Friday, May 23, 2008

It's All About Commitment

It's all about commitment.

Bear with me today folks. I have a couple of stories to tell but I will get to those in a moment, but did you catch that first sentence? It is important that you do.

It's all about commitment.

Stick with me. You began reading this for some reason, right? You committed to reading it, just like I've committed myself to writing it. So, read on until the end. I hope you get something from it.

Last year I went through a spell where I didn't feel too well. It was right about the same time of the year as it is now and me and my body were not getting along. I was tired—extremely tired—a lot and getting home from work and resting was my only goal during that several month period. I slowed down on writing and stepped away from a few things I had made a commitment to. Then, one day I sat down with my wife and talked to her about . . . giving up on writing. Not that I was throwing my hands in the air and saying 'I'll never make it' type of thing, but more of a 'I'm tired and I'm thinking about quitting' type of thing.

I pondered it, prayed about it (yes, I am a praying man, though sometimes I don't pray as much as I should :( ), talked about it with my lovely wife, Catherine. Finally, she told me that I was starting to get somewhere and asked me if I would be happy without writing. Ummm, no, I would not be happy without it. We talked several times about it until I finally told myself I had made a commitment to a couple of projects and I aimed to keep those commitments.

I committed myself to writing and trying to take it seriously in 2004. Yes, I know, I wrote stuff long before then, but in 2004 I started really trying to get my work out there. One thing led to another and here I am, etching out a little name for myself (hopefully a good one). I made a commitment, much like a marriage, to my writing and the community I became part of.

Now that I am done with story number one, I will go to story number two and since I mentioned marriage in there, let's get to a bigger commitment.

I married my wife nearly eleven years ago. When I proposed to her I was willing to make a commitment to her. She said yes, so she was willing to do the same. We got married and, like most couples, we've had our ups and downs and our level playing fields. We committed to having a family when we had our daughter and then committed to a bigger family when we had our son.

I've never met anyone quite like my wife. She IS commitment. She puts her mind to something and she follows through on it. Often times I am amazed by her dedication to her job, to her hobbies, to her children, to me.

Often times it is her commitment that drives me. I probably don't tell her that as often as I should. Now, remember when I was tired and not doing so well, she encouraged me to keep going, to not give up and keep pursuing my dream. She's also committed to being a writer's wife. How lucky am I? :)

Over half of the marriages that take place this year will end in divorce. That's not an exact number but a fairly accurate one. A good chunk of them will split because they are really not committed to one another.

Like I said in the beginning, it is all about commitment.

What's marriage have to do with any of this? Several things.

1) As writers we commit ourselves to our readers. We tell them, hey here is this story, read it and I promise I will get you to a satisfying ending. We give them characters to hold onto, plots to devour, words to marry. It is our commitment to the reader to make sure they don't feel like they've wasted their time reading our words. It's our 'I do.'

2) As writers, when we start networking and becoming friends with other writers, we take on a different type of commitment. I've often said that our little niche in writing, our genre, is like one big family. When you meet someone they become like a brother, sister, mother, father, cousins, or maybe the uncle you don't want anyone to know about. A couple of examples for you: Fran Friel is definitely like the Big Sister I never had. We call each other brother and sister and it fits. I look up to her like I would a smarter, wiser sibling. Bailey Hunter and Boyd Harris are like the cousins you only get to see in summer time or on holidays but you always look forward to talking with them. Erik Smetana is like the adventurous brother who creates the diversions so you can get in and steal the apples off of Mr. Grover's farm. Chris Perridas is the wise uncle who can point you in the right direction when you are heading down the wrong path. Estaban Silvani, well he's that uncle, but it's okay if people know him and his sister, Hazel McHarlot. There are others, but you get the point.

Being a part of the writing community is like being part of a family. You are committed to each other even if you don't get along from time to time. Most things are reparable within a family—it is our jobs as writers within that family to fix things between each other. Again, it is a lot like a marriage. Talking things out and working together will carry you a lot further than going at it alone.

3) As publishers and editors you are committed to putting out the best work possible for the readers (remember you are committed to them, as well) who take the time to browse your publications. Our editors and publishers are much like our parents. They tell you when you do good (good stories) and when you do bad (not so good stories). They are committed to both the readers and the writers.

Yes, the writers. You see, if an editor or publisher is kind with their rejections there is a good chance they will get more submissions from writers who remember how they were informed that their story would not be accepted. Now I'm not talking about giving full out critiques of why a story wasn't accepted but more of an honest feedback of what wasn't liked about a story. Not a lot of detail but nothing too vague either. The problem with that is it takes a lot of time to do this sort of thing. And, we all know that sometimes parents don't have that type of time. But, it is a commitment.

One more story and I'll leave for the day. Lately, I've mentioned my story, The Woodshed, a lot. Part of that is because of the experience I had with dealing with the editor in chief of Dark Distortions, Molly Feese (who wrote a wonderful article on Rhetoric just yesterday). After submitting the story and receiving their acceptance, she and I worked diligently on it, whipping it into proper shape until we both were happy with the outcome. We had a commitment to each other and we both worked hard on it. I don't know about everybody else's experience but mine was wonderful.

When Dark Distortions came out and I received my contributor's copy I was surprised to see a card in the package with the book. It was a thank you note. A thank you note. Let me say that again: a thank you note. Through the entire process of creating Dark Distortions, going through the submissions, dwindling it down to the acceptances, getting it ready for print, printing it, shipping it out and the whole nine yards, Molly also made thank you notes that went to the authors. Now, that's commitment. And that is certainly not something I will forget anytime soon.

Here lately I've noticed a decrease in the efforts and output of a lot of my friends in my writing circles. Things have stepped in the way of writing, editing, publishing or what have you. People have grown tired in some respects. Other folks have become frustrated. Still, others have had life step in the way. That brings me to my final point and I promise I will wrap it up.

Life is a commitment. Whether at your job or with your children or your spouse, life is a commitment. It is a 24/7 commitment. There are planes to catch and bills to pay as Harry Chapin put it. The song is kind of sad, but the commitment for Harry in this song was not to his kid and before he knew it, the kid was grown and just like him. My final point is, yes life is a commitment, but don't forget to take the time out of your busy schedule to enjoy part of life, enjoy your family, make a commitment to enjoying life as well.

For us writers juggling writing and work and family can be difficult but if the commitment is there then it is possible. It's all about commitment.

For now, I'm AJ and I'm out.

1 comment:

  1. Great post. This is especially important for new writers to read, those that have the fear that writing has to be a lonely avocation. It doesn't have to be that way, there are amazing people who are only willing to help you out or give a shoulder to lean on when you need it.