Thursday, June 7, 2012

Digging In

Writing is just about the most solitary occupation in the world. The author spends ninety percent of their time inside their head working out dialogue, plotting the demise of the bad guys, engineering the happy ending for the hero and heroine and devising an interesting world where all that happens.

The trouble with working alone're alone.

There's no input from a team. No brainstorming with a partner. No response from a reader. The author just slogs along, typing words into the computer with minimal feedback or encouragement.

Inevitably, you reach a point where you're convinced you suck. Yes, you do. If you didn't suck hairy eyeballs, readers would be clamoring for more of your fabulous prose. Your books would be selling like Harry Potter. Oprah would invite you to appear on her show.

That's exactly the point when it's the hardest to dig your heels in and keep writing. It's easy to write when everything is going well--when you have a string of five star reviews and a royalty check that makes your eyes pop. But when that check wouldn't buy a candy bar and the reviews are pitiful, it's tougher to keep on plugging.

There are scads of stories about authors who wrote for years before their first book was published. There are also stories about authors who made a million dollars by self-publishing when they couldn't break into the closed publishing world. Most of us actually end up in the middle.

Breakout stars are few and far between, just as in any other creative field. For every famous actor, there are thousands who never make it past waitressing at the local diner. And even more who spend their entire careers in bit parts.

Why do they continue? Because...they might get their break one day. Because they love what they're doing. Because they're convinced they're the one who's going to be a star. That is the nature of creativity.

In the end, all of them will fade away, moving on to other endeavors--except the one who does it simply because they love it. Writers who are there for the money will find some other way to earn the bucks. Writers who write with the hope that they will be a big star will settle on another way to shine. But writers who love to write, well those writers will write if they never sell another piece.

There's a vast chasm between writing and receiving a big royalty check. Some (likely even most) will never bridge that span. Most of us will remain on the mid-to-low list, pathetically happy when we receive a good review or a lovely fan letter. It's not necessarily fair. I've read books that should have been bestsellers yet languished in obscurity. And I've read bestsellers that were horrible wallbangers. Unfortunately, it's that way in all walks of life.

Timing, connections, being in the right spot at the right time all play a part in success. None of those have anything to do with our end product. Quality rests on our individual shoulders. All else is a crap shoot.

Our chance of success is nil if we don't keep writing.



  1. Right on the mark, girl. All we can do is keep on plugging...and remember to smile.

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  3. Easier if your mouth isn't hurting from a tooth extraction! Hope you're feeling better real soon!

  4. Yes, writing is a crap shoot and only those with the strongest of wills and the toughest of hides can handle it.It's not for the weak arsed.

    And you don't suck...

  5. I love this post, Anny. I write because it's what I must do. And I love it. Will I find financial success? Doubtful. That's life!

  6. Thank you, Amarinda! It's definitely a tough business.

  7. Julia, if there was one thing I would tell a new writer it would be to write because you love to write...