I’ve often been asked, “How do you have the self-discipline to write the way you do and focus on your work?”
So I wanted to tell you a little story. First though, remember — this is my job. Writing is my career, it’s not a hobby, it’s not something I do just when I feel like I. It’s my job and it pays the bills but only if I get the stories written. You can’t just go into work when you feel like it, and I can’t just sit down to write when I feel like it. So I’ve trained myself to write even if I’m not particularly inspired. “I just don’t feel like it” is just an excuse.
However, back to the story.
I’ve always wanted to be a writer, ever since I was three years old. I was learning to read, and I remember at one point, I figured out that people made the books that I loved. People wrote those stories. And right then, I knew I wanted to grow up and “make books.”
I’ve written most of my life. I wrote my first short story before I could even print. But that’s fodder for another tale. What I wanted to tell you about today, is a day back in 1993. December 16th, to be specific (which I find a little spooky, given both the story below and the fact that my mother would die 7 years later on that date).
Samwise and I were married that year, I had five books that I had written and tucked away in the closet. And I was futzing around, wanting to write, and yet not doing a whole lot of it. It seemed there was always something else to do.
I had caught a cold that October, which turned into walking pneumonia. I didn’t realize it was pneumonia at this point, and we didn’t have the money for me to go to a doctor. I had no health insurance. So I kept hoping that it would just go away. But it dragged on and it got worse and I was coughing really bad.
One night Sam took off for work. He worked as a line cook at that point. I was sitting on the sofa, coughing my lungs out, watching TV. I was hungry, but I was too weak to cook dinner, so I made some air popped popcorn.
I was watching Murphy Brown at the time. I put a piece of popcorn in my mouth. And started to cough.
Well, you know how when you cough, you inhale sharply first? Yeah, that happened. I inhaled and an unpopped kernel got sucked down my windpipe where it got stuck.
I tried to cough it up, but it wouldn’t budge. Then, I realized that I couldn’t breathe. I stood up, but I was so scared and confused that I didn’t know what to do. Everything began to spin, and then — I passed out.
I remember the sensation of floating. All I could see was an odd brownish color. And then I realized that I didn’t know who I was, and I didn’t even know what I was. The only thing I knew at that point, was that “I” existed in some frame of reference.
I don’t know how long that lasted, but the next thing I knew, I opened my eyes. I was lying on the floor, with the popcorn kernel was next to my mouth. It had dislodged when I fell.
After a massive panic attack, I managed to call Sam and he came in from work. By the time he got home, I had calmed down and realized I was relatively okay, other than being terribly sick. I also knew that the Goddess had helped me. She wasn’t done with me yet.
But the incident set me to thinking. I sat up a good share of that night. I had almost died, and I asked myself—seriously—what would I have regretted leaving undone? (Other than missing Samwise and the cats, of course).
My biggest regret? Would have been never having a book published, because that’s what I wanted all of my life. That had always been my goal, and I was letting time slip past. I wasn’t putting my heart and soul into making my biggest goal a reality.
And right then, it hit me: Someday may never come. Someday may never happen. All we have is today.
Right then, I re-prioritized my goals. I started to write, seriously, I focused on my writing as a job, and stopped waiting for inspiration. I worked my ass off, and over the next couple years, I wrote and rewrote two more books and umpteen short stories. Now, none of those books in the closet (including those last two), has ever seen the light of publication, but that doesn’t matter.
What does matter is that in early 1996 I finally received my first book contract (for Trancing the Witch’s Wheel).
And that beginning of my professional career. But I don’t believe it would have happened if I hadn’t gotten my act together and focused on what I wanted, and made it a priority.
If you want something, if you truly want to make something happen, you will find a way. You will make the time to devote to it. Because we all have twenty-four hours in each day. It’s how we spend those hours that makes the difference.
So, if you have a goal for something you want to achieve, stop saying “Someday I want…” and start working toward now. Even if you can only carve out twenty minutes a day. Because someday may never come. So make the most of your time. Stop blaming others for why you haven’t been working toward your goals–in the end, you’re the only one who can achieve your dreams for yourself. Nobody’s going to hand it to you on a platter.
Now there’s a chance you might realize that what you thought you wanted to spend your time on, isn’t really what you truly want to spend your time on. That’s fine! We all change our minds, and our goals and dreams shift over the years. But find your passion, look at what you love to do, and carve some time out for it.
Because truly, all we do have is today. We can look toward the future and plan, and we can remember the past and gauge how far we have come. But today — today is what matters.