Clancy always insisted that no one had ever given him inside knowledge but that his insight was taken from technical manuals, books on military matters and interviews with submarine experts. Yes, he visited military leaders but never asked for classified information. This was a writer whose work was rooted in astute research. Not able to join the military as he had wished because of poor eyesight, he was self-taught.
Clancy’s books attracted Hollywood and became blockbusters. Some were turned into video games that were so realistic that the military licensed them for training purposes.
Was he an overnight sensation? No way. He sold insurance until he sold The Hunt for Red October for only $5,000 to the Naval Institute Press in Annapolis. And, his editor there had a hard time persuading her boss to read it. He was an unknown, you know. Because it had so many technical details, she had him cut it – which he did to the tune of 100 pages. In addition to his precise detail, Clancy’s storytelling ability and the sharp wit of his characters’ dialogue made everyone sit up and take notice. It became a huge best-seller. And, he was off to the races.
Did writing come easy to him? Does it come easy to anyone? He once said: “You learn to write the same way you learn to play golf. You do it, and keep doing it until you get it right. A lot of people think something mystical happens to you, that maybe the muse kisses you on the ear. But writing isn’t divinely inspired — it’s hard work.”
And there you have it, my friends. Writing is a labor of love. One that must be practiced over and over. It reminds me of working to maintain a relationship. It doesn’t just happen. It is created and nurtured.
Rest well, Mr. Clancy. You are one of the greats.
Til next time.