One reason I'm not so critical of others efforts anymore is because I know that most people are doing their best. Sure, there are lazy and sloppy people, but I don't believe anyone puts out crappy books just to write crappy books.

Willpower alone won't make you a better writer.

Where willpower enters into it, is how much time I'm willing to devote to the process. It takes willpower to clear the calendar, to sit down and start writing, to stick with it, to finish.

For me, it takes more willpower not to settle for that first version, but to take the time and energy to revise it, and even more willpower to do it again. It takes willpower to set it aside long enough to come back to it with fresh eyes. It takes willpower to take the time to send it to others to read. It takes willpower not to accept "good enough."

When I say willpower doesn't make you a better writer, that's not totally true. Because it takes willpower to create the time and atmosphere to do something creative.

I don't think you can be deeper than you are--I mean, you can't know what you can't know. Insights that don't come to you, don't come to you.

But occasionally something burbles to the top, sometimes you may even get an epiphany. Sometimes what emerges on the page is indeed deeper than you are, better than you are. Not often, but the more time you give it, the more often it happens.

Being aware and open to these gifts. If I get a neat turn of phrase, a neat insight, say once a week, then in 24 weeks I'll get more insights than in 8 weeks. So taking longer to write a book is a good thing. (Though there is a limit, a point of diminishing returns.)

I've been reading the New York Times Book Review, and I always get a sinking feeling. I realize that most of the books reviewed there are far better than anything I'll ever be able to do.

Part of it is intent. My intent is to write fast and entertaining books. But even in that realm, I know there are far better writers everywhere I turn.

But there is no point in comparing. I just have to try to make the book I'm currently working on as good as I can. Take the time for it to develop, put some thought and research into it, revise it, expose it to others, try to learn how to get better.

I made a choice early on to write as much as I could. Not to hesitate, but to write every book that came to me, to learn how to be a better writer by doing. A case could be made for working on one book, taking a year to get it just right. I understand that. But I also know I wouldn't be able to do that.

I'm pretty sure the way I'm doing it is best for me. But unlike the old days, work that might not have passed muster with the gatekeepers can now be put up for all the world to see. I've tried hard not to put anything up that wasn't as good as I could do at the time, which means I have quite a few finished works I've never put up at all.

Every book I learn a few new things, I make a few new mistakes. I can hope someday that I'll put all the things I've learned into one story, and cut down on the mistakes.

I believe--I hope-- that is within my capability.