I'm driven. Competitive as hell. Each Christmas, I spend time with a family in rural Saskatchewan (western Canada) and part of that tradition involves a shinny game.
Sometimes it's on a frozen, home-made ice rink, sometimes just a convenient flat area of ground. Throw up some goal posts, divvy up the hockey sticks and away we go. My nephews are a half, even a third my age and keeping up with them is next to impossible. I have to pace myself, lie back and wait for opportunities to join the rush, moving in as an odd man, going for the loose puck.
But part of me can't get it through my head that I'm in my mid-40's. I still try too hard, to the extent that my heart is hammering in my chest, my face flushed and I'm seeing spots. Sore and nauseous for hours afterward. I can't stop. Those old juices get flowing again and all of a sudden I'm racing forward, throwing myself into the scrum, banging away for the puck.
Those same instincts come into play when I'm writing. I mean, I've been at it over 20 years and though there have been a few flickers of hope and one or two nice breaks, I'm nowhere near where I want to be career-wise. It's not the money, the name recognition, it's the readers I crave. Thousands of them, Millions. Billions. Everyone in the world with one of my books in their hands. And I won't give up, won't (can't) stop until I've expended every last ounce of energy trying to secure that aim. I'll work at it until my legs give out, my back gives in or my heart explodes in my chest. Every day I sit down and try to come up with something new and different and unusual. Something to draw in jaded readers who've been fooled too many times by glossy covers, rave reviews and misleading blurbs.
Give me a crack at them, that's all I ask. A level playing field, a foot in the door, a few minutes of your time. I've spent decades learning my craft, teaching myself how to tell a story in the simplest, most succinct manner possible while wringing the maximum amount of emotion, humour and pathos from each scene. I work hard and I never sell my readers short. Always give it my best shot, regardless of market considerations, monetary remuneration, contemporary trends and niches. I tell a good tale. I make you care. And in the end...what else is there?
Causes Cliff Burns Supports
The Stephen Lewis Foundation, Community Radio