Ross Willard, a Colorado resident, has been writing speculative fiction in one form or another for as long as he can remember. A longtime member of the Penpointers critique group, Ross can often be found reading or writing at his local independent coffee shop, or working on his website.
System Purge, Ross’s new book release on Smashwords and Kindle, is described this way:
“A 14-year-old prodigy with a mysterious past. A genetically-engineered soldier with a deadly present. A sentient machine fighting for his future. They come from different worlds, but they’ll have to trust each other if they want to survive.”
A Labor of Love by Ross Willard
Although I am a Colorado resident, I’m writing this guest blog from down in Texas, where I am currently visiting my parents and working on the family farm.
On the flight down, I got into a conversation with one of my fellow passengers about farming and cattle. It turned out she had a large ranch near San Antonio. After a few minutes discussing cattle and pecans, the subject of finances came up. Nothing specific, of course, we didn’t know each other that well, but when farmers get to talking, sooner or later they always start talking about finances. Why? Because they’re so bad.
It isn’t as though you always lose money on a farm, but you don’t make a lot either. When you have a particularly good year and find that you have a decent amount of cash on hand, you squirrel it away, in preparation for the inevitable ‘bad’ year, when the tractor breaks, and the harvest fails, and a fire destroys the barn. While the numbers fluctuate wildly from year to year, in the long run a farm is basically a break-even business.
When everything is said and done, farmers work long, hard hours, and often make less than minimum wage doing it. But they keep at it. Year after year, generation after generation, farmers continue to farm even though it would make more financial sense to take a job delivering pizza.
Because farming is a labor of love. A large part of that love is the pride of ownership: you’re not just working the land, you’re working YOUR land. You tend to your livestock, you clear your brush, spray your weeds, work your soil. It’s yours. You own it, and you love it. When things go poorly, you roll up your sleeves and you fix it, and when things go well, they go well because you made them go well.
You don’t watch the clock, you don’t deal with bosses, you don’t clean up after whoever worked the shift before you. It’s a completely different experience from my day job, and there’s something addicting about it.
The only experience I’ve had that’s similar to working on the family farm is writing. At its heart, writing is the act of creation; we use language to build worlds, our own worlds, with rules that we determine, and people who exist only because we imagined them.
I bring this up because, as a writer, I find that it’s important to take a moment from time to time and remind myself why I do what I do. Being a writer can be difficult, especially when we’re trying to earn a living with our words. There are so many things that we need to deal with, so many trials, from the days when we can’t seem to get two words onto the page that sound good together, to receiving that thousandth rejection letter, the one that makes us think we’re chasing a pipe dream.
In the pursuit of a career, sometimes we find ourselves questioning our end goal, because when we take hits as a writer, we’re taking them directly to our heart. Much like a farmer whose land got flooded, or whose cows jumped a fence, there is no buffer between our work and our lives, the two are seamlessly intertwined, which can hurt.
So take a moment and remember that whatever your personal goal, whether it is to get published, to make a living, or make your way onto the bestseller list, you didn’t choose to be a writer to reach that goal, you ARE that writer, the goal came later.
We write because we love to write, because we need to write, and because we couldn’t stop writing if we tried. That’s what makes us writers.
Thanks, Ross. You brought back a bunch of memories from my childhood. I grew up on a farm and was there when the barn burned down, the cows escaped from the pasture, and a wave of army worms wriggled across the road from one field to another. Being a writer can be a challenge, but at least I haven’t seen any of those horrid worms chomping their way through my manuscripts.
You can learn more about Ross (lots more if you look at his fun About Me page) at his website and blog, A Writer’s Blog Attempt. He can also be found on Facebook.
Nicely put Ross. I like when you said, “you didn’t choose to be a writer to reach that goal, you ARE that writer, the goal came later.”
Patricia Stoltey says
Ross, I also received some very nice words via e-mail from an Indiana friend who felt a real connection to your blog post. I hope you get to see all these comments from way down there in Texas.
j.a. kazimer says
Great post. This is a great book. Worth reading more than once.
L. Diane Wolfe says
Int he days of traveling to bookstores every weekend, I’d often wonder why I was doing what I was doing. Long, lonely roads will do that to you.
My Other Half married a farmer’s daughter first time round so that’s my nearest reference. Their farm was compulsorily purchased for a road widening scheme 20 years ago along with the cricket ground the OH used to play on. He is still angry.
Julie Luek says
Ross, your post brought to mind a couple of things. I live in Colorado and recently traveled to eastern Colorado to fly out of DIA. I used to live in that area and am always amazed by how developed the area has become since the airport moved in. It used to be all farmland, but chunk by chunk it is turning into housing developments. It makes me kind of sad, but I always think that the amount of money the land owners can make by selling to a developer after a lifetime of barely getting by, must be a tremendous gift at the end of their career– especially if children are not interested in carrying on the legacy.
The other thought it brought to mind was the Dodge commercial during the Super Bowl narrated by the great Paul Harvey.
You’re so right, of course. Writing for the love of words and story must be the primary motivation if we’re to struggle through all the arduous cultivating, risk and failure the pursuit otherwise can offer.
Kenneth W Harmon says
Excellent post Ross. You’ve brought up a lot of good points that every writer should remember whenever they are evaluating themselves, and their work.
Margot Kinberg says
Pat – Thanks for hosting Ross.
Ross – There are things one does because one loves them and couldn’t imagine not doing them. Farming is one. Writing is another. I like the analogy you draw here very much.
Alex J. Cavanaugh says
Farmers are so under-appreciated.
Fortunately I didn’t go into writing with the goal of making money. It’s just a bonus.