Saturday, April 11, 2020

Why Are You Writing? A response to one writer (and a whole lot of other writers)

I received a letter back from an author who I passed on. Her comment was a bit disappointing and heartbreaking. She commented that she had been thinking for some time that her writing was never going to be good enough to be published and was now deciding to "let this dream go." This was sad because this author was just not seeing several things.

First of all, this is a tough business. There are a lot more authors out there than there are places to be published, or for that matter, readers. Everyone is fighting for those coveted slots, and yes, it does take really good writing to make it to "the big leagues." Think of this comparison. As most of you know, my son is a competitive swimmer. Like most kids, when they were really young, they were going to make it to the Olympics! This was the big time. But as time went on and he learned more about the industry, he discovered the big shocker. The Olympic Swim team only takes the top 2 athletes in each of the events. Only 2. That's tough. Did he quit swimming? No. His goals shifted to just being able to say he has the cut to get to the time trials.

Secondly, this is a business that requires a thick skin. Some people will like your stories and some will not. That is just how things go. I have blogged about this a lot here when I have said that sometimes a story just does not click with me. Does this mean the story is not good? No! It simply means it was not right for me. As I have said over and over again, many rejections authors get come from sending it to the wrong person and not because the writing was bad.

For this author, she also missed what I said in the rejection. I did note an issue I had with the way the plot was written, but then I followed it up with this statement:

Please note that while this is just one person's opinion, there is
nothing to say it might not work for someone else.

In other words, it wasn't right for me. I am reminded here of a movie my wife and I watched just a couple of days ago. We watched the new version of Little Women. For me, I hated it. The acting was fine. The costumes were great. The cinematography and soundtrack were great. For me, the plotting that moved sort of backwards made me not get into the characters. I should be blubbering like a baby when Beth dies. Didn't happen. It was one of those subjective calls.

Next, this is a business where we have to learn to be good. Sure, there are some out there with inherent talents and even their grocery shopping list is worthy of the New York Times Best Seller List. But we do have to learn. For this author who wrote back to me, it might simply be an issue that she is still learning. Do we quit when we don't get it right the first time? I don't think so.

But here is the bigger point. Everyone can write. Everyone can enjoy the passion of creativity. But enjoying writing is not an issue of being published or not. I always applaud those authors who are happy just writing stories, entering contests and hanging out with their writing chapters. They remember the joy of that creativity and they don't see their success as being published or not. Think of it... why did you first start writing? It was that joy of just writing. So, why throw that away?

If you are someone right now thinking your writing is terrible and you are thinking of just throwing it all away, I encourage you, the same way I would encourage this writer to stop and think. Remember why you did this in the first place. If you can remember that, it might be worth opening up that MS Word program, start a new document, and start again.

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