Filling the Tank…

Just a half an hour ago I read a blog over at THE WRITERS GUIDE TO E-PUBLISHING.

The author of that blog – David Slegg – was talking about how his personal responsibilities – including a cattle farm, calving season, and a big family Easter gathering – were getting in the way of his creative journey.

He compared it to a wonderful movie – a movie that I truly loved to watch – THE STRAIGHT STORY.


David asked if any of us felt the same way as he did.

This is how I answered him.

David, are you freaking kidding me?

I’ve got a day job that’s pretty well full time. I’ve got a house that needs keeping. Snow that regularly needs shoveling.

Throw on some family crisis over the last year. Three siblings who are battling the reaper – two of them younger and one of them run to critical.

On top of that I’ve been taken a paying gig as the editor of a Canadian anthology of speculative fiction. Means I’ve had to read about four hundred manuscripts in the last three months. Right now I’m hip-deep in the final selection process – heavy, heavy editorial work and dealing with numerous authors.

On top of that I’m dealing with three book tours that are coming up. These are all paying gigs – which is great. Means I’ll be making appearances in schools, libraries, bookstores and auditoriums.

Now – none of these activities compare to the amount of work that is involved in actually running a farm – as you do.

(I know that for a god-given fact – I actually dated a lady farmer briefly and worked on her farm and it definitely lives up to that whole “working from sun to sun” motto – farming is damn tough)

And – several of these activities – especially the book tours – are REALLY freaking cool and a chance in a lifetime that I intend to have a blast with.

BUT – each one of these activities takes time away from my writing.

Each one takes energy and prep-time and a certain amount of commitment and focus.

So yes – I do sometimes feel like Alvin Straight – the gent who drove his John Deere tractor from Laurens, Iowa to Mount Zion, Wisconsin.

(And I’ve watched that movie several times and loved it. Amazing that it’s a true story. Amazing that Alvin Straight was played by 82 year old Richard Farnsworth who actually was dying from terminal bone cancer while he was making that film – and knew it!)

It’s a wonderful flick that tells a wonderful story.

The truth of the matter is that life is built to get in the way. It’s supposed to get in your way. It plays a VERY important role by getting in the way.

You see – every time that a personal commitment and/or responsibility gets in the way of you putting words down on paper – it is serving a heck of an important purpose.

You’re output has been suffering – but your emotional content hasn’t been.

Remember this, David.

Repeat it every morning that you’ve got to get out of be knowing that you’re about to spend the next twelve hours – maybe shoulder deep in the wrong end of a difficult calving – or shovel deep in a heap of manure.

Remember these four words.


Life – and the living thereof – is what keeps your creative motor humming. It’s what keeps the muse wet and juicy. It’s what keeps the words flying off your fingertips while you dance them across a willing keyboard.

Life – in all of it’s manifold formats – is what we writers write about.

Whether you’re writing science fiction or hot steaming romance or blood and guts battle – ALL of the stories you write are stuffed cram-full of characters. And if you want your reader to buy into the tale that you are spinning you’ve got to make sure that these characters are freaking believable – which means that you’ve got to grab a fist full of personal experience and cram it shoulder deep into that character and stuff him cram-jam-full of hot stinking life!

So – don’t beat yourself up over not getting anywhere to fast.

Do just what you are doing. That ain’t a keyboard – that’s a John Deere 110 ride-on tractor.

Keep it straight and you’ll get there by and by.

I put so much effort into writing that answer that I figured my own blog followers ought to read that entry – but you likewise ought to check out and follow the WG2E (The Writer’s Guide to E-Publishing) – which is a wonderful website that I set out last year to write regularly for – but then life and a whole bunch of roadblocks – got in the way of me accomplishing.

You see – life will get in the way of EVERYTHING you want to get done.

Doesn’t mean you need to stop trying.

Here’s a link to David Slegg’s original entry at the WG2E.

And if you haven’t watched THE STRAIGHT STORY – go now and hunt up a copy and watch the darned thing. It’ll definitely help set you straight the next time you are wondering about just you are really going – and just when you actually expect to get anywhere in this life.

yours in storytelling,
Steve Vernon


6 responses to “Filling the Tank…

  1. Great Post! Life definitely keeps filling my tanks! I’ll have to check that movie out. Sounds interesting.


  2. I love it when people say that life gets in the way of (insert whatever you are trying to achieve). I mean, life’s for living, right? The actual act of writing is part of life. People moan and groan about not being able to write because of family commitments, job, etc. Now, I’ve checked out David’s post, and I realise he was not moaning, but I know a lot of people who do.
    But family are for spending time with, and my job pays the bills, and gives me space to write. People who moan about this stuff are basically rehearsing their excuses for when they pack it all in. No one said it was going to be easy.
    As usual Steve, great post.


  3. Thanks, Ken. You said it well.


  4. Great post. You express what I’ve felt about my own workload/life, which rarely seems to be “less” anything, except maybe sleep!
    I want to be all Zen and say, “Life’s not in the way, life IS the way,” but even I’m not sure what I mean by that. Funny thing is, though, how little of my day I seem to have for writing compared to 10 or 20 years ago, and yet I have so much more to write ABOUT now that I get more actual writing done.


  5. Thanks — I’m forever banging my head on the desk because of “interruptions”. I like the way you’ve not just reframed them, but shown that they’re essential. 🙂


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