Resolutions For Writers: Write, Submit, And Don’t Give Up
The biggest part of being a writer, at least in my experience, is learning that you’re not going to be successful at it. I mean, not successful in the way that you think of success in anything else. Success in anything else is recognition and prestige. It’s being able to make a good run of doing that thing as the only thing you do, even. Writing (more correctly, the writing life), isn’t that. It’s not waking up at 8 in the morning to sit at a typewriter (somehow still a typewriter, in my mind, when I make up this world) and imagine for your daily bread.
That’s not writing. That’s something we think of as teenagers and maybe even undergrads, but no successful, productive writer really imagines themselves as Stephen King. That path leads to madness. At least grumpiness. Let’s say it leads to grumpiness, that’s less hyperbolic.
So what signifies success as a writer? Well, I’d say that it’s a much less lofty goal: a successful writer is:
- Someone who writes
- Someone who submits their work
- Someone who doesn’t give up
That’s pretty much it, as far as I’ve learned. The difference between a “writer” and a writer can be found in just those three, really.
Someone who writes
To quote Dorothy Parker:
“I hate writing, I love having written.”
and that’s very true. However, lots of “writers” will just go ahead and edit that venerable quote into:
I hate writing, I love imagining I’m writing.
Because it’s easier, and because it takes a lot less time, people will do everything in their power to get to the point where they are ready to write, and then skirt around the keyboard/notebook with just enough time to say “there’s no way I could write now, I’ve already wasted five hours just finding the perfect spot with the perfect drink and the perfect time.” Then, presumably, they’d post a number of humblebrag tweets and Facebook posts about how hard it is to be a writer, and how if they only just had a patron or a three month period of no interruptions that they’d write a masterpiece.
Hashtag: you’re doing it wrong
Someone who submits their work
This is somehow trickier than the “make sure you write” piece, as even folks who are good about producing work (AND REVISING IT, BY GOD) have a rough time getting over this part of the process. Now listen–if you’re writing just for the sake of writing, that’s all well and good. But if you’re really hoping to have other people read your work and want to be part of the writing community, you’ll need to put your work out there. Here’s the best part: failure is the norm. It’s standard. It’s what you should be doing. The western world looks at failure as failure, and that mindset really makes it hard for writers to put their work out there just to have some editor send them a dear Joan letter.
But that’s the way of it. Furthermore, it’s fun. It’s fun sending out your story and having it come back unaccepted. It’s fun to revise it, to have it rejected more and more, and then eventually get an acceptance when you’ve just about accepted there isn’t any hope. That’s the writing life. That’s the bread and butter of it. The goofy thing about submitting, too, is how much easier it gets to take acceptances and rejections with the same builder’s resolve (they are both sections of a house to be put in place–they both move you closer to an overall goal of a writer’s life).
Naturally there are good ways and bad ways to submit your work, and I’m not going to get into that subject here (you shoulda been at the workshop here in Lancaster about that very subject). I will say this, however: if you aren’t submitting your work because you’re nervous to do it, there is only one way to conquer that fear. Submit away, brave little writer. Let the world reject the hell out of you for a while.
Someone who doesn’t give up
This is something I think we all know, but something I didn’t realize until just recently when discovering a writer I knew in high school (we were all writers in high school. All of us young, devil-may-care creatives) on Facebook. They had stopped writing, of course, and are living a pleasant, normal, perfectly acceptable life. I realized that the only thing separating us, really, was how I didn’t give up on the writing life. It was tenacity, not skill and not luck, that gave me the path from high school to here, to now.
It’s easy to give up on this sort of thing. You work for hours and hours on something that you can’t eat or sit on or protect yourself from bears with, then you send it out to the world and wait months for people to get back to you, and then they do get back to you by saying it isn’t quite right (most times). It’s dumb. It’s a dumb, stupid endeavor that tries your resolve all the time. But if you want to succeed, you need only not give up. You just need to be tougher than the frustration and ignorant of your ability to simply stop. That’s the million dollar tip: just don’t give up.
On the flip side, however, you should also recognize when continuing to write/submit is hurting you, and give yourself breaks. I know there are people out there who say you need to write every day, and I think that’s a great, unachievable goal, but really if you slack off for a week or two, that’s alright as well. Just make sure you’re doing it with a deadline in mind: I will give myself a week off, BUT THEN WRITING WILL HAPPEN. Athletes take breaks, too. Not many, but when they are appropriate to take, they do. However, once the break is over, get back to it, and don’t give up on your aspirations. You might wake up one day to discover you’ve been a writer for a few years now, and won’t that be a pleasant sort of realization?