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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Mid-Week Rude Awakening: Writing...Is It In You?

Success isn't a result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire. - Arnold H. Glasow


I love this quote. So few writers dare to set themselves on fire. They bounce from story to story, emitting sparks here and there, but they avoid the flames. To truly succeed in any venture, you have to be willing to overcome your failures, thrive after rejection, finish what you start, and never give up on yourself. Where does this task begin? With the first word, the first sentence, the first paragraph, the first chapter. And it continues all the way to the last chapter, the last paragraph, the last sentence, the last word.


Too many writers start and stall. These are the ones who might have finished one or two stories, maybe even published them, but now they're suffering from ADD. After writing a few chapters...ooh! A shiny new idea catches their eye. And of course, this idea has to be researched immediately. So the ADD writer scraps whatever (s)he's currently working on for the better story just out of reach on the horizon. Again, (s)he'll write a few chapters and ...ooh! A new idea! It's a vicious cycle that never ends and only results in readers forgetting your name (if they ever knew it to begin with) and moving on to other authors, authors who continue to complete stories and sell them.


Writing is hard. Yeah, sure, authors will tell you how great it is to go to work in pajamas, to work anywhere, to get paid to create stories. Sounds glamorous, right? Wanna know where to sign up? Well, hold on there, sweetheart.


Because with the glamour comes some ugliness. Be prepared to give up some of your personal life, along with some personal funds. Promotion takes time, money, courage, and dedication. So does the actual writing. It's not always easy to take an idea from a great scene to a completed great story. Authors experience days and weeks when their creativity stagnates and they can't write a word. But still they must struggle on. Readers don't care about your writer's block, your topsy-turvy personal life, or the dog who ate your manuscript. All they care about is, "When is your next story coming out? And why can't you write as fast as they can read?"

Sure I get to write in my bathrobe--for an hour in the morning before I go to work, or in the middle of the night when an idea that won't leave me alone wakes me up. (And then I still have to crawl to work in the morning, regardless of how many sleep hours I've lost to midnight typing.) Yes, I can work anywhere. And I do: at family get-togethers, in the bathroom, at school functions, while stuck in traffic, while on vacation.


And there's no guarantee you'll ever see a dime from your stories. Those million dollar contracts you hear about? For the unknown author, they are as rare as lottery winners, which is why you hear about the big ones. Most authors--probably even most of the authors on your auto-buy list--barely make enough money to pay their writing expenses. Most authors these days have day jobs, or a working spouse who can afford a stay-at-home writer.


So, before you embark on this journey, ask yourself: "Writing...is it in you?" If the answer is yes, don't go halfway, creating little sparks. Set yourself on fire!

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