Jim Kukral of the ‘Sell More Books Show’ (which I listen to, along with ‘The Creative Penn’, as my two writing podcasts [I am aware that other writing podcasts are available]), has a point he regularly repeats about how a person needs to reach the proper level of pain. That only when you’re at the level where you can take no more will you truly spur yourself on.
Once you get to that point: the moment in your life where you can’t take anymore, then – and only then – will you change things. Then you’ll start rearranging your life so it puts you in the best place to succeed, the best place to break the chains which are holding you back.
To have reached that level of pain is probably the most important thing you need to write like I do.
Trust me, I know.
For a long time my pain level wasn’t high enough. The life I had was perfectly fine, and those bits of it that weren’t didn’t hurt me enough that I’d do anything drastic over. I had my girlfriend who became my fiancée who became my wife, we had our little house and eventually we had our baby. Okay, my career (such as it was) had stalled, but that was fine as I had never taken a great deal of pleasure from work. What had filled me with passion was writing, but for the while that had gone on the back burner as I wasn’t finishing anything I was writing – because I wasn’t motivated enough to finish anything I was writing – and so I just let things drift along.
What changed was having my baby girl in my forties and seeing my life mapped out – the next twenty or thirty years in a plodding job as a corporate drone. What changed me was the thought I’d get to retirement age with the feeling that somehow I’d let things slip by. What changed me was the desire to make my daughter proud, so that she (hopefully) doesn’t stare at me one day with slight pity as her old man is just a corporate drone who let a lot of life slip him by.
I started hurting, the kind of hurt which kept me up at night with worry. What was I going to do? What could I even do? And in my anxious self-pity, was there anything I could do?
That’s how bad things were. I genuinely wondered if I was just trapped on my path with no exits whatsoever. That wasn’t the case, that is never the case. At the risk of sounding like the most cliched self-help book, it is never to late to help yourself, you just have to want to do it.
You really, really have to want to do it.
Okay, as parents we were past the first three months and so were sleeping again though the night, but we still had a very young baby who needed time and attention. I also had a full-time job I had to devote myself to. There wasn’t much time in the day. But still, I had to find the hours and the willpower to do what I had completely failed to do in the run-up to her birth and write and finish something.
I had reached the point of pain where I could take no more.
And if you’re not at that point – if you’re still someone who picks up and puts down what they write willy-nilly – then this will be hard for you.
As what I do is intense, and if you’re not driven each day by a desire to change your life, if will be really, really difficult.
Fancy reading a collection of short and gripping short stories. There’s one available here.