I am the poster boy bad example for the first rule of writing: Show up every day.
I have already chronicled the results of my failure to show up every day. All along my goal was to escape “wage slavery” and make a living as a full-time writer, staying at home to pet my dog, write what I chose to write, and enjoy the lovely surroundings not far from the shores of the bay of Green Bay.
I showed up every day at the “wage-slave” job. But I did not show up at my writing desk. Over the years my day job paid the bills, and so it was easy to slack back into a habit of writing what I wanted from time to time, which is no habit at all. The result? Forty-six years of “wage slavery,” lonely dogs, and lovely homes that in winter I saw by day only on weekends. (Thank the Lord for technology that now allows me to work from my home office some of the time.)
Then, as I’ve started to repeat myself in recent days, I resolved to post something on my blog every day. I showed up. Even when I had to do it at 10 p.m. before I went to bed after a ridiculously long day, I showed up. A handful of times I didn’t get it done until before noon, but I got it done. I showed up.
The results weren’t visible day to day. But over those 365 days I completed three books, republished and redistributed another six books I have edited over the years, and got close to halfway through a new novel, all while doing my day job and putting something out on this site every day.
One result of that popped up in the last two months. June and July were the first and second times that I ever earned more than $100 in a month selling books with my name on them.
Obviously that means I’m still not making a living at it, but I’m a lot closer than I was in the previous 46 years. And if it took until months 11 and 12 of daily blogging to turn an actual profit, well, I’m sure glad I didn’t stop after four or five or 10 months.
Show up every day. It was the bedrock of the economy for so long. Show up at the appointed time. Do your work. Go home. That’s how things got made.
It’s still true: Show up, do your work. Show up at the appointed time and place. To do the work. Get the work done. Wash, rinse and repeat.
It’s as simple as that. If you are in the appointed time and the appointed place, and you have nothing to do except the work, you will either do the work or you won’t.
It used to be (and still is in day jobs) if you don’t show up, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. That is also true here, although the payment may be different although it isn’t either. Whether your work earns pennies or many dollars, only your work earns.
There’s a funny paradox at play, too: When you concern yourself about the the payment, your genius is distracted and delivers at a subpar level. When you concern yourself with the words, the spark, the inspiration, the story — if you get out your genius’ way, in other words — then the words flow and you have a shot at a better payment down the line.
But before any words can come, before any genius can be flexed, before any payment can be earned, first you have to show up.
Every day? Well, every day that you have set a time and a place. The day job boss says, “The job is 40 hours, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with a half-hour break every weekday.” You arrive at the appointed place at 8 a.m., don’t you? And work until 4:30 p.m. except for that half-hour rest/meal break? It’s the same concept.
Appoint yourself a time and a place, and be there and then. Treat it as your work obligation just like your “real” job, because it IS a real job. You may be amazed at what work emerges from this single solitary step.