Get in your saddle and ride…now

My journey to digital self-publication is far from original but it almost didn’t occur due to an almost fatal (to my career) ability to procrastinate.

I’d wanted to “be a writer” for almost as long as I can remember, but the proof is in the pudding (to daisy-chain two clichés together). For years, I managed to write a paltry short story or two a year. I’d toss them in the mail with little market research or editorial diligence, then wallow in self-pity when the rejection slips came back. The wallowing was made worse by my firm belief that I, indeed, had “it” and just needed to be “discovered” by a Big Six editor (before I knew what that was) while pausing at a rest-stop on I-95 or by chatting up a NYT best-selling author as I stood in the lunch line at Subway.

And I didn’t bother bolstering whatever natural talent I had with a scrap of education or self-edification. I figured I could always get my MFA (ha!), but why bother? Hemingway hadn’t gone to school for writing, Melville barely left his farm after returning from the sea, Bukowski was a postman for Christ’s sake. I’d eventually get around to the act of writing…and when I did, watch the hell out world, because life would never be the same. They’d make Hallmark calendars centered around the day I published my novel. Animals would come up to me in the forest to sit on my lap and eat out of my hand. Weather patterns would form around my house as the creative power of my brain caused a micro-climate to form in my neighborhood.

Needless to say, actually sitting down and writing something didn’t figure into this equation. Since it was understood that you had to write to be a writer, I glossed over that small fact and thought a lot more about hypothetical acceptance speeches and book signings than I ever did about creating anything. Writers call this irony.

By the time I woke up (mmm…around 30?) I realized I not only had to start writing, I had to start writing–and learning–now. I had serious ground to make up. There were writers my age who had finished two or three novels in college…and considered them “drawer novels”, not fit for anything except propping up a table. And writing had to begin with learning and re-learning all those things I’d ignored or given short shrift to for years: plot, character, pacing, theme, rhythm, voice, point-of-view, continuity.

Long story short, for the past ten or twelve years I’ve been applying myself as much to learning the craft as working towards publication (of any sort). It’s been frustrating watching others catch success along the way while I’m re-reading Elements of Style, but I’m not going to write anything I can’t stand behind and that’s going to take patience and a dedication to the craft.

There are only two important rules in this game: are you writing? And, is what you’ve written the best it could possibly be? The second rule implies immersing yourself in the creative art of writing. But the first requires the act itself.

If you’re not actually writing, you’re not a writer. Please don’t make my mistake. Get in your saddle and ride…now.


Writer of crime fiction, psychological drama, and dark humor.

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Posted in The Journey
4 comments on “Get in your saddle and ride…now
  1. Anonymous says:

    I’m not a procrastinator by nature. I have other flaws–both as a writer and an person. I agree with Matt–writing means you are writing. One of my favorites gifts came from my little great niece. She had digested that I was a writer and gave me a gift (from the dollar store) of a set of pens. She figured that since I was a writer I needed something to write with. I treasure those pens and only have lost half of them.

    Ars Scribendi,
    (The Art of Writing)

    Roberto “James” Christiano.

  2. Matthew Iden says:

    Hi James – Good to hear from you. I love the story of your great niece’s gift. Kids have such a direct way of saying things. No dissembling, no procrastination. You want to be a writer? Well, here are some pens…now go and write something!

  3. Nice essay. I’d add one more thing… a writer needs a goal. For some, it is truly simply writing… with no thought or expectation of publishing, but the burning need to put thoughts and views on the computer or in a journal. I count those folks as writers as well. If the goal is publication… well, one way to learn the craft is to read those rejection slips and to get into a good critique group with folks a bit better than you… and to learn from their feedback. Not to necessarily take as the Gospel every word they say, but to consider what they say. Because, at the end of the day, to be a published writer isn’t about what we write… it’s about what readers read.

  4. Matthew Iden says:

    Hi Mel – Thanks for stopping by! I count those folks as writers, too…if they’re actually getting those thoughts and dreams down on paper. It’s the procrastination that kills, no matter what your goals. I’ve known some people who *could* write for pleasure but they end up never writing at all, because they think they’re waiting to write for publication…a really weird feedback loop, I know, but one that keeps them from doing either. That’s gotta stop. 🙂

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