No Magic Bean - Part I

I've spent 20 days working as a writer, and the question everyone asks is, "What's it like?" I figured I'd shed some light on my experience.

"I think it's so great that you're doing this."

"How do you mean?" I ask.

"Well, that you have the dream of writing a book, and you are. You're actually doing it."

I've had this same conversation about 20 times. What's struck me, is how many people have resonated with my decision to reduce my (employed) work hours to 3 days/week, so I could give more time to my manuscript. The sense I'm getting, is that many want to, but don't, take the big leap. Maybe their limitations are self-confidence. Or financial. Or simply ambition.

It's like they're standing on a riverbank, nurturing a seedling dream that they've carried on their back a long time. The challenging terrain they've travelled so far just wasn't the right environment for the seedling: too hot; too dry; too exposed. But they've followed along the river a while, looking longingly at the greener pastures across the wide, deeply flowing expanse of water. "Wouldn't it be nice," they think to themselves, and say to others carrying their own seedlings, "if we were on the other side? We could plant these dreams—over there, they'd have a chance to flourish and grow." Then they hear about my journey: how I forded the River of Unknown Career Future; how I set up camp on the other side; how I planted my seedling dream, mulched the soil around its base, and have been hoeing a patch to plant a garden around it. "Hey!" they shout across the river. "What's it like over there?"

"It's greener," I shout back, cheerful and slightly out of breath. "But this book ain't no magic bean!"

I chose my working days as Mon/Tues/Thur, and my writing days as Wed/Fri. It's not as distracting as you thinking, flipping back and forth from working two days, then writing one day, then working one day, then writing at the end of the week. On Wednesdays, I think, "I have to work tomorrow, so I need to make this day count." On Fridays, I think, "I didn't get as much done as I'd hoped on Wednesday, so today is going to be really productive!"

So you want to know what it's like to be a (part-time) writer? Every day is different. Some days I feel brilliant. Other days I feel delusional. 

The over-arching theme? Dreams are not magic beans. 

You have to fertilize that seedling, and hoe, mulch, overwinter, brace, shelter, prune and work to bring your dream to full potential.

I confess. I thought these last few months would be easy. Handel the composer wrote his Messiah oratorio, one of the best-known and most frequently performed choral works in Western music, in only 24 days. 259 pages of complicated sheet music, in 24 days. I'd already written my manuscript—how hard could it be to revise what was already written?


But still worth every moment. 

Note to self: don't compare oneself to Handel. Or Jack, for that matter.

Read seven sample days of what it's like to be a writer in Part II.