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DO IT—TWELVE LESSONS FROM TWENTY YEARS IN THE ARTS: LESSON 8: IN UNCERTAIN TIMES

September 2019  marks the twentieth anniversary of Jay’s decision to become a writer. His gift to you all this celebratory year is DO IT – Twelve hard lessons on learning by failing, succeeding by accident, never giving up and saying FXXK WRITING all at the same time. You’re welcome!

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A pandemic is upon us. People are sick, dying. Our lives are getting a wake up call. And I suspect a recession may be around the corner. So what can you do in such uncertain times?

When I started writing, I never really dreamed of success. Just of learning by doing, trying new stuff, having fun and exploring my psyche, dreams, desires and fears by making fiction. I was then blinded by ambition to think I could make myself successful by will and effort alone. When ambition met trauma and poverty, those illusions evaporated. And things got better. More opportunities to write and publish. More success, little thought it might be, in cash and recognition. But enough that I’m still a working writer. I write books. Agent tries to sell them. Keep going.

I can’t control publishing any more than I can change the grand movements of Covid-19, but sometimes small actions bear strong fruit. Not for success, but for me.

While I cannot write while in the throes of trauma, I can during periods of stress and uncertainty. It builds a routine that offers stability. I have something in the future I can look forward to. Something that is difficult and requires skill, but is rewarding. I put in the time, daily. And, honestly, despite my reservations to the contrary, I have a glimmer of pride in being an artist who will find time in their life to create something only they can make. To be a writer is to be alone. And alone, I can make a difference, if only to myself. Writing is one of the few things that makes me think about the future, a place I never see myself standing.

I write because it makes a difference to me. I’m happy to write commercial fare, and have done so willingly, in part because of cash but because it was fun (I like commercial fiction) and it gave me a chance to practice my craft. But in a time of uncertainty, I think I will jump back and write something that is more intimate and just see what the fuck happens.

I dare you to do the same

Jason S. Ridler

Jason RidlerJason S. Ridler is a writer, historian, and actor. He is the author of The Brimstone Files, and his latest historical work Mavericks of War was called a “visceral read that is also an important piece of scholarship” by Pulitzer-Prize winner Richard Rhodes. He is a Teaching Fellow at Johns Hopkins University and teaches creative writing at Google, Youtube, and for private clients.

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