This year I won't have two books on the bestseller list--hardcover and paperback--nor will I earn rave reviews from Kirkus, the New York Times and the Manchester Guardian. My earnings from writing will amount to next to nothing.
So what keeps me going? If after nearly 25 years I'm not even close to "making it", why bother maintaining the daily practice of writing?
Because I can't not write. Understand? It's a compulsion and a day without putting something down on paper is a wasted day. Truth to be told, I can't even say I enjoy the process of writing. The first draft is usually pretty fun...but then comes the hard slogging, the sheer torture I associate with editing. I grind away at a project until all that initial enjoyment is winnowed down to next to nothing; by the time I'm done with one of my works, I can barely stand to look at it. Writing is not "fun", though I do whatever is in my power to make it a less onerous ordeal. Physically it's painful (arthritis, back and shoulder problems) but my fanatical devotion to the printed word has also exacted a mental and spiritual toll as well. The constant state of stress, the perfectionism I bring to bear on even a short blog entry (like this one). It's ridiculous but what can be done? Some people are just wired up that way. One day they'll find and identify the gene responsible for masochism and great art will disappear overnight.
Writing is essential to every aspect of my life. It is how I define myself and it has nothing to do with popular acclaim and book tours...it's about communicating the themes and ideas that fill my busy head; it's about telling stories that aren't already (at least) twice told, following the examples of my literary masters, breaking new ground...and (mainly) about sharing my unique worldview with discerning and intelligent readers, wherever they may be.
Thanks to recent developments re: blogging, print on demand and podcasting, cyberspace has become a wonderful venue for authors like me who have slipped between the margins, fallen below the radar and yet are still worthy of discovery, capable of producing literate and compelling prose. I may not be making bundles of cash or threatening to break into superstardom but I now have thousands of readers I didn't have before and my stories have found good homes in far off lands.
I feel blessed, I really do.
Causes Cliff Burns Supports
The Stephen Lewis Foundation, Community Radio