The Trilogy of Author Self-Cultivation

In this confusing, raging river world of social media and technology, how should an author spend his or her time? How do we leave time to grow ourselves and promote our books without surrendering cherished words to become radiant yet vanishing flotsam on the mad river’s surface?

Kierkegaard, the famous Danish philosopher, believed that the secret to happiness was to live fifty percent in the present, twenty-five percent in the past, and twenty-five percent in the future. I think that he rightly gave precedence to the present because it is where we must live and breathe and flourish to truly be ourselves engaged with the world around us. The present is a rushing river that, as soon as we step into it, at once destroys and re-creates us … and we shine on in the moment like stars winking through trees on a night walk. The future is our plan destined to always change. The past holds lessons, secrets, and memories.

I think that Kierkegaard’s philosophy can be applied to how we spend our time in the literary arena. Let’s face it, we could become totally lost in social media (a.k.a., “The Black Hole”), but, as Donald Maass, a renowned literary agent points out in his book, “The Breakout Novelist,” if you are not creating great work than all the black holes in the universe are not going to send you spinning out their other sides twirling to Planet Bestseller; so we still need to spend the bulk of our time creating great work, and that is going to take time (if you spend under fifty percent of your time writing, you have my prayers and condolences).

Twenty-five percent should be spent planning and implementing promotion and networking (social media, events, etc). We need to let people know that we are alive. The days of sitting in our writing caves and spinning out masterpieces that publishers swoon over instantly upon receipt are over. Technology is largely responsible for this (what helps me sleep at night, though, is the sweet nectar of truth that crap, even brilliantly socially promoted, is STILL crap).

And the final twenty-five percent needs to go to reading. That is right. Read! In Stephen King’s novel, “On Writing,” he mentions how he reads everything he can get his macabre hands on, from Faulkner to Indie books. (If you do not like Stephen King, that is fine, but remember that at least one story or movie that you love is probably based on a Stephen King idea; yes, he has been that prolific). If you are concerned about reading “contaminating the originality of your own work,” than you are just creating a lazy excuse not to grow as an author. It is impossible not to write in your own voice! There is no one else that arranges words, thoughts, feelings, the way that you do. Try as hard as you can, and you will never be anyone else (unless you are a plagiarizer). Words are like chords in country songs that are used ad nauseam, but still manage to create new melodies. Thank God for this little miracle of art in life.

Well, give it a try. What have you got to lose? You can tweak your percentages based on your life and your goals as an author, but I hope that you will include this trilogy in some fashion or another … a trilogy that has led me to Author NASA in terms of how quickly I feel I am developing. At this rate, I may not make it to the moon, but I am going to, God-willing, float among the stars.

Yours in literature,

J.G.C.

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