Why not you?
I participate sporadically on an email loop populated largely by serious, aspiring writers. Recently there was a deep discusion about the difference between writing and publishing, with an emphasis on writing for the sake of writing, the love of writing, because publishing as a business is uncertain and upsetting and unstable. I’m reproducing my post to that list here, for a little New Year’s encouragement for any aspiring writers who might be reading here.
What I noticed this morning, reading through the notes on the list, was the “long-odds” emphasis–the statistics that illustrate how difficult it is to break into the publishing game and keep going. Those kinds of articles, warnings, etc, used to give me the willies when I was an aspiring writer. I heard them everywhere–from my father, who wanted me to be “sensible” and find some way to support myself, from the aging, die-hard cook at the bowling alley where I worked for six months, who was sure I was going to get my heart broken, wanting something so huge, so different, Not For People Like Us.
So, for anyone out there who might be getting the willies, who hears too much of the “long odds” talk from people in his or her life already, I want to say:
Writing and publishing books is a great life, and it’s worth pursuing. For all that publishing makes me crazy some days and the way the money flows is not for the faint of heart, it’s a great life. Writing is excellent, and so is seeing the work in the world, doing whatever it is going to do.
It is lovely to write for the love of it, and of course you should love the work, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to publish, too. I burned to publish. I had no desire whatsoever to write in my garrett all alone. I burned–still do–to communicate ideas, thoughts, dreams, hopes to others. Communication is not completed until there is someone on the listening end. I was determined to figure out where I should be writing, and just kept trying venues: literary short stories, articles, novels, science fiction, then finally romance, which fit my voice and passions like Cinderella’s glass slipper.
Sometimes, I despaired. Sometimes, I cried a lot over it. Sometimes, it was hard for me to believe enough to keep the naysayers from undermining me completely. The things that kept me going were a lot of the things I hear others saying here: I could prove to my father that writing novels was a good thing, that everyone would stop looking at me like some pathetic weirdo, and see that I was about something. Publishing would prove something, and it did.
It is true that writing truly is more important than being an Author, and it’s important to keep those ideas separated. But if you are true to yourself and your work, it’s not so BAD to be a Published Author. Most people in the world don’t know a writer. They’re fascinated by it.
Sometimes, publishing will break your heart. Mine has been broken many times–and almost always with books I absolutely freaking adore — but then something happens to put it back together. A good letter or review. A nod from an award committee. A note from a writer I admire, and I come back to the bottom line: the books are still getting out into the world. Readers find them, and sometimes they write to me or post somewhere online and I read it and it’s all worth it. I communicated something. Cool.
And there are perks to offset the depressing parts of publishing. It’s nowhere near as glamorous as most people in the world think it is, but there are some good moments every now and then. I remember sitting with an editor once in a New York restaurant, talking about the plan for an upcoming book: cover, promotions, etc. Two men next to us, business-suited, sleek and scented Masters of the Universe, and they were eavesdropping avidly.
I poured the whole aspiring writer dream into a character in my upcoming book, The Goddesses of Kitchen Avenue. There is a scene late in the book where the girl’s mentor writes her a letter about the writing life and publishing, and I cried and cried and cried as I wrote it. It took a lot of courage for the young woman I was to believe she could publish novels and live a life as a writer. I didn’t come from the white-trash world Shannelle is trying to overcome; it was a lovely, blue collar, loving world, but the key word there is blue collar. Security mattered more than dreams.
I say to you, your dream of publishing is a beautiful one. If you believe in it enough, and you are willing to keep learning, not only about your writing, but about where your particular talents go, you WILL publish. It takes persistence, and faith, and you defeat yourself if you write something that’s not true to your own vision to get there, but people sell first novels all the time.
Why can’t one of them be you?
Happy New Year!