Many members here most likely share my opinion that a career in writing would be a dream come true. The freedom to be able to write what you enjoy most in that writing career, would be an absolute fantasy come to life. Add to that a large amount of acclaim, notoriety, and worldwide appreciation for your work, and most of us probably envision that scenario to be so exquisitely delightful, our body would have to create an entirely new hormone to compensate for the resulting euphoria.
Whether our actual experience will mimic our imagination remains to be seen for many of us. But the unfortunate reality is that most writers will never personally experience the fulfillment of such aspirations. Why not? For the most part, because such a realization requires three things (at least) that are very difficult to maintain; work, humility, and dedication.
When it comes to pursuing success in writing, I consider myself to be a pack mule. Every word that I type is like an added burden I must carry. And since my writings have yet to reach their intended goal, the load keeps getting heavier and heavier with no foreseeable relief. Many feel similarly, which is why most falter. The fear that one’s efforts in writing may actually be an effort in futility can be a writer’s Achilles heel. This can lead some to cut their losses and discard the “pack” prematurely before their work has had time to ferment.
Additionally, there is the very real possibility that what a writer wants to write, may not be what they must write initially to have the necessary springboard for their career. Spending a large amount of time writing about uninteresting topics for pennies (if you’re lucky) can be discouraging and dampen the zeal we once felt for the craft.
Unfortunately, this work is a necessary evil. Sure, there are success stories of those who scribbled out a first draft of some novel or script and had it gobbled up immediately by large publishing companies with deep pockets. But those incidents, especially in a stumbling economy, are few and far between. The reality is, our success as writers will most likely be congruent to the amount of effort we are willing to expend.
If the work hasn’t scared a writer off, criticism might. Most writers indulge in the isolated act of creating with words because they are passionate about their stories or mastery of language. But when that work is criticized (or even insulted, gasp!) by a professional in the industry, it takes a lot of humility to be able to accept the insight. More than that, they have to harness the opinions of others and implement them into their work, thereby making it more commercially viable.
It has been said many times before by many other professionals that writers who want to earn a living for their work must view their endeavor as a business. You are self-employed and your writing is your product which is useless if consumers have no desire to buy it. Just as businesses only succeed by listening to the feedback of their customers and altering their product or service accordingly, a writer must have the humility to accept that their work may need to be compromised to find the harmonious balance between public appeal and creative individuality. You take pride in your work, as you should, but too much pride can be your downfall.
Married to Your Work
Even after an excruciating amount of work and slave-like humility, we may find that we still haven’t punched through that publishing barrier. Personally, I find this to be the most testing of phases. This is the point where you feel you are doing everything right, you have received a great amount of positive feedback, and so your dream should be materializing before your eyes! (Insert deflating sound effect – Waa…Waa…Waa…Waaaaaaaa)
It is difficult not to feel like a deflated balloon when your best efforts don’t seem to be reaping dividends. But this is where the dedication to your work is crucial. Every writers conference I have ever been to has advertised the unfortunate fact that success as a writer often comes down to dumb luck, or being at the right place at the right time. But how can we ever be at the right place if we give up?
This is what siphons the mere dreamers from the dream-weavers. (Go on and sing the song if you must) Having the determination and commitment to continue putting yourself and your work out there until all those magical factors unite into a cornucopia of literary prosperity is a test of endurance like no other. Is it worth it? Only you can decide. (Harold Brodkey waited 30 years before his novel The Runaway Soul was published. How’s that for dedication!)
A.A. for Writers
Whereas this may seem like a discouraging dose of reality which portrays writing as masochistic rather than rewarding, there is hope! Thanks to Red Room and other similar sites, writers who may be struggling through the adversities of materializing their dream have a support group; a fellowship of other like-minded individuals who understand the challenges, difficulties, and sacrifices our craft requires. Are you using this free promotional tool to the full? If not, you should!
Though it may seem like it is simply more work, every writer should be using Red Room as a vessel for achieving success. Make connections, comment on other’s blogs, and read the works of your comrades. After all, the act of writing demands enough solitude, why make the promotional aspect a solo effort as well? Work, be humble, be determined, network with your peers, and eventually the dream of receiving acclaim as a published author will be a reality.
Thanks again to Red Room for helping us along…