The drive behind most every author who picks up a pen is the desire—some say the compulsion—to communicate, the greatest of human skills. While the origin of this force is the subject of debate, everyone who has tried to write a polished piece testifies to the baffling difficulty of the task. I call it “Milking the Sky;” there is nothing there and hands won’t work, in any case. Still, a source of nourishment must be brought into being.
The beginner has the right to feel forces are arrayed against her. In addition to the complexities of the craft and navigating the current tenor of thought in the market, she faces the Force of the Vacuum: no one knows that she has the ache to write; no one cares—except a spouse or mother, who love the idiosyncrasy as part of the person; no one congratulates her; the path of acquisition of these skills is elusive; the good fortune of “hitting the right time” is unknowable; and examples of excellent writing not finding a public voice abound. It is enough to make anyone retire before reaching any goal.
When work, voice and timing do yield publication, the vacuum subsides in reverse proportion to success. In particular, if one’s work receives little due, the vacuum can press forward in a more toxic form—“I’m still unknown, undercompensated, and unappreciated.” This sucks away the passion for launching another project, even when the published work or the unwritten one deserve a place at the writers’ banquet. Untold numbers of writers find themselves beached after mild success.
Which image brings us to the Force of Tides. In place of the vacuum, the established author’s next projects must ride the ebb and flow of conditions beyond his control: the depth and quality of inspiration; the excellence of the work; the expectations of readers for a repeat or a risk; the timing of other works that may compare and steal thunder; the economy; technological changes (“the Talkies” crushed the careers of some silent film star, because viewers didn’t like the sound of their voice); the financial condition of the publishing house; the politics of editorial staff and owners.
In the face of each of these highs and lows, the established writer must find inspiration to work now that the original desire to communicate may feel largely hijacked by less meaningful players. Most writers suffer some defeats. Though the Force of the Vacuum has been vanquished, the agony of tides continues. The best and most confident continue to write. Some turn to selling real estate.
At last, a few fortunate writers succeed and remember to write from passion, giving up caring about the Force of Tides. Their work may or may not draw readers, but they have vanquished the forces that have killed most others. At this time, some write their best work.
And you thought writing was a piece of cake.