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.