the hardest statement a writer has to make
April 01, 2016
What would you risk in order to get the one thing you truly desire?
Seriously, what would you risk?
When I was an emerging writer in my 20s, trying to sell my first book, I risked a lot. I had a great life–wonderful teaching career, adorable baby, cute dogs, a house in the ‘burbs, good family and friends. Why would I take on the stress and struggle and uncertainty of a career as a novelist? It was a massive risk on many levels.
In practical terms, I was subjecting my daughter and myself to financial risk, because writing is about as stable as betting on horses. I also gave up social time with friends. I had to forego my book-a-day reading habit, entire series on TV (okay, not a huge sacrifice there) and forget sleep. There was at least one night when I stayed up all night working on my novel. I looked out to see the sun coming up, so I combed my hair, put on my lipstick, took the baby to pre-school and staggered off to work that day. (You can do stuff like this when you’re in your 20s.)
There’s something more than financial solvency at risk when you decide to publish a novel. The emotional risk is huge in writing. Even in a made-up story, you’re showing people your hidden self. Will readers think I’m Faith, the struggling single mom in Starlight on Willow Lake? The cheated-on wife in Just Breathe? Will they get a glimpse of me in the brash, emotionally distant Tess, or the the so-shy-you-want-to-slap-her Isabel? Or am I Annie Rush, the passionate, ambitious wronged woman whose world comes crashing down on her?
I’m a fan and friend of acclaimed writing coach, Michael Hauge, who is fond of issuing this challenge to writers. Brace yourself. It might be the toughest statement you’ll ever make in your writing career:
FILL IN THIS STATEMENT FOR YOURSELF:
“I’ll do whatever it takes to be a
but don’t ask me to ___________________,
because that’s just not me.”
Common responses to “…just don’t ask me to…” might be:
- -quit my day job
-walk away from a bad deal from a publisher
- -tell my family to give me space
- -follow somebody’s writing formula
- -abandon somebody’s writing formula
- -take a writing class
- -reveal my innermost thoughts on paper
- -write about deeply personal matters
- -write about people who might recognize themselves in my book
- -subject myself to criticism and rejection
- -set a work schedule and stick to it
- -learn to type
- -YOUR OWN BLOCK OR DEMON GOES HERE: ____________
Your answer will reveal what you’re avoiding in order to protect yourself.
Some of you might be thinking, “Oh, it’s easy for you, an established author, to deal with these fears. You’ve already cleared the hurdles.” All right, you be the judge. Here are a few steps I had to take on my writer’s journey, and believe me, they were not easy. One year, I had to hock my beloved Juzek cello for money to live on. Another time, I failed to enter my book for the RITA Award because I used the entry fee for groceries. I had so many rejection letters from agents and publishers that I quit counting after 100, and actually papered the walls of a bathroom with the rejection slips. I endured skepticism, sleepless nights, people wondering why I was wasting my time writing stories instead of ________________. <–insert what your judgmental friends and associates would add here. You have to care more about your writing dream than you do about people’s opinions. Do you? Can you?
I dare you. Go!