The Hundredth Post

Back in the 80s my brother sold insurance. He occasionally attended sales conferences and sometimes came back with motivational books. One day, bored, with nothing better to do, I read one. It started a life-long habit of reading books about selling and the life of a salesman. In case you are wondering what possible relevance any of those could have to the life of a writer, let me just point out that writers and salesmen have more in common than you might think. Both writers and salesmen need to be self-starters. There is usually no one else around to motivate you. Both live in worlds where the possibility of rejection arises daily, and both need to be able to keep going in the face of that rejection. Both have jobs where they are entirely judged by numbers. If you have the romantic view that writers live for their art, talk to a full-time professional one some time. They will tell you that their careers live and die by their numbers. Fall below a certain threshold of sales and your publisher will very swiftly lose interest in your next book. I could go on but I am sure you get the picture.

All of this may seem a very strange thing to bring up as I celebrate my hundredth post on the blog but bear with me. There is a point and I have, at last, got to it. That long ago first motivational book contained one absolute gem of information which has stood me in good stead ever since. In a section about perfectionism and the fear of failure, it pointed out that you would not judge your ability to draw by your first effort if you had never drawn before. You need time and practise if you ever expect to be able to draw properly. It suggested an experiment, namely that you should attempt 100 sketches of something before you decided whether you were a good, bad or indifferent portraitist. It put forward the idea that you apply this principle to everything that you attempt in your life as a means of taking the pressure to be perfect at the first attempt off. As an antidote for the paralysing need to get things right the first time, that many people, including myself, suffer from, it is a good one. It takes away the heavy burden of judgement from your initial, usually very poor efforts, and frees you to just get on with it.

I have applied this principle in my life, and you know something, it works. I decided I would not judge my success or failure as a writer until I had made a hundred submissions. As it happened I sold my third and I have kept on selling (mostly) ever since. There was a time, you may find it hard to believe, when I found writing novels intimidating. I resolved to make one hundred attempts to write one before I gave up on the idea of being a novelist. It took a lot more than three attempts this time but I got there in the end. I am sure you can see where I am going with this now.

I’ve made various attempts at blogging before but I’ve never been very good at sticking with it for any length of time. I never particularly enjoyed it and I pretty much always felt that my books should do my talking for me to any audience that might be interested.

Anyway, the world moves on. We live in the internet age and the need for publicity is a given. Everyone tells you a writer should have a blog. Last year I decided that I would give blogging another try and I would make at least one hundred posts before I decided whether to stick with it or not. I further committed myself to posting three times a week because that is what various experts recommended. To give myself some credit, I have pretty much stuck with that although a few of my posts have consisted of making excuses for why I have not posted this week and one of them was not written by me at all but by my good friend Matt Forbeck, to whom I am eternally grateful. It’s certainly been a learning experience.

There have been many times when I have struggled to find something to say. There have been times when I have felt (nay, known!) that blogging was cutting into my working time. There were times when blogging has offered me a fine excuse to procrastinate as far as my fiction writing was concerned. There have been times when it has been a lot of fun.

Writing blog posts, it turns out, is an art form albeit one I don’t have much talent for. I have done my best. I confess that there have been many, many times when I have found the discipline of posting three times a week, while trying to meet deadlines and run a small business and write my own personal fiction projects, to be an enormous strain. There have most definitely been times when posting on this blog has short circuited my writing on other things that needed to be done, knocking me out of the head-space for fiction and breaking up the rhythm of my work. And yet, I have enjoyed it, and I have enjoyed your comments and emails.

The thing is, in addition to writing for Black Library and running my own small, self-publishing venture and all of the other stuff I have to do, I now have a baby son in the flat which also happens to be my workplace. I am getting less sleep than I used to and I have less energy. Something has to give. I’ve decided that I like blogging but I just can’t keep up 3 posts a week. I am going to fall back to posting once a week, most likely on a Wednesday. I may post more often if I have some special announcement to make and I’ll try not to post less often.

And so I shall bid you adieu, until next Wednesday.

