Me: You know, sometimes I wonder if I’m working hard enough at this writing thing. I’ve been doing pretty good lately, cranking out 1000 words day every day, but it never seems to be enough
Poe: I suppose the question is, enough for what?
Me: Well, to achieve my goals, I guess. To become a bestselling fiction writer. To reach the largest audience with my stories as possible.
Poe: You think there’s a certain number of pages you have to write each day to achieve that? I’d say it has more to do with luck and the fickleness of the reading public.
Me: I’m not saying luck doesn’t play a part, but I’ve got to believe that writing is a craft that one can achieve mastery in. It may not be teachable, as I saw Stephen King say the other day, but it can certainly be learned. And the best way to learn it is to read and write in great quantities — and the more you do both, the faster you will achieve success.
Poe: You really think so?
Me: Sure. If I didn’t believe that, I’d have to give up now. If I didn’t think I’d keep getting better, then I’d give it up. Or take up drinking and end up dying in the gutter.
Poe: Not very funny.
Me: But my thing is, no matter how hard I work at it, I always have this nagging sense of guilt that I’m still not working hard enough. Isn’t there a point at which I can pat myself on the back and say, yep, I’m doing all I can?
Poe: I suppose the problem is that you can never know if you’re doing all you can.
Me: Exactly. In fact, there’s always writers working harder them me.
Poe: Therein lies your solution.
Me: What do you mean?
Poe: Acknowledge that no matter how hard you work, there is always another writer out there working harder than you.
Me: Okay . . . But that doesn’t make me feel any better.
Poe: I did not say it would. I think, for the ambitious writer, living with that feeling of never doing enough is just a given. Of course, you could always take up drinking. Many writers do.
Me: Not very funny.
A lot of people know that I’ve got an Edgar Allan Poe action figure in my writing office at home, complete with a miniature raven on his shoulder. He sits by my computer and looks on while I type. After a while, I started talking to him, sharing my concerns about writing, family, and life in general. One day, amazingly, he started talking back.