|by Joe Kopp|
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...)
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