The Things You Do For Love (of Writing)

You know those “aha” moments? I get them a lot. This one has been sneaking up on me for a long time, but I’ve pushed it down again and again. I jokingly like to call myself the best reviewed/worst selling author I know. Not quite true on either count.

I think a lot of us wonder what we might be doing wrong, and we get a TON of advice–write the book of your heart, go to a conference, westerns are hot, whatever. The one thing that beginning writers (I consider myself one) do NOT want to hear: write a better book. How do you do that?

Enter the little voice I’ve been shoving down. Admit that you are powerless over…oh, wait, that’s another topic. Humility. Admit you haven’t written a book worthy of the attention you seek. You might feel you’ve come close, might feel you’re getting closer. Sure, your book is as good as anything on the bookstore shelves. Then why didn’t the 40 or so agents you shopped it to think so? “I didn’t quite love it,” they replied. You became a little indignant, a bit hurt, perhaps even gave up.

Think of it this way: Derek Jeter. Just a name out of a hat. Third baseman, Yankees. Good third baseman. Natural athlete–poetry in motion. He probably could have played a number of sports, but he’s good at baseball. At some point, however, he picked up a bat for the first time. Someone threw him a ball, he swung, and he missed. He got better. It took years. No one ever got called to the Show without logging in the time.

You’ll argue that there are those wunderkind who sell their first novel and go from welfare to billionaire in a flash. Rare stuff. I used to open the “first sales” report and see statements like “Sally has been writing for 8 years” and wonder why the hell it took her so long. Can I get an amen on this one?

The way I look at it (with my new improved probably temporary humility), I’m right on track. After three years, I am just beginning to understand what I don’t know about writing. I figure, that’s not terrible. Hell, I just figured out what POV really was after a year, still working on showing rather than telling, trying to break out of cliches. Writing is a LOT of work.

It helps to be creative, literate, intelligent, and driven (I’m not especially driven, or haven’t been to this point). Because if you admit you’d like to be called up to the Show, then you might have to deal with it not happening. I’ve been hiding behind this cloaking device called “hobby.” It’s been my safety net. I can give up writing anytime, and I won’t feel bad about it, because it’s a hobby. I stopped martial arts, ballet, many other things.

But that’s a copout, and I’m copping to the copout. I want to succeed. I want to write a better book. I want to write a great book, one that sells very well.

How about you? Are you hiding behind anything?

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