So, you want to be a writer.
Change that… you want to be a successful writer.
The most important thing you should know is that success is a matter of perspective. What you may define as success, may not be my definition of success. For some people, success is reaching their daily writing goal (more on that in a minute). For others success is: getting an article published in a well-known magazine, having a poem included in a literary journal, or signing a book deal to print your latest novel. Each of us has our own minds-eye picture of what writing success is.
When most think of success, they may envision J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, or Stephen King. These writers have had major success. Not only in the book genre, but most of their pieces have become motion pictures. Now that is a success! There is just one thing, and prepare yourself, you are not a Tolkien, Rowling, or a King. Neither am I. BUT, this is a good thing. Who needs another Ring, Potter, or Roland writer? You are you. And while their success will not be your success, each of us will experience it on some level; when we are willing to do what is necessary.
What is Necessary
Last week we talked about the choices we make and how those choices mold us into the people we eventually become. We also discussed that God directs our lives and we should have no regrets about our past, present, or future choices. With this switch in topics, I want to tackle a specific choice. A choice that has affected my life; the choice of writing.
I have been writing since I was in Jr. High School. It all began with a poem about Summertime. I fell in love with writing. I loved the feeling of being able to take words and put them down on paper in an organized fashion. By the time I found “love” I was writing poetry regularly. I had also begun writing daily in a journal in a journal I received for my 12th birthday. Through that writing, I have pretty much accounted for every moment of my life from that day in Jr. High through at least my Junior year in High School. (scary thought)
That brings me to my first necessary point; write regularly. We talked about goal setting a couple of weeks ago. One of my writing goals is to write 250 words per day. I do not compartmentalize myself with what I am writing, I just write. It can be thoughts, prayers, ideas, or even journaling. The point is to write. One of the things I love to do is to journal my dreams. I love it when I dream because I know that I will meet my daily goal easily. If you want to be successful in writing, develop a habit of writing daily. Set a word count goal; it doesn’t have to be monstrous. Something you know you can handle. You will find that as you get into your groove you can, and will, adjust that word count.
Although I did not know it in Jr. High, I had developed my own habit of writing daily. While it was mainly adolescent gibberish, it was a habit. Some of that daily prattle was sprinkled with poetry. I submitted some of it to my High School newspaper. I had two poems published and countless more rejected. This leads us to our second necessary point; don’t give up. I received several ‘no’s’ before I got my first ‘yes.’ I know that a high school newspaper is not on most people’s list of success, but it was on mine. Remember, success is all about perspective. That success motivated me to write more. Isn’t that the point anyway, to write more?
What You Should Know
Fast forward about twenty years. I began my “professional” writing career a little over two years ago. I felt if I was going to do anything about the call on my life to write I need to act. I began by polishing up a short story about a dream I once had. I wrote, and rewrote, my first literary piece of work and began to submit it. One thing that you should know about submitting is that waiting is half of the process. To keep your sanity, you should be writing the next piece as you wait for any replies on submitted works. To date, that first short story has yet to find its ‘yes.’ It has however found five ‘no’s.’ Remember, don’t give up. I am certainly not. Right now, it’s under review with another publisher. (prayers and fingers crossed)
Stephen King tells us about his experiences in his book, “On Writing.” He talks about his first rejection letter. He then says that put a nail into the wall and hung that rejection letter. A couple of years later that nail would no longer hold the number of rejection letters he had received, so he changed it to a spike… and kept on writing.
We look at SKs successful career and never even think that he would get rejected, after all, he is a literary genius. But he did. I have and rest assured you will too. The next thing you should know is that you will NOT be an overnight success. There are dues you must pay in order to experience success. They begin by doing what is necessary and are followed by paying your dues along the way.
Let me explain another way about what I mean by paying your dues. My cousin had gone to school to be a Pharmacy Technician. She paid the money, went to class, and received her license. She was excited about it, and when she went to apply for positions at Pharmacies around her area, they told her she would have to work six months behind the register before she could become a Pharmacy Tech for that store. Not willing to stoop to the level of being a ‘cashier’ she did not take any of the positions offered to her. She never used the Pharmacy Tech license she worked so hard for because she was not willing to pay her dues.
There was no shortcut for my cousin to get into a pharmacy. She chose not to work as a cashier and thus lost her opportunity at something more. There is no shortcut to becoming a writer. While there are things you can learn from other writers to help you avoid some stumbling blocks, you must go through the ranks just like everyone else. My dues were paid through writing for different writing job sites making $2 and $3 per article. Then I graduated to a larger job site, and now I am making considerably more. Even the switch to the larger site required me to start out from the bottom. Now I am somewhere in the middle, this blog you are reading is part of my growing process.
Late last year one of my articles was published in a magazine. It does something to you when you see your work, and name, in print. It does something to you when you cash that first check. Both the acceptance letter and cashed check are in a frame on my wall behind my computer to remind me that it all is worth it. The countless hours I have spent writing, the millions of words I have written, and the many rejections I have faced are all worth it, and I would do it all again.
While we will not be overnight successes, we all will succeed. As long as you set realistic goals and meet them, you are on the road to the success that is laid out for you. Do not listen to the naysayers telling you that you cannot do it. Remember, I am 42 now. I didn’t begin my writing career until just a few years ago. If it is a passion, and a calling, it is never too late to begin. You must pay some dues though. You may have to write those smaller articles. But it is all to your benefit; it hones your skills, helps you to know what works and what doesn’t, and gives you a chance to experience deadlines and revisions. (I will get more into that in future entries)
Remember, your success does not depend on what others think or an acceptance letter. Appreciation and accolades are empowering, but not necessary. If you feel good about what you write and have that sense of release, then you are successful. Even if you are writing a $2 article or a cashier in a pharmacy, you can appreciate what you are doing because of the possibilities the future holds. It all begins with maintaining the habit of writing and never giving up on your dream of being a successful writer.