Today I feel discouraged. Maybe I should switch off my computer and climb back into bed, but unfortunately I have this thought that loops through my head—must post blog on Monday—and as you may have noticed, it’s Monday.
So, I figure maybe it’s a good time for some gut-wrenching-soul-searching. Nothing like a bit of despair to bring out your un-spoken thoughts, right?
Here’s the root of it all. I am a writer. Well, I think I am a writer, but then we’ve all watched enough episodes of Idols to realise that not all people who think they are singers can sing. But I’m pushing that little doubt aside for now and claiming my right to call myself a writer.
Now, the longer I’m on this writing journey, the more I think Jack Woodford hit the nail on the head when he said: “So there you are. A freelance writer! Oh pitiful wretch! Oh miserable fool! Of all the business you could have gone into—operating a movie theatre, or making guns, running a drug store or learning how to be a tailor or a plumber, a typographer or a hot dog cook—you insist on going into the business of cash and carry prose.”
What makes us—in Jack’s words—so pitiful and wretched and miserable? Here are a couple of my own observations:
Writers have particularly fragile hearts. Sure we may look tough, even talk tough, but one rejection letter or critical comment and the façade breaks down. We operate in an industry where only a small percentage gain a measure of success, and staying positive, focused and inspired in the face of constant rejection is really, really tough.
The people who could support us emotionally on this rather difficult journey are fellow writers, but there’s usually—in my own experience—an underlying competitiveness amongst writers that makes this genuine encouragement and support difficult to find.
Personally I think we read too much. Before anyone starts quoting Stephen King on the importance of reading for writers, that’s not the kind of reading I mean. The kind of reading that wears me down are all the chirpy, cheerful advice columns:- “How to get published in five easy steps”, “Tips on attracting a Literary Agent,” etc. etc. etc. Okay, I admit it–I’m sounding a little bitter and twisted. Indeed there is a wealth of information to be gained on the internet, but sometimes I feel the need to withdraw from all the advice of the published writers who “have made it” or even that given by publishing experts.
Sometimes I have to step back and re-assess what it is that I am trying to accomplish. Why can’t spending one glorious morning crafting masterful prose be all the joyful reward I need? I know it should be. I wish it was. But pitiful wretch that I am, I have a longing to share what I write. To hear just one person telling me it touched them or changed something in them.
And so I carry on. Take another step forward. Send out another query letter. And hope that—unlike the Idols contestants—I’ve got good enough friends who would tell me if I’m making a fool of myself.
Do you think it’s too late to learn to be a hot dog cook?
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