I’m always amazed that no matter where I go, I meet people who want to write and enjoy success without putting the work in. I really don’t know why this mindset seems to be so prevalent – I think because reading a book is along the lines of watching a movie. It’s kind of passive and most people enjoy doing it…so how hard can it be?
The Ten Year Journey of the Aspiring Writer
I heard on an episode of The Creative Penn a while back that the average writer will spend ten years honing their craft before reaching publishable quality. Read that a few times and let it sink in. I mean really let is sink in.
If your goal is to earn a living as a writer, it’s going to take an average of a full decade before your work reaches publication quality. I imagine this is from the point where the writer turns a corner and decides to really pursue the craft. In the early days there are bad grades; people who’ll think you’re some kind of flake for pursuing your dream; the inevitable rejection letters from all the queries. This is probably why so many people start out, get frustrated, then walk away.
In those dark hours – I know most of you are going to experience these long days where you have no idea whether or not this is even going to work – you have to remember this is a long journey. Life isn’t a comic book; in issue one you won’t get struck by lightning and by the end of the book your writing superpowers awaken. It’s going to take time and effort.
What Can You Do
There are ways to shave some time off the journey. Classes helped me. Good mentors can help too. A good writing group can be as good as graduate school but cheaper. If you don’t want to teach you probably don’t need to pursue a degree to write.
Above all you need to put the time and effort in. Half the battle is showing up, yes, but if you show up and skate you’re not going to make any progress. You need to apply yourself, push yourself, challenge yourself if you’re serious. It is hard work, it is not going to be easy, but it can be done.
However, there are also ways to mess things up. A bad mentor or group can kill your desire to write. Sometimes there’s a dominant personality in the class or group, who will force their way upon the neophyte. Watch out for this kind of thing, if you think it’s going to happen to you I advise walking away. See my post A Good Instructor for more information on my tips.
Next Post: The Backlist
In my next post I’ll discuss the backlist; these are books new readers will discover after reading one of your books and how they fit into your writing career.