Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Dear Reporter, Writing Struggles

The Writing Hurdles
Mike Hays

There are many hurdles writers deal with on a daily basis. In my struggle to be a writer, I have to find a way to recognize them and overcome them. The first hurdle is time. There is never enough of it. I am busy and everyone I know is busy, it is a part of modern life. As a husband, father, scientists, coach and writer, there is always a fight against the clock. I have to be patient and scribble a lot of notes and then stay disciplined enough to take advantage of the time I do have.
The second hurdle is doing the actual work. The level of effort and dedication it takes to be a writer is daunting. Writing is hard. Writing takes work; hard work. It takes focus and discipline to learn the technical basics, while at the same time cultivating the creative aspects. Like sports coaching, there is the need for constant work, consistent effort and a concerted focus to get better ever day. Butt in chair, one word at a time. 
To paraphrase hall of fame Coach Tom Osborne, on cultivating work ethic in his University of Nebraska football program, "Everybody wants to win; it is human nature to want to win. The difference between winning and losing often falls to a willingness to put in the work and the sacrifice necessary to achieve the goal."
The third hurdle facing today’s writer is obscurity. Most of us are nobody’s. We arrive at the back door of publishing, as small, seemingly insignificant authors without the backing of publicity and marketing machines. We need to become door to door salesman, building one costumer at a time, moving forward day after day to develop a base of fans and followers. But, a silver lining in this electronic age is the great people in this business we get to meet along the way. The vast majority of us will probably never sell ten gazillion books, but I bet 100% of us will meet people along the way whose friendships and associations are worth a gazillion books’ weight in gold.
          Fourth, and probably the most dangerous to a writer, is fear of failure. This fear can paralyze a writer and cause their creative work to be packed away safely on a dusty, dark shelf where no one will ever see it, or even worse, their work not ever being put to paper. Used as a motivator, though, fear of failure can be a transforming force for a writer. I try to use this fear of failure to produce the best work I can. Failure and rejection, as deflating as they may be, can be used in a positive manner to make the work better and to polish it up until it shines. I don’t like losing. Never have, never will. But, I know the only way to remedy a loss is to identify the mistakes, correct the errors, recharge the battery, then stage another attack. 
           Why do we do it? Why do we fight these monsters and wrestle these demons to write? Everyone is different and has their personal set of reasons. Here are my six reasons for writing I came up with last October for a national “Why I Write” day event.
Why I Write
1. There are stories and ideas rattling about my head that need to come out. Writing puts these into a logical form.
2. To exchange ideas. To learn things I don’t know and to pass along things I do know.
3. Creating a piece makes me happy. Seriously, it does. It also makes me happy to see people of all ages reading and it makes me REALLY happy when they read my stories.
4. The excitement, the fear, the anxiety and the hope I feel every time I post or submit a piece of work. Nothing like it.
5. There are an infinite number of stories out there, some written already and some waiting to be written. I want a few of those stories to be mine.
6. Everything flows through reading and writing. The world opens to the Narnias and the Middle Earths, it opens to dragons and little hungry caterpillars, the battles for good and evil and the nightmares on Elm Street to the Midsummer’s Night Dream. It is all out there waiting to be explored (or waiting to be written).

And never, ever forget the most important reasons to write: Because you enjoy it and it is fun!

Mike Hays is a husband, a father of three, a lifelong Kansan and works as a molecular microbiologist. His middle grade historical fiction book, THE YOUNGER DAYS, is scheduled for a February 2012 release from MuseItUp Publishing. Besides writing, he has been strength and conditioning coach, a football coach and a baseball coach. He is a member of the Catholic Writer's Guild, has published three football coaching articles, co-authored several scientific papers and is the co-inventor of two US patents.
Twitter: @coachhays64
Mike Hays Facebook Page


Charlie said...

What a great post Mike! I found myself nodding all the way through it. You hit such key elements. Also loved hearing Osborne's quote. As a writer who lives just north of you, it's refreshing to hear about how hard work can take you places. Great article Mike.
C.K. Volnek

Mike Hays said...

Thanks, C.K. I miss ole Dr. Tom and the class and innovation he brought to the game. Good luck with A Horse Called Trouble!
Hard work is the magic!

S.A. Larsenッ said...

Amazing points, Mike! Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Dedication and hard work will eventually pay off!!

Pat McDermott said...

Nice, logical listing about the trials and rewards of being a writer, Mike. I especially like the idea of making a gazillion friends along the way. Don't know if I've hit a gazillion yet, but I'm getting there. I look forward to reading The Younger Days.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I wrote a post on my blog a while ago comparing writing to coaching. I gave up the coaching to write more but lots of the skills are similar. I really enjoyed reading your blog.

Mike Hays said...

Thank you, Sheri. I also think a focus on the work aspect helps level out the emotional highs and lows of creative work.

Thanks Pat. I couldn't decide whether I wanted gazillion friends or bazillion friends, so I settled on gazillion because bazillion looked too much like Brazilian and I didn't want to appear too S. American biased.

Susan, I am often surprised how much in common football coaching and writing are in regards to preparation, work ethic, and scouting (research). Some times being a dumb jock actually pays off.

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