In the years before I became a published author, I spent many an hour scouring authors’ webpages trying to figure out how they accomplished the seemingly impossible task of getting published. While no one journey in particular held the magic answer for me, I did learn a great deal from reading those experiences. As a result, I thought I would share my own history in a series of posts. As I mentioned in the title, these are my VERY PERSONAL experiences. I am in no way trying to argue that there is one right way to do things.
First, let me apologize. I know I was supposed to write on learning the craft for this post, but I met an aspiring author this week who inspired me to write on this topic instead. So here goes…
I’m going to hazard a guess that most writers have days where they feel like this:
Writing is a tough business. When I was getting started, I dreaded…dreaded…my writing coming up in polite conversation. People’s reactions usually fell into three broad categories.
1) The largest group was the I’m really going to try to be supportive, but OMG!!! group. This group can be easily identified by their collective pained smile that says, Wow, I had no idea she was delusional.
2) Then there were the reactions of the Public Service Messengers. I can’ t tell you how many times I heard, Did you know that getting a book traditionally published is about as likely as winning the lottery?
My reaction: Hmm, yes, I’ve heard that before. Where’s the bar?
3) Finally, there were others who took the anyone can write the drivel that is out there approach.
I guess this observation was meant to imply that I had a shot?
(Oh Lord, and brace yourself if you dare say you write anything that brushes near the genres of Romance/Chick Lit/Humor/Paranormal…or anything that female readers might traditionally gravitate towards.)
Now, let me say, I do not think that ANY of these people are bad people for these reactions. I’m sure I have done the same thing to others talking about their dreams in the past- although, now, I make a conscious effort not to. It does beg the question, however, as to why do any of us have these reactions in the first place. I’ve given this some thought, and I believe it it because DREAMS ARE SCARY. They are scary for those pursuing them. They are scary for those of us watching others pursue them (also addictive – just look at reality TV talent shows). Why? Because dreams are an expression of vulnerability – and I like to believe the vast majority of people don’t like to see others get hurt.
But, here’s where we get to the optimism vs. realism bit.
There was a fourth reaction I received every once in awhile, and when I did…well, the clouds would part, the sun would shine, and…AND creativity would start bubbling.
It looked like this:
(There’s one person in my life who has consistently given me this genuine reaction every time I have expressed any hope or dream. I completely admire this about her.)
Now, you could argue that the first three ways of thinking are realistic, and you’d be right. There is evidence to back them up. But here’s the thing – even though writing is hard, some people (maybe yourself included) are going to try it anyway…AND if you’re going to try it anyway, I encourage you to try it OPTIMISTICALLY.
Oh, but I don’t want to lie to myself, you say. I don’t want to delude myself. It will only hurt more when the horrible reality of failure hits.
No, it won’t.
For a long time, I was as cynical as cynical could be, and you know what? Failure still hurt! My “realist” attitude didn’t protect me one damn bit! Stupid realism.
Don’t believe me? Then, Smartypants, believe the research. Psychologist Martin Seligman has written a ton of books on the subject.The evidence/research shows that optimistic people (even those – or maybe even especially those – who disregard/downplay/ignore negative evidence in favour of positive) are happier…people who consider themselves “realists” less so. Now, let me ask you, which way of life do you think is smarter? (Okay, so I totally reduced masses of research to a glib sentence or two, but hopefully you get my point.)
Will you be successful in writing? I don’t know. But you don’t know either. Nobody does. Not really. What I do know is this: if you’re going to spend time pursuing the craft, why not practice spending that time believing in yourself? Odds are you’ll be happier…and most likely more creative and productive. Maybe that’s a better definition of success anyway.
Forget all the categories of reactions I just listed. There’s only one attitude that matters, and it looks a little like this:
Go ahead. Try it. It feels good…and it’s certainly better than walking around like Sad Batman. Nobody likes a Sad Batman.