Part 2 of “5 things I’ve learned about writing” — You gotta want it BAD

Today is Part 2 of the “5 Things I’ve Learned About Writing” — the second thing I’ve learned is if you want to be published, you gotta want it BAD!

Today’s post isn’t meant to discourage anyone; I’m just stating the cold, hard truth about writing that anyone who’s ever sat down to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard already knows. Writing is hard work, it’s lonely work, and a lot of the time it’s unappreciated and misunderstood work.

Some authors are literal overnight successes — they hit pay dirt and even the “big time” with the first book they’ve ever written. We’ve seen their stories — six- and seven-figure advances, press coverage out the wazoo; heck, sometimes even Oprah.

Then there’s me — and 99.99% of writers. The first book we have published isn’t our first or second. Mine was my third. For me, it took over 20 years of hard work to get to where I am. I’m grateful as hell for everything I have now. I just don’t understand diva authors, the jerks of the literary world. Okay, I’m going off on a tangent; I’ll save diva authors for another day. I personally don’t know any (every author I know is gracious and grateful and the nicest people you’d want to meet). But I’ve heard the jerk stories.

Anyhoo, back to what I’ve learned. For the vast majority of writers, success (i.e., reaching the goal of being published), takes a couple of manuscripts that are more than likely stuffed in a closet, before we write something publishable. I’m grateful for the “no, thank yous” I got early in my career. At one writers’ conference, I even thanked one agent for turning me down. From the expression on his face, I’ll bet he hadn’t heard that very often.

After producing something worth printing, there’s the struggle, the waiting, and the waiting some more to finally land an agent, and then waiting for your agent to sell your precious to a publisher. In the middle of all of this is hard work. There is no easy way to do this. You have to want it so badly that you’re willing to write every day, even when you don’t want to, even when you don’t feel inspired, or even when you’re just too danged tired. You have to write regardless of everything. That’s not to say you shouldn’t take the occasional day off. It’s a good idea, for you and for those who have to live with you.

Writing for publication is kinda like training as a professional athlete. They have to work out every day, training and honing their skills if they want to improve. As a writer, your challenge is to find the time to write, which very often means sacrificing something else you want to do.  Also, when you write, you write alone. Some writers have critique groups; I don’t. It’s just not something that works for me. I’m a lone wolf.

Then there’s the biggest problem that most writers encounter: family and friends not taking them or their work seriously. They think that if you haven’t been published, that you’re not a real writer. That’s a load of bullpucky. If you write and work hard at it, you are a real writer regardless of whether you’ve ever signed your name to a publishing contract or not. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise; and if they do, don’t believe them. I always told people that it wasn’t a matter of if I got published, but when.

Keep telling yourselves the same thing. And like me, if you tell yourself often enough, you will believe it. Believing in yourself is half the battle.

5 Responses to “Part 2 of “5 things I’ve learned about writing” — You gotta want it BAD”

  1. July 19, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    That bit at the end about not being taken seriously as a real writer struck me as funny, because in my family, I get this bizarre lecture about the honor of the amateur, and asked why it’s so important to be published. As if dying with a filing cabinet of unpublished manuscripts would somehow be a good thing.

  2. July 20, 2010 at 12:11 am

    I find that end part interesting as well, though not for the same reasons. There’s this feeling in our culture that things should be instantaneous. Either you can play piano or you can’t, why waste time practicing? You’ll never be as good as someone already well known.

    The people who are close to you have probably never seen what it takes to become published. They didn’t see all the crap Famous Author #5 went through to hit the best-seller list. They don’t know she went 17 years without even an agent requesting a partial, and that the book they got published was the ninth one they’d written. They don’t know she wrote the first draft on napkins in a restaurant.

    When you don’t know somebody before they got famous, you can’t know what it took the to become famous. If you have a goal to get published–and you actually write–you are a writer. If you plan to play in the symphony–and you practice every day–you are a musician.

    Anyway, now that I’m done ranting, I enjoyed the rest of the post, too. It’s true, and you have to accomodate it.

  3. 3 Becky
    July 20, 2010 at 12:44 am

    The thing is how do you know for sure those first books that got turned down weren’t publishable? I mean you hear those stories of people that get something published and then all their work that got turned down gets dug back up to, how do you know for sure it is honestly forever bad?

  4. July 23, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    You really have to want it. Writing after a 8 hour shift is hard. Writing after a 12 hour shift is darn near impossible. I usually fall asleep on my keyboard.

  5. July 25, 2010 at 12:09 am

    My problem is when I make the mistake of letting my family read my stuff (not my husband, who loves everything I do–my siblings and parents). I’m not sure what they’re looking for, but when it’s not what they expect they have nothing to say. Silence is more crushing than criticism, even though criticism from them sucks.

    I agree about treating it the way an athlete treats training. And like you said about sacrificing to get better, I end up sacrifice my lunch hour and more to write. No time for socializing when you have a goal. 🙂

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