Being a beginning writer is hard. I know this because everyone, everywhere, is always talking about it. As they should. We need to be more honest about the fact that aspiring to write professionally is not “easy” or “safe.”
Many beginning writers know what they know about writing from school and books. They know that to get a book published you first have to write one, and many of them try. But it turns out telling a story that is interesting and unique and “publishable” is … well. It’s not nearly as simple and straightforward as it looks.
But this isn’t just hard when it comes to the writing itself. It’s hard emotionally and mentally and creatively. Here you are with an idea and a blank page in front of you and you may know how a story is generally told and you know HOW to write, but how in the world do you write a book and also live the rest of your life? What do you do when you want to write but can’t focus? How do you handle it when someone asks you to read their book two seconds after you’ve told them you’re in the process of writing one?
Yes. Being a beginning writer is a major challenge.
Most days, I barely remember what it’s like to be in that place.
Everyone’s story is different, and I’m in no way the average or the exception. The truth is, I don’t remember exactly WHEN I started writing, or rather, when I started making up stories, which often happens before a child is skilled and practiced in the art of writing down a coherent narrative.
Basically, to me, it feels like I’ve had stories trapped in my head forever. I remember learning to write my first essays in late elementary school early middle school (which started in the fifth grade for us), and long before that I spent enough time reading that I suppose I had some idea of how stories worked — generally that they had a beginning, middle, end, that there was a problem that needed solving and everyone should be happy by the final page.
Exactly when I began writing fiction is debatable, but I do remember gifting my parents a “book” I’d written as a Christmas present when I was 10. (I wonder if my mom kept it — I still remember what it was about and would love to read it to you). But I sort of just kept doing it, and kept taking English classes as a student because we didn’t have a say in the matter, and eventually I ended up with a creative writing teacher who became my mentor who is the reason I am still pursuing my goal of publishing a book.
The issue isn’t that I’m not aware that there are beginning writers who need help and encouragement. The issue is that I quite honestly don’t remember exactly how it felt to start out. I feel like I’ve always been a writer, and I feel sort of guilty for admitting that? I don’t know why, don’t question it, this is my brain.
But with so many writers starting out in their teens, 20s, and pretty much at all points throughout the lifespan, it might seem odd to not “get it” at least not in all aspects of the matter.
To be fair, I do know what it’s like to start out in the real world as a writer with no professional work experience. I’ve been through the freelancing grind, I’ve taken on the low-paying jobs, I’ve dealt with rude clients and micromanaging clients and clients who don’t think I can write about certain topics because I’m a woman (I wish I was making that last one up but I’m not, so). THAT part I get.
So I hope I’ve never discouraged or offended or overlooked you if you’re a brand-new writer with questions about how to Make Words Happen. It’s never been my intention. An audience of “aspiring and working writers” can draw in a lot of different people at different stages in their progress and careers, and sometimes, when I draw from things that are going on in my writing life “right now,” I forget there might be someone out there who just wants to know how to get a writing job or how to outline a story or … I don’t know, whatever it is you might be struggling with.
Of course I can’t cater to everyone’s needs all at once — that’s not the goal here. The goal is to support and encourage people to be creative and write things and have faith in their ideas and get stuff done.
But sometimes I just don’t feel like I’m doing a great job of making everyone’s concerns heard. I’m trying to be relatable and sensitive and helpful, but sometimes I get stuck in my own head.
In a way, this blog is what keeps me down-to-earth and reminds me that just because I’ve been writing for a long time doesn’t mean I’ve always been knowledgeable. Rather, it’s interacting with all of you — either here in comments, on Twitter, or the one reader who currently supports me on Patreon (YAY!).
Keep in mind, always, that the writing life is not a bubble in which we can or should exist in full solitude all the time. Sometimes we do need to retreat into our bubbles temporarily for various reasons, but we can’t forget to come back out of them again and participate in the real world outside.
It’s so easy to approach writing advice with the false notion that everyone stumbling upon it has a certain amount of experience or they’ve all “been there” before. The truth is that I’m sure many would have been long-term followers of my work didn’t stick around because they happened to read a post in which I came off as, I don’t know, the all-knowing, everyone should follow my lead tone I try so hard not to convey anymore?
It’s not that I believe I’m always doing things the best way or that everyone should do things a certain way because I do. Not at all. I’m not an expert. I build my credibility based on my experiences as a working writer/editor, and maybe some people don’t think that’s enough, but I’m really bored with the idea that you have to be a bestselling traditionally published author to be considered a professional. If a company pays me to write, am I not a professional with credible writing experience?
Anyway. My hope is that if you ever notice there’s something writing-related I’m not talking about here, and you want to see a post or video about it, you’ll let me know. My comments inbox is exploding and I haven’t had the chance to clear it out in a while, so if you have asked a question and I’ve ignored it, I’m sorry! Give me some time to get to it and hopefully there’s a way I can help.
Here’s to always remembering to look at everything from multiple angles, to never rely fully on your own beliefs or perspectives. Here’s to always being real and honest and doing your best in everything you do, always, no matter what.
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.