Thursday, June 30, 2011
What's Wrong? My Writing isn't Working
Were they friggin' kidding me?
Don't get me wrong. They know to give me a wide berth when I'm into Chapter 14 or chatting or creating a blog. When I'm on deadline, they don't dare speak. But they stopped me in my tracks when they defined my career as "a hobby that paid." But I don't let them sway me from believing that my career is real, solid, and the light of my life.
But if you've struggled and plans haven't gelled as you imagined they would, you can doubt your ability to be a writer.
When writers email me, ready to quit, believing that fate doesn't want them to write, I can lump them into one of several categories:
1. Want it all now.
The headlines show us self-published writers selling a million copies, 26-year-old girls making seven figure deals, and entrepreneurial sorts who promise they know the secret about making a serious living as a writer. Quit looking at these headlines. You can't go from nobody to somebody in the course of a few months, a year, or even one book. It takes time, multiple sales, and daily diligence. So if you've lost your job and need an income, deciding to write is not the answer.
2. Afraid to leap.
If you fear submitting, pitching, tackling $1/word magazines, going to conferences, contacting agents, attempting traditional publishing, opening a blog or exposing yourself to rejection and red-penned critique groups, then why are you in this business? When people ask me how to overcome any of the above, I tell them only they can decide writing is important enough to overcome those hurdles.
3. Not willing to invest.
I understand some people have little disposable income. However, tell a publisher or agent that, and it's instant rejection. Being an entrepreneur carries no shortcuts or special accommodations for being under-educated, young, older, disabled, retired, short of money, or a single parent. You write or you don't. You promote yourself or you don't. You make your mark online or you don't. No grants, no easy paths, no special programs. That's one of the attractions of the arts. You bust your butt as hard as you like, and succeed accordingly. Whether it's time or money, pump personal investment into your craft - without expecting some sort of subsidy or rebate.
4. Comparing too much.
Do your thing. If you haven't mastered writing, don't jump on the ebook self-publishing bandwagon because the rest of the sheep are doing so. Publish only when the quality and time is right - regardless of what others are doing. What first other people's career might not fit yours. Besides, you don't want to succeed in someone else's shadow. Do your thing, at your speed, using your unique talent. You don't want to be the next JK Rowling. You want to be the best you.
5. No plan.
Writing isn't just writing and submitting. It's research, benchmarks and goals as well. Every business has a plan. Production, marketing, income, sales - all of these apply to you as well. What are your goals? When I ask people their goals, most say to write and get published. How? When? Where? Who? No answers. Making money makes you a business. Act accordingly.
Failure and success in this business are 99% in your hands. Call me mean or overly optimistic, but frankly I love working in a career where I have so much control. When writers blame karma, fate or chance for their success, they're telling me they haven't given it their all, or are afraid to kick butt and try harder.