One of the most overwhelming and intimidating aspects of writing a book is that you are generally expected to complete it before you even send it out for consideration. On your own, with no real guidance, you are expected to put in hours and hours of your being into something that may or may not make it out of the slush pile.
That’s frightening. It’s daunting. It’s discouraging. Isn’t it?
To me, that is the hardest part of writing. It’s not the technicality of it, it isn’t whether or not I think I have what it takes, it’s that I could end up pouring my heart and soul into something that never grows bigger than a dated manuscript left forgotten in a box in the spare room.
It isn’t enough to have talent even. Look at how many authors were rejected before their manuscripts were finally picked up. Some of them have been ridiculously successful, too. We can assume that those who rejected them now regret it, but what if that was the last place the manuscript had been submitted to? How many stories have we missed out on because they didn’t make it through acquisitions?
The act of writing is often romanticized into this starving artist dream. Real writers don’t write for money, they write because they are bursting with words. They write for the art itself, not for the reward. Right? But then they still need to live. They still need roofs over their heads and food in their bellies. So then, what are we left to do?
The forgotten reality of being a writer is that if you want to write professionally, chances are you are going to have to write things that you don’t want to about topics that you don’t care for. Writing requires that you separate your goals into segments if you want to succeed. The likelihood of you finding a job right out of high school writing fantasy stories that pays you enough to support yourself and your future is low.
And the chances of you having the money and time to write the perfect book before the age of 25 and having it become successful beyond your wildest dreams is also quite low.
What most writers and even authors won’t tell you is that writing requires sacrifice. In time, in money, and sometimes in self-confidence. It’s a hard path that breeds a lot more uncertainty than other professions. It is not for the faint of heart. It’s not like a painting where people can take one glance and decide if it is he next masterpiece. Writing requires significant investments from readers and critics before they can decide whether or not it is worthy.
But for all its hardships and all its uncertainty, writing attracts a certain breed. Us writers, the ones who continue to trudge through the muck and the mud, are like crusaders in search of the Holy Grail. Though, I’d like to think that we have a better chance of finding what we seek than those who sought the bejeweled chalice.
We are the ones who deflect assuming questions about being writers and sidestep the voice in our heads that tells us how terrible our writing is. We are the ones who, like Frodo and Sam, drag ourselves up that sweltering, steep path over jagged rocks, and with our last bit of strength, toss our manuscripts and stories and articles at publishers in the hopes that they will forge our work into something great instead of consuming it in flames.
So when writing gets you down, when you are ready to beg for mercy at its feet, remember that every other writer who is working towards something has been where you are now. Remember that we have all whimpered in acquiescence of its might. But we have also stood back up, time and time again, only to force it into a harness, if even only for a short while.
What was an unexpected reality of writing when you first started? What do you think is the hardest part? What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring writer?
I’ll be on Facebook until next time.