Monday, October 31, 2016

Growing As A Writer ... When You Don't (Necessarily) Want To Be Published

Stephanie here! When we put out our call for article submissions a few months ago, Amanda's submitted idea of "Growing as a writer when you don't have the goal of publication" was one that I found most exciting. I've had the joy of knowing Amanda through Go Teen Writers for several years now, and I've watched her wrestle with this very question. Another aspect I loved is that it's a perspective I can't write from because my heart has always longed for publication. Whatever your goals are for your writing, I think you will love Amanda's words:

Amanda Fischer is fascinated with random facts about how the world works, breathtaking photographs, music, and languages. She has been homeschooled her entire life, and is now plugging away a Business Management degree and working at Chick-fil-A. Amanda has been writing since she can remember, and has completed three novels, as well as a handful of short stories. These days, she mainly writes to encourage others, whether through letters, Facebook posts, or blogging about life and learning at To Dwell and Never Leave. Since debate and apologetics are her passions, she also shares what she’s learned in those areas at Confident Assurance

If you’re like me, you’ve absorbed a wealth of information about improving your craft. You’ve read countless articles on making your characters come alive, worldbuilding so your setting takes your readers’ breath away, and creating a tight, exciting plot. All of these are presented as pieces of the whole—writing story after story, in preparation for the day you’ll end up with one good enough to query, and, hopefully, be published.

But what if you don’t want to be published?



What if all you’ve read about the publishing process makes your head ache, and you just can’t seem to muster up the same excitement your friends have for that dream of one day signing with a publisher? What if—dare I say it?—your words are just for you? If writing is your hobby, rather than career plan?

I think a lot of times in the writing community, it’s assumed that every writer is hoping and aiming for publishing a novel someday. Publication is seen as the obvious end goal, even though people admonish writers to make sure they’re writing for the “right reasons.” Am I saying writing with the goal of publication is wrong? Of course not! It’s a great and worthy goal. But what I am saying is that I think we as the writing community need to be more careful not to assume it is everyone’s goal.

I know it never was for me. I learned a lot about the publishing process, and a lot about how to improve my writing. But somehow, it never seemed like the right life for me. The stories I wrote made a huge impact in my own life, and I loved the idea of sharing my words and stories with others. But every time I thought about being a published author and all it entailed…I wasn’t excited about it.

In fact, as I grew and my life and schedule changed, and I changed, even the hold writing stories had on me began to lessen. My friends would talk about being miserable if they didn’t have a story to work on, whereas I had gone months without one begging for my attention. I still loved stories, but writing them now felt like work to me.

When I noticed this, I had a really rough time grappling with it. Being a writer was so entwined with my identity, I didn’t know what to do with this change in my life. Virtually all of my friends were writers striving to become published authors someday. And me? Now I was just a girl who loved words.

It took me a while to realize something very important, which is what I want to share with you today: You can still be a writer without being published yet, and you can still be a writer even if you never want to be published. It’s okay if you just want to write for fun, or if you only want to write during the summer, or if you only write stories for your friends. Your identification as a writer is not contingent upon who reads your words, or if you turn it into a career, or how often you write, or what you write. You can still be a writer even if you don’t write stories anymore. And even without the goal of publication, you can still grow and improve.

How can you continue to grow without trying to be good enough to sign with an agent? Doesn’t that leave you with nothing to shoot for? Actually, it’s freeing. You’re no longer trying to meet someone else’s standards or hoping what you’ve written fits the market trends. Now, your growth is up to you. Set your own goals for improvement. Here are a few examples:
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  •     “I want to become better at short stories, so I will write one short story every month.”
  •     “I want to write a mystery, so I will read some mysteries, find and study two books on writing mysteries, then start trying to apply what I’ve learned.”
  • “I want to write better descriptions, so I will study three of my favorite books and see if I can tell how the author accomplished this.”
  • “I usually write informal non-fiction like blog posts, so to expand my skills, I will write a research paper this month on something I want to learn about.”

