You're the Pillar of Your Support System

Writing for Children Blog | craft
May 12, 2016

By Jan Fields

Every year I end up having dry summers creatively, funneling my energy into
family instead. By the end of summer, I'm restless. Then when autumn rolls
around, I'm swamped with work. It happens this way every year and it comes
as a surprise every year. I think I must be a slow learner. Still, work
comes in seasons that way. I find I rarely have just exactly enough. Instead
it's feast or famine.

Much of the writing life is painfully unpredictable. If I write something
that I create, I am never promised a publishing spot for it. I must go
through the submission-rejection-submission cycle. It's a wearying cycle and
not exactly easy on one's ego. It's a bit like job hunting. I have a friend
who is looking for a job. She's very good at what she does -- but
unfortunately there is a limited market for what she does in the area where
she lives. So when she looks for a job, she isn't simply dealing with the
question of whether she is good enough or not. The market itself is
squeezing her painfully. She knows that intellectually and yet the process
of job hunting makes her question whether she's kidding herself, maybe she's
not really as good as she thought, maybe she stinks in fact. I can
sympathize since that's exactly how the writing life works -- all the time.

I know I write well. Even those who reject me say nice things about how I
write. Some say them at length. I suspect I write nonfiction better than
fiction. I suspect I write about writing a bit better than I write fiction.
It's a suspicion I don't really like facing. It's not unexpected. After all,
I have a degree in print journalism -- I should write good nonfiction, I'm
expensively trained to do so. And yet, I want my fiction to receive the
sometimes-glowing response that my nonfiction has.  So I keep learning,
practicing, working, moving ahead.

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I am beginning to accept the reality that writing isn't something you arrive
at. If you publish dozens of magazine articles -- there may be that niggling
desire to publish dozens of stories born purely from your creative spirit.
If you publish dozens of stories -- then you want a book. If you have a
book, then you want it to do well -- and you want more books. What if your
first book was a fluke? What if you published with an educational publisher
-- that doesn't really count does it? What if you published with a small
press, is that as good as a large press? What if you don't see your book in
your local bookstore? Does that feel like rejection?

Personally, I try to cheer small steps. I saw someone recently jeering at
authors who cheer small steps -- I finished my novel! I got my first
rejection letter! I got my first personal rejection letter! I got an agent!
I got a publisher! The person jeering said none of that counts unless you
get a mega hit. Without a book that sells and sells, you've not arrived.
You're just kidding yourself. I disagree. How incredibly sad it would be to
refuse to be happy unless you morph into J.K.Rowling. I think you should
cheer the small steps -- yours and everyone else's.  Otherwise you end up
sounding apologetic when you talk about your own writing life. And you end
up unhappy. And you probably end up bitter -- maybe lashing out at those who
are enjoying the journey.

I can understand how people can get weary in the journey. Sometimes I really
get weary in the journey. And I have this voice that constantly says,
"Thanks, but -- " whenever anyone congratulates me.

"Congratulations on getting an agent."
"Thanks, but he hasn't sold anything for me yet."

"Congratulations on getting to acquisitions meetings."
"Thanks, but it hasn't sold yet."

"Congratulations on getting a request for revision."
"Thanks, but that doesn't mean it will sell."

And it didn't sell. And I don't have the agent anymore. But would I be in
worse shape if I had shushed the thanks-but voice and just enjoyed each
little step? Does taking joy in the small steps, even if they are followed
by a big disappointment, make me foolish? No, I think not. I think it
probably helps keep this business from being so draining. I love to write.
Writing is energizing for me. When it flows -- I am almost giddy with
enjoyment. But.the business of trying to share that joy, that's tough. And I
need to be able to find the joy in the process of that too.

I find joy in the process of writing. I often even find joy in the process
of revision. Now, if I could find joy in the process of publication, I would
be the most fortunate of people. Even with how much I dislike the process of
seeking publication, I love writing so much that it's still the only job I
could imagine doing for the rest of my life. I can honestly say I have never
grown tired of writing.

Now if someone will just publish this novel when it's done.
And then lots of folks will buy it.
And then someone will publish my next one.
Right, right.
One step at a time.


If you want more writing instruction like this, plus lots of tips and great resources, click here!


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