Wednesday, September 18, 2013

5 Things a Writer Must Accept (and expect)

Writing is work, and like any kind of work, writing has aspects that are unfavorable. In fact, they are downright discouraging; and if you want to get the job done, you will need to accept these unwanted results of the trade. I won't sugarcoat them:

1) You need to accept rejection.
When you write, you will be rejected--both by those who read what you write and by those who don't. And you'll be rejected explicitly, to your face, and implicitly, through apathy. It'll happen, and it'll hurt.

2) You need to accept criticism.
People who don't write will be sure to tell you how, and people who do write will be sure to tell how they would have done it better. They will have the best intentions; and sometimes, more often than you'd like, they will be right. Criticism is a part of the game, because your work is imperfect. That's the reality. Even if you refuse proofreading or editorial help, at some point, if anyone besides you reads your work, you are going to hear how and where you can improve (and that can be a very frustrating thing).

3) You need to accept failure.
I'm really sorry to tell you this, but someone should, and I might as well be that person. In some area of your writing, you will feel like you are a failure. Whether it be your financial remuneration, your social impact, or your personal fulfillment. At some point in time, in some fashion, you will likely feel like you really blew it. You probably didn't, but maybe you did. You may indeed be a complete failure as far as your personal goals are concerned. You may need to own the fact that you set out to sell 100,000 copies and win 3 awards in your first year of publication, and you simply didn't. You failed (inasmuch as those goals are concerned), that's the truth.

4) You need to accept disappointment.
This is somewhat coupled with the (1) and (3), but it deserves it's own number for the sheer fact that the disappointment can run more deeply than the others. Maybe its not the rejection that bothers you; of course The New Yorker was going to decline reviewing your book. Maybe criticism didn't hurt either; maybe you used every bit of it to improve your drafts, and you knew you could not produce a better piece than the one you did. Maybe you sold less than 100 copies, and you don't even have an review, let alone an award, but you didn't need those--you just needed to finish. No, none of that stuff hurt like the fact that you published the book, and life just continued as it always had, and you were still you, despite thinking that "finally doing it" would change something (anything). It's silly that some of us can think that way, but we do, and we can just plain be disappointed about that--in fact, it's a part of the journey for a number of us.

5) You need to accept that writing is real work--toil.
If writing is your hobby, and you are making a go of it, and you are successful, and it feels like you're not even trying, congratulations. I do not know a single person who remotely had a similar experience to yours. Every person I know who is writing like it matters--for revenue or on mission--sees it as work; because it is. Days they don't want to do it, they do it anyway. Days where it goes wonderfully are celebrated, usually because they are the exception, not the rule. The rule is sitting at the keys and getting stuff done and not leaving until you do. That's called toiling, and writing fits the bill.

Now I know this does not feel uplifting or encouraging. This post may in fact have ruined your day (and your dream), but I have great news for you. If you're a writer, chances are I'm not telling you anything new, and you've not only experienced everything I've mentioned but you've also continued writing in spite of it. So, you're in good shape. Or perhaps you haven't experienced this but are going to discount it altogether and write anyway, because that's how it is, that's what you do, and everything I've mentioned isn't going to touch you--and if it does, now you feel ready and you're going to keep writing regardless.

That's the truth and beauty of accepting all the pains I've outlined. They really don't matter, because when you a writer, you write. Rejection, criticism, failure, disappointment, and toil don't scare you, don't deter you, and don't define you. You know what these hardships do? They fuel you, they invigorate you, they ignite you to make their next work that much better. And in time, when the emotional dust settles, you'll take satisfaction in the fact that you've faced the gauntlet and kept going. Most days, that's enough to get back to it.

I have this crazy feeling that's a fair portion of you reading this. So write on, friends.

Write on. 

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