In an ideal world, writers’ lives function something like this:
- Wake up in the morning.
- Have an awesome idea for a novel.
- Spend the next few years writing and perfecting said novel.
- Get picked up by a literary agent.
- Sell that novel for a gazillion dollars.
- Live happily ever after.
What it’s really like is a bit more along these lines:
- Have an awesome idea for a novel.
- Start developing said novel, realize it’s less awesome.
- Spend a few months disgruntled, thinking you suck at life.
- Inspiration strikes! New novel idea.
- Halfway into writing new novel, realize you hate it.
- Spend a few more months in a pit of self loathing.
- Distract yourself with the interwebs and cat pictures.
- Force yourself to write things.
- Stop writing those things
- Reconsider novel number one.
- Rescrap novel number one.
- Spend a few years repeating this cycle.
- Finally get an idea you’re actually satisfied with.
- Write that book.
- STILL love it–weird.
- Rewrite that book anyway.
- Love it even MORE.
- Start pitching to literary agents.
- Get rejected.
- More than a few times.
- Back to the pit of self loathing.
- Eventually, someone picks up your novel.
- And someone publishes it.
- You still work your day job because your published novel isn’t enough to support you.
- But who cares?
- You made it.
- Feel awesome about being published.
- Then–awesome new novel idea.
- Back to step one.
Whew. That was exhausting and somewhat depressing to think about. Unfortunately, though, quite a few writers only make it about halfway down this second list because they get too disgruntled and upset with themselves. In the end, they write nothing and think back to the dreams they used to have–those stupid, idealistic dreams.
Well. Yes. Some of them are quite idealistic. That doesn’t make them stupid.
Writing a book isn’t easy. Getting a book published isn’t easy. The only thing that’s “easy” is settling into a boring nine-to-five job and wasting your off hours browsing the internet or watching TV. That’s easy. That’s what most people do.
You’re a writer. You want to do more than that: so why don’t you?
The easy answer is this: we all have this idealistic views on what exactly it’s like to be a “writer.” We all want option number one. We all want to have that perfect idea, write it perfectly, get the perfect agent, and then have a perfect publishing career. In a way, we’re trying to live in a fairytale world. We’re writers–we can’t help that we’re a little bit hopelessly romantic.
Damnit, we’ve read all these books and in the end everything always ends up being so perfect for the protagonist–I’m the protagonist in my story. Why isn’t it perfect for me!?
I feel you. I feel you so much it’s ridiculous. I can’t tell you how many hiatuses I’ve gone on just because I couldn’t handle the idea of failure. I can’t tell you how often I’ve stopped writing just because I’m upset with myself for not writing enough. I can’t tell you how ridiculous my goals were, and how insane my self-inflicted punishments were for not meeting those goals.
Writing isn’t about hitting one home run and being good for the rest of your life.
Writing is about striving every single day to be better than you were the day before and to do whatever it takes to get you to the top, even if that means you have to fall a few times on the way up.
You are probably NOT going to live that first scenario–so just buckle up, get yourself some cotton candy, and prepare for the roller coaster ride that is being a writer. Instead of beating yourself up, roll with the punches.