See how this works? Growth doesn’t require an objective end goal like publication. Growth comes through recognizing areas that need development, then taking action to improve.
So, let me be your encouragement today.

Whether you want to be published or not, you’re a writer.

Whether you write stories or not, you’re a writer.

Whether you write fast or slow, you’re a writer.

Whether you write every day or twice a year, you’re a writer.

Whatever your goals are, if you continue to work to improve yourself, you will grow as a writer.

And remember, it’s okay if you change. All of us do. If stories don’t fit into your life anymore, don’t try to force them, and don’t be dismayed. Consider how you can pass your knowledge and experience on to others, then go write your heart out elsewhere and keep growing.


13 comments:

  1. This is a good concept for me to be thinking about, since I have always been publication oriented and have a hard time understanding those writer friends of mine who aren't. Very good article! I do have a question, though; for those friends I mentioned, in what ways should I encourage them to improve their writing? I tend to advise ways to improve the plot, as well as general suggestions for how to improve the punctuation or sentence structure. However, I'm afraid sometimes that I'm too nitpicky or am too focused on things that would only apply to publication. Do you have any suggestions for what my friends will most need in a critique?
    Great article, Amanda. A very unique and helpful perspective indeed.

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    1. Hi Olivia! Thanks for commenting!

      Improving plot, punctuation, and sentence structure is still a great thing to help your friends with. :) If your friends still want to keep writing stories and improving them, your critiques are sure to be helpful!

      Things that only apply to publication are actually pretty limited. Defining and refining the genre of the story and writing queries are what comes to mind. Another thing that is different is deciding when to put a project aside, and deciding whether or not to write a sequel. When publication is a concern, you would be wise to make those choices considering whether you intend to query, whether you think the project has real potential, etc. But if your friends are not aiming for publication, they may well want to stick things out with a story they love and write that sequel or finish editing that book just because it's special to them.

      So, to go back to your original question...what your friends need most in a critique is going to depend on them. (Helpful, I know...) But for the most part, I'd say improving the story in general would be helpful. The main difference I see here is in the bigger-picture advice (whether you think this story has a shot at landing a contract, etc.). Does that make sense?

      Thanks again! I'm glad you enjoyed the post. :)

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    2. Thanks for the advice, Amanda! I'll most definitely use it.

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  2. I was wondering if you were ever part of an organization called NCFCA.

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    1. I am not, but it sounds cool! Thanks for asking.

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  3. When I started writing, it was so I could get published. Now, I'm dealing with college, grades, and career options, and writing (novels) has just become an escape rather than professional. I'm still thinking about publication, but I have no idea where life will take me. This was so helpful!

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    1. I'm so glad it was encouraging, Josie! Thanks for commenting.

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  4. Amanda, thanks so much for this encouragement on writing. It means a lot to hear -- still being able to call myself a writer even if I'm not writing like everyone else does.

    I have the use goal of publication in mind, but I'm totally open to wherever God leads -- and I'm loving blogging so much, that I wouldn't want to give that up if I decided to make publishing my be-all-end-all goal.

    Wonderful post! Loved reading it, and can't wait to see more like it in the future, especially infused with your wisdom (maybe? ;)).

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    1. "Still being able to call myself a writer even if I'm not writing like everyone else does." That's exactly it! Each of us is unique, and how we write is no different.

      Thanks for commenting!

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  5. A good thing to ponder over... I do want to be published... but regardless to whether that is my calling or not, I AM A WRITER... And, even if it doesn't make it to the world, my writing will still happen, and be shared with those who I can let read it;)

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    1. Absolutely, Keturah! That's a great perspective to have. :)

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  6. I love writing. I love the idea of being published, and holding my book in my hands, but I don't know if I want everything that comes with it...regardless of that, I am a writer!!!!! :) Thank you. :)

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    1. That was exactly how I felt, Emma--I didn't know if I wanted everything that comes with it. But I'm still a writer and so are you!

      Thanks for commenting!

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