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Monday, August 20, 2018

 

Don't Throw Your Laptop into the Mississippi or You're Not Crazy Because Writing is Hard

by Joe Kopp
I am lucky to know a lot of writers. The reason I started this post out with "I am lucky to know a lot of writers" is because this business we are in is freaking difficult and almost impossible. Without the support and camaraderie of other writers, I can't imagine what this writing world would look like for me. But I'm not here to gush about that, I want to share with you something that happened this past week:

After attending a summer gathering potluck dinner with some fellow children's writers, I decided I wanted to write about it on The Muffin. But it has taken me all weekend to come up with a way to write about it that doesn't make us all want to throw our laptops in the closest body of water and take up basket weaving or maybe even forensic science or bungee jumping--you know, something easier and safer than being a writer. And I'm not even going to add successful, well-paid, bestselling writer--Just. Being. A. Writer.

I've suffered creative, mental, unproductive blocks, and currently (thankfully) I'm not in one. I'm 50,000-words into a women's fiction first draft, and I'm having fun. But it turns out, after attending this dinner, I discovered I'm not the only writer who suffers from these blocks when going through personal stuff--divorce, grief, illness--and it's easy to let two, five, ten years pass between books (which by the way is not the path to a well-paid writing career).

Even if you aren't suffering through a personal tragedy and you've managed to keep writing, in your specified genre where you have a brand and some readers AND you even have a literary agent, he or she might decide that the books you're writing aren't going to help your career; and he or she may ask you to rewrite them or even worse, not accept them at all.

Or your literary agent may LOVE the book, but she can't find any editors who want it or will currently touch it because of a multitude of reasons that actually have nothing to do with the quality of your writing or your story. The editors might not want to publish your book because you aren't the right person to tell the story. You don't identify with the main character.

I listened to story upon story of wonderful, published (traditionally and self, large companies and small, agent and un-agented) authors talk about their struggles, sales, beloved projects, next moves, and how they won't ever quit because they want to write and tell their stories. No, that's not even right. They have to. They will. They. Will. Keep. Writing.

In spite of personal and professional difficulties, no one sat around that table the other night and said they were going to throw their laptop in the Mississippi River (see the above Mississippi River photo by photographer Joe Kopp!) and spend their days with rocket science instead. And I was nodding along with them.

If you're feeling discouraged in your writing journey, you should know you aren't crazy. It's not easy. For every success story you hear, for every book you've seen turned into a movie, for every author that has thirty published books, there are hundreds who are still trying to make it and who won't quit until they take their last breath. And what you don't often hear is how hard that successful author worked and how he or she is still facing rejections from agents, editors, and readers because that's just how this business works.

Now, don't get me wrong. If you want to become a professional parajumper, you should. If you're interested in spending your nights doing calculus instead of showing-not-telling in your current WIP, then you should do that. But don't give up writing because it's hard or because of rejection. We all face it. Find another writer, share your sorrows over wine or a walk, and open up your laptop to write what calls you. (Just be careful if you do this near a body of water...)

Margo L. Dill is a writer, editor, blogger, and teacher, living in St. Louis, MO with her 7-year-old daughter and her boxer, Chester. She blogs about life and stuff on margoldill.com . She teaches a novel writing course for WOW!, which starts again on September 7, and a new marketing class, which starts on September 26. 

Photo at the top: St. Louis Riverfront with a barge going by. 75 second exposure by Joe Kopp. To see more of his photography, check out http://www.joekoppart.com 

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6 Comments:

Blogger Sioux Roslawski said...

Margo--Yes, we get by with a little (or a lot) help from our friends. Writing IS hard, but hearing how difficult it is for talented writing friends... and then hearing that they continue in spite of the rejection and obstacles--that makes the load/work bearable (most of the time).

Great post, Margo. We all need encouragement and nudges now and then.

3:48 AM  
Blogger Margo Dill said...

Thanks, Sioux.

Two things happened to me that night, but I think this post was already long enough, so I'll just write a super, long comment:

1. I worked out a plot problem while I listened to another author talk about why her book wasn't accepted by her agent (it had to do with STAKES which we have also talked about on The Muffin).

2. I felt so uneasy after leaving there. At first I thought: should I attend dinners like this any more? (My answer today is a resounding YES! but that night I almost felt depressed.) But it wasn't because of me, or my career, it was because of how I knew these talented, hardworking, compassionate writers were having similar difficulties (with each other) and I wanted to take it all away for them. I realize today that we did take some of that struggle away that night, just by getting together. It's about community.

4:50 AM  
Blogger Renee Roberson said...

Margo,

This is all so true and it's easy to want to give up! While I haven't ever stopped writing, I have taken breaks from the creative projects I love because it can get so discouraging. All the steps you have to take, all the hoops you have to jump through, all the perfect opening pages you have to have . . . people who haven't experienced it don't understand why it's so hard to get published these days. They only see the glamorous side of writing and don't realize most of us have to work two or three other jobs in order to keep ourselves afloat while writing what we love. Thanks for keeping it real!

7:09 AM  
Blogger Margo Dill said...

No kidding, Renee, about all the other jobs we work to make a living. I'm grateful there are so many opportunities for writers in the freelance world, but holy cow, this was not the same dream I had of being in the coffee shop, sipping my Starbucks and working on my 3rd or 4th bestseller.

9:40 AM  
Blogger Angela said...

Bungee jumping--you know, something easier and safer than being a writer--ha ha, love that!! :)

Oh Margo, you know I suffered from a creative block for almost ten years. I think it's because I started WOW with this thought that writing a bestselling novel would be a little work but not that hard, and then got a quick reality check when I started hearing other writers' publishing stories! And talking to agents, and working in the business, and realizing, that yes, this is hard. Both writing something publishable AND the publishing industry/business side are hard. I write for pleasure now, and also write to make a living, but it's not the dream I once had. Is that sad or realistic? What keeps me going is that we (writers) are all on this journey together. No one understands our struggles but other writers. Your comment above says it all: it's about community. Even though my dreams are different now, it's become a lifestyle and a part of me I will never give up. Thanks for this honest post! :).

11:11 AM  
Blogger Margo Dill said...

Ang:
You are welcome. And I guess the thing about dreams is that they are always there, and are attainable, it just may not be in the time frame we were expecting. :)

1:01 PM  

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