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Sean Williams
on the importance of psychotic persistence 
08.38 am 06.02.09
pink pills
The awesome Jay Lake posted overnight on the power of persistence. Psychotic persistence, to use Jay's phrase. Successful writers don't have super powers. They just have that, and if you've got it too, you'll get there. Probably.

I offer myself as a case in point. This is a special year for me. Two decades ago, I started writing seriously--that is, with the intention of becoming a full-time writer. I had no idea how long it would take. The ten-year deadline I sometimes talk about--that I would give up if I didn't have a book in print in that time--was hanging over me, and burning under me were the fires of determination.

In 1989 I wrote thirteen stories, only two of which were ever published, much later, and one novel--When the Cow Came Down, unpublished (and so may it remain forever).

A decade after that, I dropped my last shift at the legendary CD Shop and went full time. In 1999, I wrote five short stories, three of which were published, one novella, and one and half contracted novels, The Dark Imbalance and The Stone Mage & the Sea.

In the ten years since then (not counting 2009), I've written and published almost three million words of fiction.

People talk about love of the craft, honing the art, living the dream, et hoc genus omne. That's all important. But psychotic persistence makes possible the impossible.

I used to say that if I'd known how hard it would be--that it would take ten long years before I made any kind of dime out of this lark--then maybe I would've given up.

The truth is that I wouldn't have given up. I couldn't have. And besides, if hard work is all it takes, then that's a genuine comfort. It's easy to work hard at something I love. Take out "psychotic" and put in "passionate" and you'll get the idea. If you feel the same way, then maybe you're well on the way too.

"What did you write today?"
Comments 
(Deleted comment)
01.50 am 06.02.09 (UTC)
that other bloke--what a hack! :-)

I hope the new year is treating you well. Your name was often mentioned up in Clarionville.
(Deleted comment)
04.55 am 06.02.09 (UTC)
You're already doing it. :-)
11.03 pm 05.02.09 (UTC)
I did like that post
:-)
11.48 pm 05.02.09 (UTC)
Very well put. I still consider myself a newcomer in the world of Aussie comics (esp with some fantastic creators before me) and I find it extraordinary to discover that through attrition I can come off as one of the old hands, because so many give up at the 3 year mark.

I like the psychotic angle, it has to go beyond passion I think... something with a deadly heart, a plotting nature, some claws to hold on like grim death, that unnatural glimmer. The passion bit is fun, but can distract me too much when I do a happy bum dance at the latest word count or cool idea rather than keep my eye on the ball.

Edited at 2009-02-05 11:51 pm (UTC)
12.14 am 06.02.09 (UTC)
Like I keep saying, all artists are a little crazy. In the nicest possible way. I cite Aristotle, Leonardo Da Vinci, Van Gogh, Proust and Beethoven.
01.49 am 06.02.09 (UTC)
It's true. Frank Zappa, Robert Anton Wilson, Mark Mothersbaugh, most of my friends...
02.12 am 06.02.09 (UTC)
I'm glad you're not offended.

The more I read about successful artists the more I realise two things

1/ A little madness is good , too much and you burn out.

2/ And, again, no offenceReal artists are selfish. By this I mean that a real artist is willing to sacrifice Everything to their art or artistic vision, including themselves, in a way that ordinary folk can't do. They are hungry and driven, and mere mortals get in the road at their peril. I cite Lord Byron and Jackson Pollack.

Which is why I'll never write or paint at that level, I don't have the hunger. I'll just fiddle away on the edges of the ocean and enjoy myself instead.
02.20 am 06.02.09 (UTC)
Not offended at all! And it's quite true what you say about selfishness. Although I'd probably find a nicer way to say it. :-) Something about being "differently prioritied", to coin some newspeak. When I think of the life I could've had if I hadn't been so focused for so long (where did those twenty years go??) it would've contained a lot more successful relationships (or maybe just one), something approaching a normal family life, and more money. But I wouldn't have liked it half as much, which I guess says it all. :-)
02.24 am 06.02.09 (UTC)
Exactly, you didn't trade your art for safety. It's a hard bargin, but you have created works of beauty, and I hope will produce more, and that's more than many of us have done.

Which reminds me, are you coming to Conflux?
11.02 pm 08.02.09 (UTC)
When people ask me, "What do you think you might've done if you hadn't been a writer?", I usually give confused stares in reply. But the closest thing I can come up with for a coherent answer is "Archaeologist", which would mean I'd then physically be far away half the time instead of just mentally.
01.07 am 09.02.09 (UTC)
Nice one. Archaeologist was my career of choice when I was ten years old. Still want to go on a dig one day. It'd be way cool.

Interviewer: "So what would you be if you weren't a writer?"
Ursual Le Guin: "Dead."

Or words to that effect, apparently.
(Deleted comment)
02.13 am 06.02.09 (UTC)
I'm having one of those days too, if it makes you feel any better.

Keep at it!
06.45 am 01.06.09 (UTC)
A great post for anyone who wants to step out from under the shadow of their own dreams.

Dreams + (Dogged)Determination = Success!

or perhaps:

Dreams + (Dogged)Determination + Don't listen to the Doubters = Success!

Hmmm - Too many D's :-)
12.28 am 02.06.09 (UTC)
Too many Ds are never enough. :-)

Thanks, Trent!
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