Here's the cute lie that most people believe: Writing is more than a skill, a pastime or a way of making a living. It is a vocation - like being a nurse or missionary. In order to commit yourself, and impress those that would read your work, you have to want to do it for nothing.Indeed this is how many of us become writers - it's something we feel compelled to do, whether asked to, required to or not!
Certainly, I've noticed that when you first start dealing with publishers, your enthusiasm, commitment and talent are of primary concern. Any talk of money too early in the process will see you ostracized very quickly. You're supposed to want to write for yourself - for Art's sake - first.
I guess it's about trust. The people that would help us get our work seen - in other words, published - need to be sure that our motives are sincere. That we write for some purpose other than just to make money.
Robyn and I have discussed this aspect of the writer's dilemma many times - and we have a counter argument.
Writing is time consuming, hard work sometimes and almost impossible to sustain a good living at for most writers - 80% make less than $10,000 a year according to the last survey I read.
It's clear that if writers don't get paid, they can't continue writing - at least not without considering poverty as a career choice.
Given the vast millions that publishers make, I've always thought that they should pay new writers to submit work - but of course that's never going to happen! There's simply too many would be writers who are willing to chance it based on nothing more than a vague possibility of success.
But This is To Your Advantage
Because for every one hundred writers that try and fail - either through discouragement, the apathy of publishers, or the sheer force of having to pay the rent - there's one, like you, that ain't givin' up!
But how do you sustain the momentum - the will and the courage to continue?
Easy. Get obsessed. Dream about your writing success. Fantasize about it every moment of every day. Create a compulsion within yourself that cannot be undermined.
Be insane. Be illogical. Be unrealistic!
Over the years I've noticed something very telling. The writers with the most talent don't always rise to the top. But the writers who don't stop and won't take no for an answer, and just keep going regardless of criticism and bad experiences, are the ones that make it - every time.
Reflection Strengthens Determination
Actively thinking about your writing is not just about trying to improve or responding positively to feedback, it's about organizing your thoughts and reactions to to what people say about your writing. You can take criticism well or badly. It can fire you up or destroy you. It's your choice.
I used to think I wasn't good enough to be a professional writer - and my lack of success reinforced that view.
But I had it all wrong. What I failed to understand at the time was that, if you just keep going, respond to feedback and keep plugging away at new projects, you become good enough over time.
Your technique may improve. You may begin to write more effectively or tell better stories. But none of that matters if you don't have the single minded drive to overcome the apparent obstacles to your success.
It's too easy to get discouraged. The system is designed for that to happen - to weed out those that are not determined.
Take heart, if you are fully commited, there are no obstacles that cannot be overcome, there are no barriers - real or imagined - that you cannot triumph over.
In the words of a very old cliche - and things become cliches, remember, usually because they're true:
"There is nothing you can't do once you set your mind to it."
So, go for it!
© Rob Parnell