Just like a great many artisans, we toil alone. You’ll find many writers hunched over a keyboard, the eerie light of the screen our only form of vitamin D. We tend to mutter to ourselves, have full on conversations/arguments, block out fight scenes, and have a near encyclopedic memory of useless and strange facts. 98% of our body’s water volume may resemble coffee, tea or wine, and our writing caves are designed in two types—scarily organized or beautiful chaos.
Regardless of our creation process or how many voices live in our heads, we are still solitary creatures.
This is not always a good thing because it leaves you vulnerable to some very nasty visitors. My biggest pain, Doubt. Swear she’s like a cross between Harry Potter’s Dolores Umbridge and that telemarker who is determined if they keep talking you’ll eventually listen. She’s a bitch to get rid of because when she comes calling, she brings a ton of baggage. Even worse, she’s a repeat visitor.
Sometimes it requires serious fumigation to eliminate.
And sometimes it just requires a wave from a passing friendly face.
Luckily for me, I’m able to nudge her aside with help from readers, writing partners and editors. Solitary though we may be, seeing a positive review from a reader, getting that email from an editor when hope was dimming, or having the chance to dissect your frustrations with your writing partners, can give us the strength to ignore when Doubt comes knocking. It’s these small bursts of lights that keep you going some days.
I’ve been at this gig for a bit now, granted, not as long as some, but a good amount. Enough that if you’re new to this game, may I suggest a few tactics to consider when you’re faced with unwelcomed visitors. (Yeah, there’s more than just Doubt.)
Don’t play the comparison game. No matter how many fabulous vacation prizes they promise you, it’s not worth it. Writers are unique creatures, the way one shares a story is not how another will. Mainly because every writer taps into their life experiences to breathe life into their creations. Not only that but the further you fall into this game, the deeper it sucks you in. Remember—readers are readers because they love great stories. They’re brave, courageous and can multi-task like mothers. They have no fear crossing genres boundaries willy nilly, or following intriguing voices into stunning new worlds, and their appetites for adventure are voracious.
Take a chance and step outside your comfort zone. For me, story creation is not hard. Creating a business plan and sticking to, not difficult. But ask me to market my book and I want to curl up like a potato bug and cover my ears. My ability to organize things within an inch of the lives may be helpful in some instances, but it comes with a huge flaw—I hate making mistakes. Marketing, my dears, is all about making mistakes. You’re a writer, you love to tell stories, but our art now requires more than just craftsmanship. You must also be a CEO, CFO, IT guru, and Marketing genius. If you find someone who can do all that all by their lonesome, I’m betting they have a lovely collection of white jackets with buckles. Yes we’re artists, but we are also a business, so we’ll have to suck it up and leave our yoga or sweat pants behind and slip into those uncomfortable dress shoes and start honing our business skills. You won’t be good at all of them, but learn them none the less. If you’re lucky enough to have someone to partner with that can sparkle where you don’t, at least you’ll understand what they’re doing for you. It’s that whole, “Know you’re shit” versus “Know your shit” concept.
Don’t give up. This one will be the hardest to conquer and the one you’ll face the most. It has a nasty way of tagging along with Doubt. It’s what happens when the rest of your life decides to hit the fast lane, or the world around you is suddenly faced with a looming storm of negativity. It will slip in on quiet feet with its pet Whisper in tow.
You’re stories are boring. No one wants to read you. You’re no where near as good as (insert name here).
Why can’t you market better? Why can’t you write faster? Look how much they’re making/selling, why can’t you do that?
See that rejection letter, they don’t want you. You’re not doing this right.
What’s wrong with you?
When Whisper is yapping away, I want you to remember this:
You’re stories are not boring. There is no one out there that can tell the story the way you do. Readers are always looking for new stories. Always. Remember, even if you have one reader, you have touched one person with your story and that is priceless. Maybe you haven’t mimicked their progress, but you’re not them and they are not you. Your writing journey is yours. Your voice is yours. Their voice is theirs. Neither one is better than the other. We’re writers, and writers thrive on being unique. BE UNIQUE.
Better? Faster? Seriously? Some of us writers are trying to juggle a family, school, an outside profession, a lunatic asylum, or any combination of these. Some are lucky enough to make writing their full-time endeavor. The point is, what they’re doing works for them, but it doesn’t mean it has to work for you. You know what kind of balance you need in your life, do that.
There is no right way. So what if you try something different and it doesn’t work. So what if it doesn’t fit for that house. Hate to break it to you, publishing houses don’t always know best. You’d be surprised what readers love that bypassed an actual house. (Yep, there’s a reason Indie’s are kicking it lately). Maybe it didn’t work, but start the next thing and move on. I’m sure you learned something, we all do. What if it’s the one time you try something crazy and it just resonates? How will you know if you don’t try?
Nothing—NOTHING—is wrong with you. Yes, writing is solitary, but you’re creating something out of nothing. That is a talent to be envied, not shamed. Take pride in your art. Take pride in yourself. Remember, raise your head and be proud, you’re a FUCKING WRITER.