Years of work and emotional investment wasted, I finally gave up, to save my sanity. But I’m scarred.
…I still read, but stick to the classics. I have next to no interest in contemporary fiction and avoid literary debuts by British female writers, which all seem so safe and samey. I’ve a higher tolerance for American writing, which seems willing to take more risks and subvert gender expectations. I don’t go to writers’ groups any more, either: the whole scene is a complete turn-off for me now.
Four years on, I still can’t look at the new fiction tables in Waterstones; they make me feel like an infertile woman at a baby shower. I feel pity and scorn for people with dreams.
You’re writing a novel yourself? Good for you. Now please shut up about it.
A year-and-a-half ago, this could have been me, jaded and completely disillusioned over what it (really) takes to be an author. Sure, I’m a writer and I’ve been writing since eighth grade and telling stories since fourth grade. Stories fed my soul, even the Bible stories between the pages of my mother’s prized collection of hardcover Bible storybooks that she never cracked open outside of Easter weekend when nothing was literally on TV except for a 70’s era Jesus movie. Even stores were closed during Easter weekend and so we stayed home and read.
But I digress…
It takes more than just writing well, winning school awards, and getting a literary agent to become an author. If you fail the first time, you get up and try again. If you fail the second time, you get up again and… guess what? You try again. At least, that’s what I did after my third novel came and quickly went. I told myself, surely I’m not that terrible a writer. I know I can tell a story but if success is equated with books sold, well, I was doing a terrible job at it.
Three years after I sheepishly published my first book, I finally practiced the things I preached. I learned – and am still learning – everything I could about the marketing/promotion side of writing. Since I don’t have the luxury of having a literary agent or a publishing house to back me up (I’ve only queried once on Twitter, and then turned down the request for a full manuscript after I learned there wouldn’t be any advance nor did they help with marketing), I have to do everything myself, including writing and promoting my books.
It’s not easy, and sometimes you do have to talk about your books. One of my best friends didn’t even know I was a published author because I used a derivative of my nickname and back then, my married name, to publish my books. I was also suffering from imposter syndrome then, but that’s a whole ‘other story for another day.
But you gotta do what you gotta do. And you know what? For some people – like me – marketing and promotion aren’t bad at all. I actually enjoy corresponding with my readers on Facebook and via email. I enjoy writing blog posts like this, not because I heard that they’re a great way to promote yourself (which is highly unlikely if I only have 70 or so followers), but because I like to connect with people, whether they’re fellow writers and poets, other bloggers, or readers.
So if you’ve always wanted to be a writer, keep going. Don’t quit. Sure, you’ll have those down times – and I’ve had many – but when you’re surrounded by writers who know the life of an author and readers who just want to see you succeed, you know you’ve got this.
Just don’t quit.