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Bob wants to write a book, so why doesn’t he just do it?

March 22, 2013



Bob wanted to be a writer for so long it hurt. It hurt so bad that he thought he might burst from the pain. So many times he’d tried to get started on that big book he was going to write, only to find himself stopping after a few pages. Bob was a meticulous guy, a great believer in taking one’s time and planning and organizing and making sure all his ducks were in a row.

Bob ran a tiny insurance agency out of an office in his hometown. It sat on Main Street, and it’s where Bob could be found Monday through Friday, eighty-thirty a.m. to five p.m. He’d started working there under his dad after graduating college more than fifteen years ago. The job provided he and his wife Mary with a pretty decent income, even if he wasn’t crazy about it.

Good ol’ dad had built up the business and eventually handed it over to Bob. And Bob hadn’t let him down either. He’d kept up his father’s client base and even added a few customers of his own through the years – buddies from high school now raising families, people he’d gotten to know through the Rotary Club and on the golf course.

Oh, it wasn’t a bad life, but Bob wanted more. You see, Bob was really a writer, who toiled as an insuance guy. In college he’d majored in English and had mulled the idea of moving to New York and becoming a novelist. Of course, no one thought that was such a good idea, including his father, and Bob ended up working for him.

In his spare time, Bob often concocted scenes, printed them out and tucked them away in his desk drawers. They were fun to write. Sometimes he made up humorous stories – no more than a few pages – and email them to his old college chum Steve who lived in another state. Steve, who’d written a few novels and taught English at a small college, would send his own stories back to Bob. The two of them would use the same characters and just have fun going back and forth with these outrageously goofy stories. It passed the time on those slow days at the office.

Bob really wanted to write a novel. He’d even started a number of books over the years without ever getting too far. On the Internet he’d read about authors younger than himself who’d already written a few books. He knew he wasn’t getting any younger, that he needed to get started, really get started on his book.

Over the years, he’d attended a few writers workshops and come away jazzed about writing that big book. For the first few days after a workshop he’d find himself brainstorming like a madman and outlining his next novel. Then, he’d start writing. He’d tap the words slowly on his computer keyboard in his office late at night, carefully choosing his words, never satisfied about exactly what he wanted to say in his book. After a few weeks, he might have a chapter or two, but nothing to his satisfaction.

And then, just like that, he’d give it up. Months would go by, sometimes a year or two, before he’d again start another book. And then, he’d go through the whole frustrating routine all over again. More than once, he’d vowed to just give up once and for all this whole crazy notion of becoming a writer. After all, it was causing him nothing but madness.

Bob wasn’t much of a drinker, and never did drugs, but he could see how writers ruined themselves with alcohol or illegal substances. Writing was just so damn maddening.

Early one Friday afternoon he was sitting in his office. This was just before his fortieth birthday. The sun was shining on a beautiful May afternoon. The phone had not rung all morning. The emails from potential customers had slowed to a trickle. Outside his office, plenty of people were walking the streets – young mothers with children, dudes on skateboards zipping up and down the sidewalks. The downtown street was clogged with Friday afternoon traffic. Everyone on the go. Yes. Time was marching on, and Bob was feeling a bit old.

He told his secretary, Jenna, that he was taking the rest of the day off and for her to handle the office. Bob got into his car and headed over to the shopping mall. He was going to do it. He was going to buy a new home computer, one of the latest versions with all the bells and whistles, and also a nice big desk and a comfortable chair to set up in the den at home.

Mary may not like the idea. Money was tight, and they were always careful with how they spent it anyway. But this was it. No more fooling around. One reason he’d never stuck with his writing was because he just didn’t have a good place and the right equipment for doing it. The damn office was no atmosphere for a novelist. Besides, he figured if he spent a little money to write his novel, that would make him all that much more serous about sticking with it. Hey. Wasn’t writing an investment – like everything else?

Bob never did finish that novel, or even come close. It was the usual routine. For a few days, he went gangbusters with the book, but soon he was right back to where he’d always been – bored with it, no longer writing and back in his office dreaming away his days about becoming an author.

Don’t be like Bob. Start writing that book and stay the course. Don’t think and ponder and dream about the book you want to write. Just do it. Write fast and furious, not slow and meticulously like Bob. Soon, you’ll have a book.


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  1. Is it wrong that I found this to be a scary story? Probably because I came so close to becoming Bob on several occasions.

    • I was Bob for much of my life, but never an insurance guy. My God no.

      • I was an office drone and it nearly broke me. I found nothing more dehumanizing than being placed in a box and watched like a hawk while I await orders. It’s soul crushing and I’m glad to put it behind me. 🙂

      • You’re very lucky if you can find a job that is fun, rewarding and pays well.

  2. Unfortunately, I think I’m Bob! I am a professional truck driver and find it hard to write on the road, even though that’s where I get most of my ideas. The starting and stopping is torture! When I get home, there’s too many distractions. Yeah, Bob’s my name!

    • Maybe you can come up with a certain time – and a backup time – to set aside for writing.

      • I finally did that recently. I also found some software that has helped a lot with putting it all together. I can see where my book is going and how to introduce the characters.

      • Whatever helps.

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  1. Bob wants to write a book, so why doesn’t he just do it? | mreuther

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