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Comments

  1. One question you raised and then left unanswered, how many submissions have you made till date!?

    Also, totally understandable about the posting routine. With your goal to publish one ebook a month (unless I’m misremembering) and working on the Macharius and High Elf trilogies, it must be quite a significant amount of time to devote to blogging. Especially with baby William around now!

    All the same, best of luck to you and your family and I look forward to your next post. They are one of the most inspirational that I’ve been reading and I just can’t get enough!

    • That’s pretty much what I am thinking, Shadowhawk. I have a mass of commitments this year, including a fair number of conventions and with all the other stuff going on there is just not enough time in the day, particularly for a man as naturally lazy as myself. On the question of submissions, I have actually never counted. I stopped when I made my first sale back in the 80s. I know for a very long time it was quite unusual for me to start a project without already having a contract for it.

  2. Dammit! Checking your blog out over my tuna sandwich during the lunch break was a dependable treat. Dependable in the sense there was something new there most working days, which is not a statement one could make about the blogs of our acquaintances (you know who you are!).

    As for the reasons for the reduced blogging frequency, well I can hardly criticise as I had to give up writing altogether when my first kid came along. That or become a nervous wreck.

    Anyway, thanks for the many hours of entertainment over lunchtime.

  3. I’ve never been particular comfortable with the idea of blogging or the idea that writers HAVE to blog to find readers these day (and Tweet and post on Facebook, etc), but I’ve accepted that it’s the way the world is going. 🙂

    • Sadly it may well be so, Brian. I confess I still don’t really GET Twitter, which makes me feel about 200 years old. I quite enjoy Facebook though. I do make a point of trying to do stuff that I enjoy for the most part. In the long run, it’s the only way to avoid burnout.

  4. Congrats on a hundred posts, William! I agree, writers and salespeople have a lot in common, while usually occupying opposite ends of the Meyers-Briggs scale. Heh.

    I’m not necessarily sure that writers need to blog three times a week; it also depends on who you’re writing for–ideally, your readers, but most readers are happier with another book rather than another blog. In a sense, writers don’t need to blog, because their next book is their best promotion for their brand and backlists…but that is an argument that can on and on.

    I say if you like blogging and social-networking after giving it a good try, keep doing it. If it’s not, and you’d rather write–or it’s cutting into your writing time–protect the writing time, and the family time, and cut back on the blogging, or cut it out entirely.

    Plenty of writers do very well without blogs and twitter and even (gasp) promo outside of having a lot of titles up, so the social networking is a correlation at best, not causative, in my view. Can it help? Sure, it might. Just not at the expense of writing, I’d say. 🙂

    • Thanks, Sam, I confess one calculation that crossed my mind is that this blog represents something like 150000 words of writing a year. If I cut down to once a week, that is an extra novel, at least in first draft. I do enjoy blogging but I don’t enjoy feeling pressured which I do sometimes if I commit to post 3 times a week. I think one post a week is a comfortable level for me. It provides a change from the fiction without me feeling I am forcing myself to say something just for the sake of saying it. Anyway, we shall see how it goes!

  5. Thanks for your thoughts again! Another insightful blog. I’m a scientist which means I’m a writer too (which was a shock to me when I realised it). Science is also a numbers game of published work and citations, with rejection letters and continuous rewrites. Thanks for this insight. It’s just the motivation I needed today to keep writing. 😉
    oh and I think 1 post a week is a much better tempo.

  6. William Lucas says:

    From one William to another (never Bill) I would like to congratulate you on your blog, your books, you new son (at the age of 55 my youngest daughter turned three years old today), I’d like to wish that your diabetes becomes manageable, and I’d like to thank you for writing a very clear post describing how to create a cover using Powerpoint. I followed the instructions and got my book onto Amazon Kindle the very next day (Eager Feet: Kiwi Hobbit Conquers Ezo-Fuji). Your anecdote about giving things 100 tries resonates for me-I have always been to much of a perfectionist. And I relate to your not understanding Twitter. Finally, your style of writing in your blog is human and humble, and I am inspired to read some of your work. I’ve read a lot of SF but hardly any Fantasy, so it’s going to be interesting. Interesting too how you came to settle in Czechoslovakia. I made the move from New Zealand to Japan.

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