When Writing Isn’t What You Thought

I encountered an article published by an author who has (according to this), given up the ghost when it comes to novels. The tone is bitter, angry, and selfish. While I wouldn’t critique someone’s private blog or Facebook rant about their frustrations regarding publishing, this being published in the Guardian is a little different. So, I’m going to write a response to the ghost of the author of this article because, honestly, I think this response has been brewing for years:

Get over it and grow up.

Writing isn’t a “sport” for the weak-willed and the narcissistic. You will be rejected often and hard, and you’ll have to kill your darlings. You have to give up the idea of your “opus” until you’ve been published at least a few times before. The thing is, the market doesn’t care about your artistic vision. It doesn’t care how you feel about your book. It doesn’t care about anything but whether or not the world wants to read it. I know that sounds jaded, but it’s true. If you are writing for external validation and for public acclaim, you will fail. If you write with an ego and expect the world to see your genius like you do, you will fail.

So what do you write for? What’s the point?

Because you want to get better. Because you have a story to tell. Because you’re passionate about writing. There are a hundred reasons to write, and they’re a hundred good ones. Write without an ego. Write without trying to live up to others’ expectations. Write regardless of what anyone tells you. Write a hundred novels no one but you will ever read. Pour your blood, sweat, and tears into your art for no one but yourself. Once you’re there, once you’re doing that, you’re starting to get the idea.

Writing is not easy. So many people assume you can just pick up and write without studying. Just because you can put coherent words into your word processor doesn’t make you a writer. What makes a writer is dedication. It’s writing through difficult times, it’s study, it’s practice. No artist of any kind ever produced pure gold without practice and study. So many folks seem to think writing is exempt from that reality, and it’s not. If you want to be a good writer then you need to do the same thing you’d do to learn to paint or learn an instrument. You find a teacher or mentor, you study, you practice, you learn how to use language and make it sing for you.

Writing is not something you can just pick up and do just because you feel like maybe you want to put something on paper. If you want to be a writer, if you want to be successful, if you want writing to be your vocation, then strap in, hike up your big boy/girl panties so high they’re at your chin, and join the rest of us in the trenches.

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