Okay, there’s this inevitable moment in any writer’s life, when he or she thinks: I’m going to get serious about this. I had that moment, anyway. I don’t remember when exactly it happened, but somewhere between writing the first draft of my fourth manuscript and editing it.
And I’m still not published.
So. There’s that.
It’s always been my dream to be traditionally published, and I’m a lot like Rapunzel in that merit. I will get my dream, even if I have to bring a frying pan with me.
Writing’s hard. It’s so hard to get even a sentence on the page some days, and now I’m on my fifth manuscript and refusing to give up because I had that “ah-ha” moment – that refusal to back down moment where I’m doing this because I rather write than do anything else in my free time. I’m not saying I didn’t take it seriously before because I did. I wrote whenever I had the chance and all the time, but there is more to writing than, well…writing. Taking it seriously was a gradual incline for me. I started with baby steps, finding critique partners, talking with writers online, introducing myself as a writer (hello, awkward self-actualization moment that still needs about fifty percent confidence), and joining groups.
But there are things that happen when you take writing seriously that writers will talk about, but it’s harder to admit sometimes. Some of them are easy to get out, but some hurt just thinking about – while others remind you how far you’ve come.
1. You read less.
It seems backward. I fell in love with words because of reading, so why am I reading less? I used to be able to read five to eight books a week, and now I go some months only reading two books. The time that I spent devouring books was split into thirds. One third reading and two thirds writing. I have a habit of binge reading now. I’ll sit down with a book and read a chunk of it in a day, sit it down for three days (maybe reading a chapter here and there), and not finishing it for a little over a week.
Audiobooks are heaven. When I had a long commute to work, that’s how I got my fix. I am the last person on the planet to say audiobooks are cheating, and I’m the biggest proponent of them being available in libraries. They’re the best thing ever. I’m not a big music person, so having my stories on my commute were a life saver. And yes, it gave me a reason to look forward to long drives. I’m like a shark, as in I’m always moving forward, and instead of wasting time in the car, I used it to my advantage.
Another reason you’ll read less is you have to be there for other writers, meaning reading their stuff, too, because they’re in this, too. Without those other writers, it would be even more difficult. I love discovering new writers and friends. I’m happy to toss ideas back and forth with someone, and yes, it means giving up reading the endless TBR stacking on my shelves. But it’s okay, because it’s writing and it’s camaraderie and it’s wonderful.
2. You cry more.
The most hurtful words I’ve ever seen in an email, “You’re a strong writer, but…” To anyone who hasn’t queried yet, that means, no, we don’t want your book. Those words hurt, but eventually you learn to push away the hurt, pick up your laptop and write some more. Send another query, edit another chapter, or create a new secret Pinterest board because you’re still afraid to admit that you love doing this as much as you do. (I’m also super secretive about my projects because I’m slightly superstitious. Being comfortable talking writing is new to me!)
Then there are the people who know you in real life who say, “If I read, I would read your book. But I don’t. So no.” Okay, they’re not that rude, but if you’ve ever been there, you know what I’m talking about. You know those people. We all do. So you smile at family gatherings and pretend not to think like the Mother of the Dragons, and you move on.
You also have those awesome people that surprise you. That girl you barely spoke to in high school? Oh my gosh, she read my book? (I’ve posted my books on Swoon Reads, a website that traditionally publishes books, unagented.) Seriously. She did. And I was so thrilled, and grateful, and over the top surprised, that she will be in my acknowledgements when I get that book in my hands.
Some of those tears will be from happiness.
3. You’ll cry less.
Wait, but I thought you just said you’ll cry more? This is probably the most truthful part – some things start to bother you less. Like those numbered automated responses in your email that all say, “Sorry, but no.” (in a more delicate way), they sting – but they’re also someone else’s opinion. And an opinion is not fact.
So, you become stronger. Constructive criticism is the best, if you can take it. Building a tough skin while writing is the most helpful blessings I’ve had when I started the first words on my baby (read: practice) manuscript. Writing friends want to help make you better, and I learned to take the “nos” of the publishing world with a grain of salt. Publishing has seasons, and seasons change. I picked myself up, brushed off my knees, and used my bruises as ammunition, not as an excuse.
4. You step outside your comfort zone.
I’m a huge introvert. I don’t do social gatherings with my real smile. I do them with the forced, fake smile that I taught myself around age thirteen to make it through all those events. But then you’ll go to a reader/writer event and there will be people like you, and suddenly, that fake smile turns real, and you convince yourself to go to another event.
Then you’re joining a group of local writers and nervous about your first outing (because you’re still an introvert), but you’re also super excited to get to know these people. These people who are just like you. They write different genres, they come from different backgrounds, different parts of the world, but in this moment, they are local writers. And oh, crap, you’re a local writer, too.
5. You’ll learn to be happy for other’s successes.
This one’s the hardest, but it will happen. It’s the moment when you realize that writing isn’t a me against you game, it’s a team effort. When all your CPs get agents, you’ll be so happy for them, because you read that manuscript when it was a baby. When your first writer friend gets a book deal, you’ll see your name in the acknowledgements and text her how happy you are that you have forced your way into her family.
Other’s successes are not your failures. Because your dream hasn’t fully formed for you, doesn’t mean you can’t be happy for someone else. It’s hard. It takes work. It takes reminding yourself that your day will come, and you will have all these awesome, wonderful, inspiring people to help you along the way, too.