I am still struck by my observation the other day at how a mere 500 words a day can amount to serious output. It makes it seem like being a writer should be easy. If you wander over to TerrorWonk (or right here on VeepCritique) you’ll find a number of my entries, usually 500 words-ish, most of which I can crank out in an hour.
Hail the awesome power of increments!!!
However, to take one of these blog entries and make it publishable requires a lot, lot more. The increase is exponential. I would need to triple check references, verify the soundness of my arguments, and really polish the language. Further, there is an additional time investment on both the front end and on the back end. On the front end, I need to keep up on various issues to write thoughtfully about them. If I just dash something off, that’s fine, but if I want to get it published then I really need to make sure I’m writing something worth reading. On the back end, to get something published one needs to engage editors. That includes finding appropriate publications, scanning them for content to make sure I’m not saying what has already been said and finally pitching editors. This last, crucial bit goes better if you actually have a relationship with said editors. That too, takes time.
This process also involves triggering the all-powerful self-doubt that most writers recognize – which makes slow going even slower.
So getting something published for real turns a one hour project into a day. I have an hour in the morning for writing, but not a whole day. Now, if my ambition were simply to knock out a decent op-ed a week I could do it. Alternately, I could blog volumes!
But, I have ideas for books and they take time. If I could put down a solid thousand words a week towards a book I could have one done in a year or so. I think that’s optimistic because if my writing time is about 10 hours a week and I need to do research, this strikes me as very difficult (the exponents I just mentioned), but maybe. People do it.
But this brings us to the final factor.
No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.
Dr. Samuel Johnson
Would I like my written work to have some impact on the affairs of the day? Yes.
I would also like to get something out of it. I can get an academic book published. I’ve heard them described as very heavy business cards. If you want your book to sell and have impact you need to publicize it. At the same time if you are using your book as a business card (a very plausible strategy by the way) then it is marketing you – in which case it is part of your efforts at promotion.
What I mean is, if any of what I write is going to matter to the world or to me, I need to be marketing it, I need to promote it. I clearly stink at this.
One part of marketing would be to write short articles so that people start to see my name, so that editors are familiar with me, so that people start to follow me on social media.
I can blog away, and I don’t plan to quit, but I will literally have a half-dozen readers. But if my outside writing is taken up by finishing the books, when does the promotional activity happen? (Remember, I have a day job!)
When I say excrement I don’t mean my writing is bad. It’s fine. It’s that multiplied by zero impact it really all adds up to not much of anything.
Of course, it doesn’t help that I spent my writing morning puttering around with a blog entry about how much trouble I have writing… that’s on me.