Book Reviews and Writing Tips

Book Reviews and Writing Tips

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Becoming a Successful Writer is a Matter of Work Ethics

Jack London

In this article about Jack London and his writing career, we’ll see that sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. In John Barleycorn, Jack London's vivid memoir, he describes a predicament familiar to many an aspiring artist: "My difficulty was that I had no one to advise me. I didn't know a soul who had written or who had ever tried to write. I didn't even know one reporter."

Barleycorn talks about London’s struggles with alcoholism and homelessness as he put forth great effort to write. His book is also acts as a mentor to every writer as he passes along these tips about his formidable work ethic.

1. Be decisive, choose something, and then attack it.
That’s exactly what he did, writing so much that he forgot to eat at times. Quoting from his book:

“Heavens, how I wrote! Never was there a creative fever such as mine from which the patient escaped fatal results. The way I worked was enough to soften my brain and send me to a mad-house.”

How many of us have felt this way? Writing with such passion and for so long that our family and friends think we forgot all about them.

2. Be persistent, endure struggle and hone your craft.
This is really the only thing you can be in order to accomplish anything. It’s all like stacking bricks, coming together a little at a time. Eventually writing gets more effortless. He goes on to say:

“I struggled along, stood off the butcher and the grocer, pawned my watch and bicycle and my father's mackintosh, and I worked. I really did work, and went on short commons of sleep.”

3. Develop a routine and be relentless about it.
We all are different and have to figure out what work for us as individuals, but it is very important to be relentless in your pursuit. Mr. London tells us:

“I confined myself to writing and typing a thousand words a day, including Sundays and holidays; and I still studied hard, but not so hard as formerly… There was so much to learn so much to be done; that I felt wicked when I slept seven hours.”

This rather hits the nail on the head for me. I get very little sleep because, as he says, there is so much to learn and it takes time to put into play what you have learned. You can’t do it while you’re sleeping. Luckily, I’ve been able to survive on very little sleep.

4. Settle into a groove and make the act of creating part of your life.
At some point, all of this becomes your way of life. You days are spent in service to your craft. If you’re lucky enough to make your living at it, your life will be less structured later on and you’ll actually be able to relax a little, maybe. He writes:

“Each morning, at eight-thirty, having been reading or correcting proofs since four or five, I went to my desk. Odds and ends of correspondence and notes occupied me till nine, and at nine sharp invariably, I began my writing.... and my day's work was done, so that at eleven-thirty I got into a hammock under the trees with my mail bag and the morning newspaper. At twelve-thirty I ate dinner and in the afternoon I swam and rode.”

I can’t envision being so successful I can ever lie in a hammock, let alone doing other pursuits aside from writing, but we never know what the future has in store. Writing is a lonely solitary business and best left to those who don’t have many other obligations.

Jack London wrote some of America’s most lasting stories, but at first, this had a price, as all worthwhile endeavors do. Read the full article here:


James Osborne said...

Hi Sunni
Wonderful discussion of Jack London and his approach to writing.

Arlee Bird said...

I need to take Jack's example to heart. I've been very bad lately. I get easily discouraged at times and become rather ambivalent. Motivation!!!

Tossing It Out

Susan Hawthorne said...

thanks for the motivation, Sunni!

LinnAnn Pike said...

Nicely done. I'd be dead if I followed his schedule. lol I keep having strokes durring the NaNoWriMo and that's only for one month. I can't imagine him doing that for years or decades.

Thanks for sharing your site info at 'show me'.
love, LinnAnn Pike

Sunni said...


Thank you for your nice comments and for stopping to read about Jack London. His approach to writing was quite different.

Whatever works is great!

Sunni said...


I think we all could benefit by Jack's approach at times. I've been writing like mad lately, but I'm thinking about posting his key comments above my desk for those days you need some extra motivation.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Sunni said...

Thank you Susan for stopping by, reading, and commenting. Jack makes some good points.


Sunni said...


Thank you for your lovely comments. I think if you are determined and dedicated, plus a bit stubborn, you could keep his schedule for years.

I've actually followed a lot of those notions over the last five years, of course that's not near a lifetime or even a decade, but there aren't too many people as crazy and stubborn as I am.


Great Authors by 10 Day Book Club said...

Appreciate your words! Thanks for sharing.

Sunni said...

Great authors,

Thank you for stopping by, reading and commenting.