Time certainly does fly, doesn’t it? I’m sorry I’ve abandoned you for so long, dear reader. I wish I had some wonderful excuse that I could craft into an entertaining story for you, but alas I have little more reason than being easily distracted.
The road to becoming an author (and much like the road of life I suppose) can be tricky. There isn’t a map that anyone has designed for us, and with the advent of eReaders and the recent boom in independent publishing, finding your way to being an author has become even more blurry.
The other day I watched a a commencement speech given by one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman. I found it on another author’s blog I’ve been visiting quite a bit lately, and I’d like to give that author a quick shout out if I may. His name is Michael J. Sullivan, and while I’ve never read any of Mr. Sullivan’s books, his blog is a wonderful resource for aspiring authors like myself.
Back to Neil’s speech.
In his commencement address, Mr. Gaiman talks about his road to becoming an author, and he touched on an idea that I keep hearing from successful people I admire.
That idea is to follow what’s fun.
In my life I’ve had a lot of people tell me what I needed to do if I wanted to be an author. Many of them have absolutely had my best interest in mind when giving me advice, and others…well the others I’m not too sure about. I think some people just like the sound of their own voice and we’ll leave it at that.
The point is I’m not sure how often I was advised to follow what was fun. My passion maybe, or the old stand by “do what you love,” but I don’t really recall anyone telling me to just do the things that were fun.
What I have heard a lot of (and what my brain is screaming at me as I write this) are those old, proud American standbys about putting in your work or how nothing comes easy, and whatever other cliched pull yourself up by your bootstraps phrase you may be able to conjure up.
I was told to use my “natural talents” and success would find me in any field or industry. It quickly became my misunderstanding that as long as I was writing I should’ve been happy. I had a belief that any writing I did, no matter how boring or pointless I found it, should have been making me overcome with joy simply because it was writing.
So I tried to get real good at all sorts of things I had no fun doing, and I spent lots of time trying to get places I had no business being. Journalism, editing, or technical writing just to name a few.
It never occured to me to stop and say to my self, “It’s true that I love writing and I love words, but what I really enjoy is making shit up. What I have the most fun doing is using the music of language to paint a picture of what I see in my mind”
Now before I start sounding like a crazy person who’s saying, “Just do what’s fun and everything will be awesome forever!” I want to clarify that I’m not saying that.
To quote one of my favorite episodes of Scrubs, “Nothing in this world that’s worth having comes easy,” and if it did, well…life would be really fucking boring. The struggle to achieve something is a part of what you’ll look back on fondly once you’ve achieved it.
What I am saying is that I wish I hadn’t spent so much time persuing things that didn’t interest me. Or rather, I shouldn’t have persued things others told me I needed to because there isn’t really one set way to become an author.
Those people who gave me advice didn’t do it to be mean or spiteful. Like I’ve already said, the majority of them were trying to help me. But neither one of us understood what it was I truly loved about writing, what motivated me to do it. And so I ended up spending a lot of time doing things I really didn’t like in an attempt to get places I didn’t want to be, because I was confused. I was looking for direction in the wrong places.
You’ll never be able to avoid doing things that aren’t fun or that you don’t want to do, but you certainly can minimize them. Find the things that you think would be fun and try them. And if they aren’t fun stop doing them. When you’re doing something because it’s fun, if the end result isn’t worth what you have to put into it, why do it?
We will work our shitty jobs because we have to, but we should always find time to purse what we find fun. Wake up early if you have to. Wake up early and write, or draw, or paint, or sing, or dance, or write code, or solve puzzles, or do math. Whatever’s fun to you.
And if anyone asks you why you’d go through all that trouble, why you’d get up at five-thirty in the morning to do it, don’t tell them because it’s your dream and you have to work hard if want to achieve it. Tell them you do it because it’s fun.
If you’d like to watch Neil Gaiman’s speech you can do so here.