Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Note to Aspiring Authors

Hey y'all. A writer that I know who has found success in publishing has recently decided to hang up her quill and hat because the stress of the industry are too much for her. I've always been the blinding optimist (despite my black blog-scheme) and my response to giving up has always been "Don't give up! Keep going!" I'm stubborn as stubborn can be and very ambitious, but when I heard about this it gave me pause.

I think a lot of writers, once they start down the querying path, are waiting for success and expecting that success to bring them a little relief. It's hard to do what we do. We struggle through draft after draft, query after query and when we do start down on this path (querying agents, on sub to publishers, waiting for release dates ect) we expect a pay off. We say to ourselves "Once I get that agent, then I'll be happy. Once I get that publisher, then I'll be happy. Once I get ten good reviews, then I'll be happy." But the reality of the business is that's simply not the case.

I started my journey to actively pursue publication three years ago last march. I'm not saying, by any standards, that I'm the expert in this. But I do have a few years experience without being so far along the line that I've forgotten what it is to write without the pressures of the business.

When I wrote before I started pursuing publishing, it was very freeing. It was extremely isolated, so I shared my writing with whoever I could. Posting it online, joining classes, giving it to people who seemed interested. And pursuing publishing really helped me for that. Suddenly I had people reading my query letters, agents looking at partials or fulls, beta readers destroying my pages with their little red pens. It gave me a chance to get out there. But, it also added a lot of pressure to the situation. Suddenly, it wasn't about just writing whatever I wanted to. It was writing something good, something people would enjoy, something that was worthy enough to recieve attention by industry professionals.

In came the Stress.

It was as though I felt a literal weight settle onto my shoulders. In fact, I can still feel it there. Writing, though I had always intended to pursue publication, turned from something I did for me, to something I did for everyone. I'm not saying I was trying to impress everyone at the cost of my own artisic values, I was just trying to be better at what I loved. I was pushing myself to be better at every turn, because this is what I wanted.

Nothing changed when I signed with my agent. That pressure of "Go, go, go." didn't stop. There was no "release" when I got my agent, because suddenly I had reached a new leg of the journey, a new goal to look forward to. The pressure was still there. And it will still be there when I get a publisher, and my first book's out, and my second, and so on and so on....

And you know what, I'm okay with that. I like the pressure that comes with this business. It keeps me going. It makes me feel like this isn't something I'm doing flippantly. It's my job, and I like it that way.

But there are a lot of writers who hate that pressure. Maybe they can handle the stress of managing their own business or the pressures of a high powered office, but this kind of stress, the weight, they hate. And those are the writers that, I find, say to themselves, "I'll be happy when I get an agent. I'll be happy when I get a publisher." And so on, forever and for eternity. They're never happy, because each milestone doesn't relieve their stress.

That feeling doesn't go away.

So if you're a writer who hates querying, who hates the waiting and the stress and the scrutiny of this business, you have to ask yourself, is this really the right place for you?

I think everyone can do it. Anyone can publish a book if they're willing to work hard at it, but sometimes that's not for everyone. If you can't stand the gatekeepers of this business, or the waiting, or having to sumerize your work, then that's a big problem. That is the business. There is no, "I won't have to do any of that after I get an agent/editor." No. You'll be writing query-type pitches and dealing with the waiting for as long as you pursue publication.

I want you to succeed in your writing, but sometimes you have to take a second and ask yourself, is this really the type of career I want?



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