You ever have that feeling of just stopping with this whole writing thing? Maybe after a seriously to-the-point critique, or maybe someone finds a major plothole in your story, or you get back 100 rejections from agents on a story you thought was good and saleable? I’m willing to bet writers who have ten books published feel this way at times too.
Man, I know I have–and more than once. It’s a miserable, soul-sucking feeling. You look at either the work you have to do, or maybe to the rejection letters, and you think, “Why in the hell am I putting myself through this? Is it really worth it?” You could be doing tens of other things: walking the dog, watching TV, spending time with your family, reading, or just doing nothing. The odds are so stacked against you in this business. Why spend all your time doing something that will net you next to nothing on a practical level? (And no, I’m not talking about therapeutic writing, I’m talking straight up fiction here. Yes writing can be therapeutic, but I’m not doing it for therapy) I remember writing my first novel-length story. It was a whopper, coming in at 200,000 words. Lucky for me, I found a nice severing point in the middle that worked, and I had two novel-length stories. I wrote those because for so long, I had an idea in my head that I wanted to get out on paper, and was constantly looking for this idea in other’s stories. I never got it, so I had to write it my damn self.
Well, after writing this tome (3 YEARS of work), I realized, it wasn’t too bad. The story was good, the writing was passable. I thought it was at least as good as some of the stories I had read in the genre, and even better than some. (I think we all go through this phase, and unfortunately, while we may be right, that isn’t a reason for the thing to be published…the market dictates that.)
So I wondered how someone got published… Research. OH! You need an agent to get to a publisher! Okay. So I researched agents, how to write queries….etc. I got a few bites for partials and two for fulls…but they ultimately decided to pass.
I tell you this because, I had no idea just how finicky this business is. I do now, but I didn’t then. When the lightbulb came on for me, I then knew I not only had to write a good story, but it had to be something an agent could a) get excited about and b) sell. (Seriously, you have to have both.) I wrote three more stories, and queried one of them. No luck. Not one bite.
Then the “Give up” monster bit me. I thought of all the things I could be doing instead of writing. All the time playing xbox or watching movies or hell, anything, but sitting in front of a keyboard, typing at a story that would never see the light of day. The feeling lasted for a day or two. I didn’t write then. I didn’t want to. I mean, what’s the damn point? Why bother? Put myself through the pain in the ass process of working out story arcs, character development, blah, blah, blah…and for what!? Nothing! This whole writing thing is a waste of my time!!
So I sulked. No one else saw this sulking. (I’m a dude. We keep that shit inside) But I did. What was the turning point that got me to finish two other novel-length stories since then, and start working on a third and fourth (and fifth!)?
<I am now looking out the window, trying to determine just what it was…give me a minute>
Okay, I’m back. I think what did it was this: I read a book. Seriously. There’s something about reading another person’s book that gets me going. I start thinking of ways to improve the story, ways I could add something to my own story to make it better. Then I watched a movie, and I started thinking of ways I could improve my story and add elements I saw in the movie. My mind was doing its own thing, and I couldn’t control it.
I guess the deal is, it was a temporary thing. My mind is always concocting stories, and I need to get them out and into the computer. Where was this going anyway? I think what I am trying to say is: If you feel like giving up, and you’re truly a writer, somewhere inside, you won’t be able to. I equate it to having religious faith. Every normal person questions his or her faith during his or her time on this planet. But most of the time you don’t give it up.
Here, read these lyrics from Good Charlotte’s Hold On. It sums it up well:
But we all bleed the same way as you do
And we all have the same things to go through
Hold on if you feel like letting go
Hold on it gets better than you know
Don’t stop looking, you’re one step closer
Don’t stop searching, it’s not over
If you’ve never heard the song, I recommend giving it a listen. Especially if the “Give Up” monster has its teeth in you. Remember, any business that is duplicatable is difficult to break into. (Duplicatable as in, you create ONE movie, and tons of people see through duplication, or ONE book, and thousands of people read it, or ONE CD and thousands of people buy it)
I’ll sum it up with a story Bob Mayer told me (Most of this is ad-libbed, but the root of the story is the same):
A young man received a violin when he was a boy,and started to play. He practiced and practiced and actually got quite good.
One day, he heard a great violin master was coming to his town, so the young man decided to play for the master and get his feedback.
The master agreed to see him and the young man played his violin as hard and as well as he could. When he was done, he asked the master how he did and the master replied, “Not enough passion.” and turned and left.
The young man was crushed. He put his violin away and never played it again.
A few years later, the same master came back to the town, and the young man saw him at a party. The young man approached him and said, “Master, the last time you were here, I played for you. You said I did not have enough passion, so I stopped playing the violin.”
The master replied, “I say that to everyone. In your case, I guess I was right.”
The moral? Don’t let anyone or anything else dictate your passion to you.
You are the only one who can stand in your way. Don’t give up.