A while ago, an aspiring author sent me a manuscript to look over the fight scenes. I just finished sending him my remarks and can picture him now, sitting at his desk, grinding out paragraphs and polishing the sentences. Now I don’t write fiction (nothing published anyway) but writing is writing, at least at the level I’ll be talking about.
I started writing over six years ago. It happened by accident really. Loren had seen some of my reviews and articles and asked if I’d be interested in co-authoring a book. I was amazed he’d even consider me for such a project but it seemed like fun so why not?
For the record, we wrote several books together and I still don’t feel like a “real” writer. I just don’t know what that’s supposed to feel like. I’m just me, that big, blond guy from Belgium, but with a few published credits to my name.
Anyway, fast forward a year and The Fighter’s Body was born. There’s no feeling quite like the one when you open the box of author copies and see all your hard work lying there on the table. Tangible, real, after all that time and effort. It’s easy then to romanticize the process that led up to that moment. In your mind’s eye, it all turns into fun and good times:
- The time you amazed yourself with a hilariously funny sentence.
- How great it felt when the first chapter was finished and the anticipation of starting on the second.
- The feeling of accomplishment when you send the manuscript to the publisher.
As you reminisce, your soul fills with a sweet, soft warmth and before you know it you have “The IDEA!” (TM). You’re going to be a full-time writer! By God, Crom and Bob the Mechanic, you’re the next Hemingway!
Hell, you can already see yourself in one of your million dollar homes! If those other guys can do it so can you, right?
As you can guess, I had “The IDEA!” too. The problem is that it’s a lie. A sweet one at that but you’re still deluding yourself. Because that warmth you feel is not tempered by the other memories it suppresses:
- The crushing pressure of deadlines.
- The times you absolutely didn’t know what to write next and were ready to give up.
- The complete chapter you threw away because it might have been great (you sure thought so) but it was also totally off topic for the book.
- Those many, many paragraphs you never really managed to get quite right, no matter how much you tried.
- The quote you KNOW you read five years ago and searched for during the last three days but can’t find anywhere on the internet. Crap,there isn’t even a reference to it.
- I saved the best for last: The toll it all takes on your personal, professional and romantic life.
And that list goes on for a long time. To be totally truthful, when I finished my last one with Loren, The Fighter’s Guide to Hard-Core Heavy Bag Training, I was ready to burn the manuscript and dance a jig on the smoldering ashes. In fact, of the three books we wrote together, I haven’t ever re-read one of them completely since finishing the manuscript.
When I open that box of author copies, I page through it and am usually happy with some parts but also frustrated and angry at myself for not getting other things right. The first three months afterwards, I don’t even touch the book. I just can’t stand it anymore. It feels like a roommate who spent the last year crowding your every move; you’re ecstatic once he moves out and never want to see him again.
That feeling lessens in time but a part of it always remains. At least, that’s how it is with me. Don’t get me wrong, I love to write. There’s something about it that scratches and itch deep inside of me like nothing else can. It’s also why I started my first website ten years ago and why I like blogging so much. But it’s not all honey and roses. Before you start on that path, you need to know this on a level beyond “Yeah yeah, you just want to bring me down, whatever!” Because that’s certainly not my intent here.
On the contrary, if the bug has bitten you, I’d say go for it and enjoy the ride because it can be an amazing one. Just don’t do it blindfolded.
In the next part, I’ll cover the gruesome reality of what you can expect.