I’m a fan of the television show Seinfeld. I may be dating myself, but I remember watching it every week with the family in front of one of those big, boxy televisions that doubled as a knickknack holder. There’s one scene that I’ve always loved, and I can recall it perfectly. It’s the episode where Jerry and the crew go to a car dealership. Kramer takes a car out for a test drive with the car salesman. They end up driving until they run out of gas, but they do it on purpose.
It’s a hilarious part of that episode and sometimes it’s a very relatable thing. Lately, I feel as if I’m purposely driving my body and mind way past the E on the fuel levels. Don’t worry though, I’m perfectyly fine. And yes, I did leave that perfect typo in there.
As I write this, it is Friday, Nov. 18. I hit the 30,000-word mark on my current writing project for National Novel Writing Month. Even though I’m exactly on track, it’s exhausting to make that word limit each day. Have you ever tried to do something consistently for an entire month? In October, I committed to watching a horror movie every day and writing a review about it. This November, I committed to writing 50,000 words in the entire month. Not only that, but I also committed to writing on the project every single day during November.
Granted, my job isn’t physically tiring. I don’t work in construction or even retail where you have to stand on your feet for ten hours on hand. I do run the risk of blood clots though since I sit on my butt for hours in front of a desk. That’s what blood thinners are for, I suppose.
When I get home after a long day of staring at a computer screen, there’s a lot more I’d rather do than sit in front of my personal computer and write. The first week I didn’t have those feelings. I was excited to be working on a new project. As the pages went on and the word count increased, I was beginning to lose that eagerness.
My mind was beginning to come up with excuses to quit writing even though the story wasn’t finished. There were some excuses that were good ones (my birthday, my dad’s birthday, Election Day, work, friends wanting to hang out) and then there were bad ones (new video games, old video games, all those books left unread), but whether or not they were good or bad they were still excuses.
When I changed my major from Computer Science to English, I did so because I wanted to study a field that I enjoyed. Since I was a child, all I wanted to do was tell stories. When I was in elementary school my friend and I would be on the playground equipment writing these rinky dink stories about surviving Jurassic Park. Somewhere in high school that desire for storytelling was lost. I was told over and over again that writing books wasn’t a viable career because it didn’t come with a steady paycheck. And, like the impressionable teenager I was, I used this excuse as a means to run away from storytelling.
Stephen King once said, “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.”
I remember in middle school; we were given seat assignments in concert band based on our individual performances. You could challenge the chair in front of you and, at the end of the week, if you could play better than that chair, then you got to move up. When seats were assigned, I was placed third from the end out of maybe fifteen clarinets (there were a lot of us, and I ballparked that number). My sister Erin, on the other hand, was the first chair-saxophone in the high school marching band. She was naturally talented when it came to musical instruments. She still is. A few years back, she had the desire to learn how to play guitar. So, she did, and she’s amazing at it.
Needless to say, I wanted to be first chair in the clarinet section in high school. So, I practiced. And I kept challenging the people in front of me. By my senior year, I was the leader of the clarinet section in the marching band and first chair in concert band. All of the hard work paid off.
I don’t mean to discount talent. I think what Stephen King is trying to say is that success only comes when you work hard to achieve it. Whether it’s playing the clarinet or writing a book, you have to keep doing it even when people try to dissuade or distract you.
Or when your own mind is trying to dissuade or distract you.
We all have races of one kind or another to finish. Right now, mine is to write a book by the end of November. What race are you running in? Do you have any doubts that you’ll finish it? Is the finish line within sight? Are you going to finish it or are you going to let your excuses prevent you from crossing that finish line?
With twelve more days to go, I would like to say that I’ll finish the race. I’m fairly optimistic that I’ll get that book written. Unless I suffer some kind of horrific accident. Boy wouldn’t that be a coincidence. Anyway, as I look around for hidden traps or pits filled with spikes, here’s to finishing the race. Until then, keep calm and write on!