On Writing: An Author Guest Post Series
Today we kick off our series “On Writing” with a guest post from award-winning author Michael Hogan.
This guest post also coincides with the first day of Condor Book Tours‘ The Irish Soldiers of Mexico by Michael Hogan virtual book tour. We hope you’ll follow along with the virtual book tour to learn more about Michael Hogan and his book “The Irish Soldiers of Mexico” a history of the San Patricios, a predominantly Irish battalion that fought with Mexico against the US Invasion of the US-Mexico War.
It comes from doing and doing.—Charles Bukowski.
It may well be that genius consists in something ordinary people
never guess at—obstinate persistence.—StendhalFew readers would guess that a street poet like Bukowski would have much in common with a classic author such as Stendhal but they would be mistaken. Both were widely read, both were persistent, both had highly disciplined writing habits, both persisted even when their talent was not recognized, both loved classical music, and both were widely appreciated in Germany even though neither lived there (Bukowski lived in L.A. and Stendhal in Paris). But it is the wide reading, the persistence and the disciplined writing habits that I would like to talk about today.
Aldous Huxley once wrote that there is “no great writing without great reading.” Most successful writers tend to agree. Stephen King, for example, an author appealing to a middle brow audience nevertheless has many allusions to history, contemporary literature, poetry and even Shakespeare in his work. He is someone who reads widely and enthusiastically. A love of language permeates his work. Successful poets such as W.S. Merwin, the Poet Laureate of the United States read the classics. Merwin also reads poetry in French and Spanish, as well as his American contemporaries just to “see what they’re up to.” He also reads biographies, histories, and science. Sometimes we get so involved with our own work and then the marketing of it that we forget this important factor. We need to re-charge the mind, we need to fill up the vocabulary basin, and widen our vision through the eyes of others. We need to read a little bit each day and then more widely on weekends and vacations.
I first began writing short essays in my journals as well as poetry. My first publications were in small literary magazines and campus publications. I have since gone on to publish 18 full length books in my lifetime, and my poetry, stories and articles have appeared in hundreds of magazines. My work has been translated into six languages. But I have written perhaps 3,000 poems over the past thirty years, over 500 articles and stories, and 36 full length manuscripts. So only about 15% of my writing has been published. That means that 85% of the work I sent out came back with rejection slips (or I received a notice of rejection by email). My conversations with other widely published writers suggest that 10%-15% of submitted work being published is about average. So, it is important to believe in yourself as a writer; to feel that you have something to say and to have the faith that sooner or later if you persist, an audience for your work will be found. In the meantime, you keep sharpening your skills, keep reading, and keep open to a wide range of interests.
HABIT OF WRITING
And of course, keep writing. What I have found is that only a small part of the time do I feel inspired, or fired up with a genuine desire to communicate something. Many days I just show up at my desk and work away at a project with each word being drawn out with the same pain and difficultly as a reluctant tooth at the dentist’s office. However, even on those dull days I am learning discipline; I am practicing my craft, and I will be ready with the words and the style when the inspiration comes as it always does sooner or later. I should also note that for most of my writing career I also worked as a teacher. So that meant correcting papers long into the night. Most of my “real” writing took place on weekends, Christmas vacation, spring break, and in the early morning.The best advice I ever had from a fellow writer was from the poet, William Stafford, and I will share that now. When I told him that sometimes I found it difficult to make time to write, that I was locked in by the demands of family and work, he said, “Get up when the house is quiet, before the day actually begins and do your work then. Most places you can still be free if you wake up before other people.”
So, in the early morning hours of each school day I would get up early, do a short meditation and then sketch out a few paragraphs in my journal, or a draft or a poem, or an idea for a story. This was my real freedom from the daily work or teaching and the other demands of the day as a parent. And, day by day, year by year, those pages added up to books. Now I have the time to work on my writing full time, thanks to William Stafford. “Most places you can still be free if you wake up before other people. “ How true, in so many ways.Michael Hogan
Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico
Condor Book Tours’ The Irish Soldiers of Mexico Book Tour Schedule:
Book Tour Schedule
Sunday August 21 5pm Eastern/2pm Pacific Author Livechat. View the instant replay at Condor’s Author Chat Salon
Mon Aug 22 Musings
(Author Guest Post)
Tues Aug 30 La Bloga
(Author Guest Post)