Writing is like a relationship.
Sometimes it’s abusive and it hurts, but you keep coming back for more. (Don’t get your panties in a twist-My first “love” was abusive and I got over it with laughter)
Being an author is a marriage.
Coming from a woman who got divorced last year, that may sound super contradictory, but it’s true. Writers are testing the waters. The more we get out of writing the more they put in, but until we have some published works under our belt, we’re still building for the big show.
When it’s time to build a name for yourself and publish that first book, I don’t care if it’s self-published, indie, or Big 5, you are committing to something greater than yourself. Writing for yourself is how you start. Giving a shit about the audience and connecting with them brings it all together and completes the “marriage.”
When I first started, I thought my stories were great. I knew I had some skills to tweak, but I never imagined how wrong I was. My early stuff was shit. I don’t know how any of it got published. My editing work has fine-tuned my eyes and now I am terrified of everything I produce.
But that fear is fuel. When it’s time to get to it, I don’t think about all the bullshit, I just do. It’s the interim that kills me. Self-doubt is part of the job, and in my experience, writers who boast about how great they are usually have a lot of mistakes and very little room for growth because they are so busy arguing with editors or primping their feathers.
Committing to the art of writing means: listening, absorbing, and applying new ideas to your technique. I will be the first to admit that my marriage failed because we both hit a point where we couldn’t communicate exactly what we needed and make the necessary changes because we were stuck in a loop. Writers are often pattern thinkers. We fall into loops and chase our tails at times. This is where writer’s block comes from.
In order to move forward, I have to listen to my colleagues. Publishers, editors, other authors are important to the creative process. Support from people who understand what I’m going through is vital. Listening to readers is also important. I don’t believe that any author should take suggestions from readers and incorporate them into their stories, but it is an author’s duty to respond to emails and messages. Getting out and conversing with readers at events is where listening turns to absorbing.
This is a give-and-take world. My readers inspire me as much if not more than I inspire them. They spark new ideas, give me differing perspectives, and I use that to build new characters, new worlds. It’s exactly what I need to reward them for supporting me. I also find it infuriating when I edit another writer’s work or offer constructive criticism and they do not take it. Saying “that’s just my style,” is a cop out. Shitty writing is NOT a style. I don’t just make the changes that editors request in individual books. I absorb those tricks-of-the-trade and apply them in new works.
Absorbing and applying are closely linked. It takes balance to put everything into practice and that balance is always shifting. Building up on information and ideas and funneling them into a novel is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. It’s amazing how many people are authors when you think of all the time and effort required to do so. I don’t know.
I’m in a weird mood today. Opportunities are everywhere, but you have to pay attention or you won’t see them. Listen, really absorb everything around you and use that shit to propel you further. If you’re really a writer, if you’re actually committed and would do anything you can to keep writing-even write with your own blood, or write for free-then you know this is your craft. (No one should have to work for free, but that’s where most of us start)
Commit and make it count.