“We tend to overestimate what we can do in one year, and underestimate what we can do in ten.”
Often times people have great big dreams for the things they want to write. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I’ve found that most writers who’ve found success at the most basic level tend to have started by taking small steps. In Laura Hillenbrand case it was small painful steps.
She had to dropout of Kenyan College when she was 20 because of an illness later discovered as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. In fact, sometimes even walking to the mailbox had to be painfully considered.
At times she’s suffered from vertigo that left her bedridden and unable to read or write. Over time, through various specialists, she learned to cope with her illness. But before she would go on to write the best selling books Seabiscuit and Unbroken she took one very small step as a writer.
“I wanted to be useful but I wasn’t strong enough for a conventional job. The one thing I could still do, however, was write. Shortly after arriving in Chicago, while watching a video of the 1988 Kentucky Derby, I had an idea for an article on the impact of overcrowded fields on the race. I researched and wrote the piece, then mailed it to an obscure racing magazine. I got a job offer. Fifty dollars per story, no benefits. I took only assignments that I could do from home and wrote them in bed. The magazine never paid me, but my bylines drew assignments at better publications, ultimately earning me regular work covering equine medicine and horse-industry issues at Equus.”
A Sudden Illness—How My Life Changed
The New Yorker (July/2003)
As you read Hillenbrand’s own personal story it’s not hard to understand why she writes so vividly about characters who have experienced profound pain and brokenness.