This is how writers die.

Written by Cole Schafer


Writers die by writing enough to become read, and widely, and then being asked to do all sorts of things that don't involve writing: this interview and that interview, this speaking engagement and that speaking engagement, social media and more social media.

This is the danger in finding success not just in writing but in any sort of craft.

You become good at it, you garner a readership and, suddenly, you no longer do the things that got you the readership in the first place.

This ends up being the difference in you ever making the jump from good to great.

And, being that it's far easier to go from bad to good than good to great, many writers exist, for a lifetime, simply being good.

There are so many "good" writers.

Or, at least, "capable" writers.

You can read them, right now, on Linkedin and Medium and Instagram spitting out cookie-cutter copy and prose as if they're manufacturing widgets.

All of them are objectively "good".

They're readable.

They meet "spec" as Seth Godin would say.

But, nothing they're writing could be described as "great". And this is okay, this is truly okay, as long as "greatness" isn't what you're after.

There are very few Hemingways and Bukowskis and Johnsons and Ephrons and Leonards and this is mainly because few writers who have had the "chops" have also had the fortitude to continue honing those chops after their "chops" have been recognized by the crowd.

I'm so far away from being able to place my name among any of the names in the above block of text. I have, however, experienced the creative struggles of continuing to slay away at the page as my readership has grown.

When I was twenty-two tearing out carpet in Southern Indiana and writing with nobody reading, finding time to write was easy.

I was without distraction.

But, now, at twenty-seven and "good" but certainly not "great", finding this time to write is more difficult.

To defeat this difficulty, I play games with myself and set boundaries to clear room for more focused writing time.

For example, I rarely do an interview or a call or a podcast on any day besides Tuesday. When clients express frustration in this I gently remind them that they're not paying me to talk on the phone, they're paying me to write and write well.

Additionally, I've begun implementing a "scratchpad" into my writing practice. I begin my day with a 3-4 hour-long writing session where I power down any and all distractions: text, email, social media, stocks, Google, etc.

I then keep a scratchpad beside me and I tell myself that I can spend the entire writing session jotting down shit that comes to my mind, as long as I don't act on the distractions.

What I write down in this scratchpad is funny and strange and ridiculous but each thing represents what could have been an email or a text or a Tweet or a Google Search that would take me away from my writing.

Here are some things that have ended up in my scratchpad this past week...

1. Can you grill an egg?
2. Should I buy a skateboard?
3. "Come again?" would be a great ad headline for Viagra.
4. I want to Tweet that.
5. Is coffee bad for your liver?
6. I wonder if so-in-so paid their invoice yet.
7. I'd really like to have sex with xxx right now.
8. I wonder if she's back in town.
9. How fast can a dog run a mile?

You get the gist.

All that to say, to get to "great", which I have every intention of arriving at before I bite the dust, I'm realizing it's about consistency and prolificness; and I'm realizing the former informs the latter.

As I've closed in on the completion of After Her, my third book of poetry and prose, I talked with my team that handles the printing, formatting and design of my books and I read them a list of six titles that will be written and released by the time I turn thirty.

That's a breakneck pace.

But, I'm chasing Bukowski and Johnson and Ephron and Leonard and Robinson and Baldwin. I'm chasing Hemingway.

I know I don't have a chance in hell in catching him or any of them for that matter. But, my fuck... the race has been a riot.

And, to tell you the truth, I'm not writing to be "good".

I'm writing to be great.

Or, to get kicked in the teeth by those who came before me.

By Cole Schafer.