Writing How-To: Special Snowflake Follow-Up.

Monday, January 25, 2010
Wow. I'm totally blown away (in a good way) to the response to my "You are Not a Special Snowflake" post.

I also had no idea (and I had many private responses besides the ones in the comments) how many people said they'd been afraid to say what I said.

And that, to me, begs the question...why?

As a writer, I want the honest truth, whether it's from a competent critique partner/beta reader, or from someone in the industry dishing out advice on wise career moves. I don't want anyone to ever sugar-coat stuff and tell me what they think I want to hear instead of the truth. Now, obviously, I prefer the truth to be couched constructively and politely, but still, don't piddle on my leg and tell me it's raining.

That's the kind of gal I am.

I'm also glad that so many people were encouraged by my post, because that was the whole point--to encourage you that it's not some impossible dream to make a living as a writer. Writing is like any other endeavor. You can't get one rejection and decide it's not the life for you if you want to grow successful at it. On the other hand, if you do let one rejection get you down, maybe it's not the right business for you.

We writers are crazy people, let's face it. (I'm talking fiction writers, although it applies to some non-fic writers too. *LOL*) I mean, we sit in a dark hole and listen to the voices in our heads tell us what to write. We think about fantasy people and put them in horrible situations and think of ways to kill and maim them. We write some pretty crazy sh*t sometimes. (In my case, some pretty pervy sh*t. *LOL*)

We attempt to take unsuspecting readers with us on that roller coaster ride that is our imagination, to give them a glimpse into what's going on inside our skulls. Face it, when you read, you're looking at the brain of a writer. Not necessarily the Wiz behind the curtain, but you're seeing all the other stuff.

Just like you can't take a single painting class, give up, and ever hope to be the next Da Vinci, you cannot write one thing and give up and expect to be the next Steinbeck or Hemingway. It won't happen.

Fiction authors didn't become fiction authors because the fast-food drive-through gig didn't pan out for them. They're the people willing to work the drive-through gig to supplement their maniacal scribblings. "Author" isn't a job description to them, it's a personality label. It's not what they do, it's who they are.

If you don't want to write for a living and just want it to be a hobby, that's fine too. There is nothing wrong with being a recreational writer. But if you have it in your head you will make a living at writing, then you have to give up some of those fallacies you might have held onto, snowflake, and realize you're stuck in the blizzard with the rest of us, each of us working our little snowflake butts off to end up on the ski slopes and to not get blown into a patch of black ice (or worse, yellow snow).*

If a writer tells me, "I want to make a living as an author," I'll ask them, "How many hours do you spend writing every day/week?" If they give me a blank look or tell me they fit it in when they can at Nanowrimo time, or they can't remember the last time they actually WROTE something, that tells me they are not serious about doing it.

Yes, real life gets in the way. Kids, family, Evil Day Jobs (EDJs), car pool--whatever. But writers with the drive to succeed work around that. Even if they're driving to work, while they're stuck in that commute their minds are usually working on that latest plot snag they hit and trying to solve it. They carry notebooks with them to jot things down. Even if they aren't writing they're still "writing." I've written whole books in my head during long drives. I get home and make notes and start writing. It's great.

A "real" writer doesn't make excuses, they make time. They take action. Even if all they can sneak in is a page a week, then they fit it in somehow. They are always making forward progress of some sort, whether it's reading a book about writing or following industry market blogs or editing their synopsis or crafting a query letter, they are still WORKING at writing.

I think some readers who decide they want to become writers--and I'm NOT saying all readers, of course--think what we do for a living is easy. "Heck, I can write THAT!" They think all we do is sit around all day in our Spongebob Squarepants PJs while drinking coffee and...


Never mind. Okay, writing is not easy. Not just the writing (which is, actually, the easiest part of the process), but the editing, marketing, honing our craft, everything I talked about before.

So why (back to my original point) are some people afraid to tell the truth about this?

I am not Superwoman. (I'm not even Half-Assedwoman on some days.) I'm a wife and mom and I'm no different than most people. (Other than my crazy, warped writer brain.)

If I can do this, anyone who WANTS to be a writer (as an EDJ) can do this. Some will start farther back in the pack than others, depending on their writing skills. But if you want to tell stories and you enjoy telling stories, you can learn the mechanics and improve with lots and lots of hard work and practice. You can beat the e-pavement and submit and submit and submit some more. You can promote your ass off.

Hard work? Yes.

Rocket science? *snort* Thank the Goddess no, because I'd be screwed if it was.

So don't be afraid to tell aspiring authors the truth. Is what we do easy? NO. Is it doable? Absolutely. And writers should hear the truth so they don't unrealistically get their hopes up just to get them smashed.

This isn't a sprint--it's the longest-ass marathon you'll ever run. So pace yourself, keep going, and remember it doesn't matter if you finish first, as long as you don't give up.


* How's that for a metaphor from a native Floridian gal who's never seen real snow?

3 reader comments:

  1. Stacey said...:

    Thanks, Lesli. You're an inspiration to me!

  1. Thanks for the thought provoking posts, Lesli. I'm listing them as recommended reading in my blog. :)

  1. Stacey - Thank you! :)

    Kate - Thanks! (I'll try to swear less. *LOL*)