeps focus and if the answer is positive it is a wonderful surprise… and if it is negative you already moved on before being received.

      For me, I’m trying to find some kind of new middle ground of a career. It’s painful to go back to seeking an agent, however the market in self-publishing is too congested. This blog is in many ways a lifesaver for me and my writing voice.

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