It’s the ultimate dream of many writers — being able to hold something in their hands that they poured every ounce of their energy and self into.
A published book. An article in a well-known magazine. A real, tangible, readable symbol of their hard work and dedication that says, “I did a thing. I wrote something good enough to get published and no one can take that away from me.”
So why is it that so many writers dream of this moment but don’t make the time to sit down and actually write a book or a magazine article? Why is it that so many people seek out the best writing and publishing advice they can find, yet still find themselves flailing when they don’t take any of that advice still expecting to succeed?
Here are a few truths most aspiring writers probably need to hear:
- You will almost never get a request for a full manuscript on the first try
- People who ask you to pay them to publish your work don’t care about you
- You are not entitled to a publishing opportunity, money, or fame simply because you experienced something
- A first draft is not worthy of publication
- If someone writes it for you, it’s not yours to sell (WITH OBVIOUS EXCEPTIONS)
- Hard work WILL get you where you want to go, it will just take longer than taking the easy way in.
I don’t understand people who try to take shortcuts and knock other people down to get ahead. I don’t understand how they can live with their success knowing they did not earn it.
Maybe that’s my upbringing, maybe it’s just me, I don’t know, being a decent human being. But I don’t want anyone offering me something unless I’ve earned it. I do not get why a person would want their name on a book or article so badly that they would hand over their money, steal someone else’s work, sweet-talk their way into circles they have no right standing in, all so they can say “Hey look, I wrote a thing! LOOK AT ME.”
To me, the greatest reward in writing is sitting back, looking at something you’ve put together with your own brain and two hands, and being proud of the hard work you put into this thing you made that started out as nothing.
Are there people that get no sense of thrill in transforming a blank page into something completely original simply by thinking really hard and pouring those thoughts into coherent sentences on paper? If they don’t, then why do they even want to call themselves writers? If writing does not bring you joy, why do you want to walk around and say you wrote something??
As much as we all say we would jump at any chance someone gave us to get published without hesitation, I’d sincerely hope most of us would think hard about what we were doing before saying yes to anything.
I have always had a vision in my head of what it would be like for me — one I replay often in those moments I don’t “feel like” writing. I submit a part of my book to an agent (okay, more like many agents) whom I have heavily vetted and trust to look at this snapshot of my baby, and I am nervous but also excited because this is a thing that I have worked my tail off to finish and pull apart and reconstruct and edit and finish again.
And maybe, just maybe, one agent will ask to hold and bond with my baby in its entirety and I am still nervous but I will still let them because, again, I have put so much of myself into the product of this work I’ve done that I cannot be ashamed of it no matter how awful the turnout might be.
That’s about where the vision fades for me, because I don’t like building up expectations too high in case they don’t work out. I like being ecstatic when good things happen and reasonably disappointed when things don’t. I don’t like feeling crushed when I expect things to go perfectly and they don’t, because they very rarely do in this unpredictable thing we call life.
I can’t imagine doing it any other way — finding myself successful, somehow, without having put in the time or the effort, without splitting my soul in true Horcrux fashion and binding it into the pages of my story.
There’s just something about having put in the work, survived the rejections, put in more work and so on, that makes the reward so much sweeter than it would have been if someone had just handed it to you.
Don’t you think?
I’m very grateful to work with people on a daily basis who do publishing right. Who pay real writers to do good work and don’t try to cut corners to get things done faster. Who know that climbing the ladder the right way is slower and that others will try to catch up and climb over you and knock you off mid-climb, but that in the end, the ones who do things the way they’re meant to be done will always be more successful in the grand scheme of things. Always happier, always more fulfilled, always (hopefully) with fewer regrets.
I don’t know you. I don’t know what your goals are, what your visions look like, what you dream about when you’ve just fallen asleep.
But I hope you continue to pursue writing because you’re hungry for the process more than you are for the reward. Dare I say (excuse my cliche), for the journey more than the destination.
I write because it is my purpose, not because I want my name on a book.
What about you?
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.