We're starting a new writing series today designed to help us conquer our writing fears. Maybe just knowing others have the same fears as you will make you feel better. When I was 17, I found great comfort from Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird where she said all writers, even writers I love and respect, write [really bad] first drafts. That gave me such a bump of confidence to hear it wasn't just me.
On the Go Teen Writers Facebook group, I asked what fears people had about their writing and they were gracious enough to answer. If you have fears you'd like to get perspective on either leave a comment or send me an email.
I can't cure your fears and anxieties, but maybe talking about them, getting them out in the open, will keep them from being too crippling.
Today we're talking about this big hairy fear:
My book sucks, and I'm completely wasting my time because I will never get published.
I am 100% sure that all aspiring writers have thought this at least once. And that those who are already published occasionally fear never getting published again.
Let's set a few "being published" myths straight. Being published will not:
- Make you rich
- Load you up with confidence
- Allow you to write (and sell) whatever book is on your heart
Let's take those one by one.
If you're writing for the money then, yes, you are completely wasting your time. It's possible to make a living writing novels, but not likely. A much better plan is to marry rich so your writing income doesn't matter. (That's a joke.)
Confidence. I don't know a single working writer who doesn't continually battle with the question, "Is this book/my idea/my writing any good?" I know it seems like published writers should be over that - they have an agent! They have an editor! They have a whole publishing house who invested money in them and bought their book!
But once you're published, there are other beasts out to devour your confidence. Nasty reviews on Amazon. Or "meh" reviews in industry publications. Or the guy in your small group who insists on telling you repeatedly how much he could not get into your book, how he had to put it down after 10 pages because he was so bored...
And getting published doesn't mean you're going to get to call up your editor and say, "Hey, here's what my next book is going to be about," and receive the response of, "Great! I'll put your check in the mail!" Instead you might get, "Well, that sounds okay, but you know what's really hot right now? Vampires. Could you maybe write a vampire dystopian adventure romance with steampunk elements? And wizards? Set in an Amish community? And make it funny..."
My point with all this semi depressing talk is that you're never going to "arrive." You're never going to reach a place where you always know your book is good and that writing is a good investment. So you have to find your counter-thoughts, your defenses. You won't survive this business without them.
Counter thought #1: I love to write.
Even on my worst writing days, where I feel like I'm wrestling the words to the page, and they're not that great anyway, I still love writing. I love characters and story and zippy dialogue and that feeling you get when you just know that's the best way to describe something. Even if I had never gotten published, spending time writing my stories still wouldn't be a waste of time because I love doing it. If you're pursuing publication, I believe the following should be true for you - you write because you love writing.
Counter thought #2: My book may suck. But...
I can fix it. You'll never write the perfect book, sadly, but the beauty of the editing process is that you can fix what's wrong. Cardboard characters? Fixable. Predictable plot? Fixable. Boring sentence structure and weak verbs? Fixable. It's not easy, of course, but it can be fixed.
Now, it's possible you have written a book that, for whatever reason, will never be good. I know I have. But I don't consider them a waste of time because they were part of my learning process and they helped me grow.
Babe Ruth hit 714 home runs in his Major League career, but he also struck out 1,330 times. He said, "Every strike brings me closer to the next home run." Learn from the Babe.
(Potential) counter thought #3: God called me to write.
This may not be true for you, and you may not even believe in a god, much less one who cares about how you spend your free time. If so, you can just skip over this one.
If you feel writing is a talent God wove into your being, if you feel He impresses stories on your heart, that He expects you to do your best with them ... well, then even if you don't get published, you can feel certain you're not wasting your time because you're doing what God asked of you. In that case it's wasteful to NOT write.
It's helpful if you have a supportive family and writing friends who can encourage you through those times of insecurity, but even if you don't, you can always come back to loving writing and mistakes being fixable.