“Better to write for yourself and have no public than to write for the public and have no self.” –Cyril Connolly
In life, we are bombarded with choices. Some we embrace making, others we detest making, but too often the majority of choices that present themselves to us land somewhere in between embraced and detested and we elect to “wait and see” to decide, which is, of course, refusing to choose–and that is also making a choice.
So we embrace, detest and refuse to choose. And the sum of these three things creates our personal reality.
Very often, writers speak to me of dissatisfaction with where they are in their careers. They speak as if all is governed by circumstance, luck, and reader preference.
I concede that there is an element of luck involved in this business. But you tell me, Who is apt to be more lucky? The writer who has prepared the foundation for success in a project, or one who just falls into position?
One thing that I’ve seen repeatedly in this business:
A writer will be forced by necessity to try something different. Either a line folds, an imprint folds, an editor leaves and the new editor isn’t in the same universe much less of a like mind with the author. Something significant happens and the writer can’t continue on in his or her same steps. S/he has to change.
Often that realization is accompanied by a great deal of trauma. Fear. Anger. Refusal to accept this new reality. Doubt about his or her personal next chapter. You name the emotion and reaction and it’s played out in the Writers’ Hall of Change.
But this new reality persists, refuses to go away and give the writer his/her old life back, and something snaps in the writer. The emotions play out and the writer calms down and thinks this change through. In the end, s/he decides s/he would still rather write than do anything else for a living. And so the constructive part of the process begins.
No longer does the writer focus on what is lost. S/he focuses on what to do next. That can be nearly as overwhelming and requires working through the emotions as well. And if you think you can skip that part, well, I’m sorry to say you can’t. Writers MUST feel. If you can’t feel, you can’t write a salable story.
So the writer claws through the emotions of “what next” by looking at the market. Here’s where most writers make the mistake that plants them firmly in a new reality where they’ll never feel content or fulfilled. They chase that market potential where they “see” opportunities rather than looking within and “feeling” the potential there.
This error in choices takes a writer off the road intended (yes, life’s purpose), and takes them down an alternate path. But at some point–for the writer’s sake, hopefully sooner rather than later–the writer realizes s/he’s off-track. Unfortunately, this is too often because nothing is working out right.
But this challenge eventually gets the writer to look within and discover some version of: “If I’m not selling what I write anyway, I might as well write what I really want to write. It might not sell, either, but at least I’ll be writing what I want.”
If one is going to stockpile rejections, one should never do so chasing a market but only do so on projects s/he really wants to write. Then, personal faith in the project sustains the writer. Rejections can not undermine personal faith.
So the writer reaches this critical and liberating position of saying, “Spit upon it. I’m writing what I love.” And when s/he does this, potential is unleashed. Enthusiasm and personal conviction infuse the work and create the magic. It shows. It is felt. It is hypnotic storytelling and it is compelling. The writer feels it when writing it. The agent/editor feels it on reading it. And it sells.
And often this takes the writer in a totally new direction–the one s/he was born to go, and the projects in it enjoy greater success than the writer ever had achieved before.
As writers, we have to learn to make our choices deliberately and to trust our choices once we’ve made them. If we don’t like our reality, there is no one else to blame for it. We created it.
The good news is we can uncreate it. We can alter and shape it through deliberate decision-making until we are in a place that suits us.
Many, I’m sorry to say, get caught in a trap of blaming others. The publisher, the agent, the sales staff, publicity and marketing, even the shelf-stocker at Wal-Mart. But at best, these or any others are mere catalysts.
The choices you make define your reality. And your reality defines you.
Understand that not every author seeks bestsellerdom. Some write only for themselves. Some write for a specific niche, and that is exactly what they prefer to do. Others write and trust that the people who want/need their books will find them. The choice is really insignificant to everyone else but the writer, which is why anyone else should never compare writers’ careers. It just doesn’t work because there’s nothing in the formula that accounts for writers’ intentions. What is significant is that the writer make that choice and create that reality. Not the one anyone else chooses for them, but the reality the writer knows is natural to him or her.
And once again it becomes clear that the truths in writing are also truths in life. We are the sum of our choices. And the life in which we live is one we created. For better or worse.
Trust is earned, one book at a time.”
–Vicki Hinze https://vickihinze.com
Note: I edit books and professional correspondence. But I do NOT edit email or this blog. This is chat time for me, so if the grammar is goofed or a word’s spelled wrong, please just breeze on past it. I’d appreciate it–and salute you with my coffee cup. 🙂
You are permitted to use the blog post above in its entirety, free of charge, provided you include the following text:
Copyright 2005. Vicki Hinze
Vicki Hinze is a multi-published author, who has a free library of her articles on writing–the craft, business and life–at https://www.vickihinze.com.