Anyone who’s been writing for any length of time, and selling (or trying to sell) what they write, knows that a writer eats a lot more dust than she does diamonds. Often, it’s sheer grit and determination that keeps her going, which is why writing with purpose is crucial.
I’ve officially been a writer eighteen years. God, I just figured that up and couldn’t believe it! I sound like my parents, asking myself, “Where did they go?” But the truth is, I know exactly where they went. They went into me chasing the dream of being a full-time, employed writer who made enough money to sufficiently support herself.
I’ve never wanted to be rich. I don’t equate money with success. Material possessions beyond what we need are just stuff. I love beautiful things. But I have beautiful things and I know that they aren’t enough. One needs inner fulfillment, purpose, when driven in a career that demands you open your mind, your heart and your soul and invite the world to peek inside and see what you’re made of and why. In my world, it is fulfillment that equals success.
Writing isn’t easy. The work itself is huge challenge. Creating something out of thin air… Something logical that makes people… Well, it’s two-thirds sweat and one-third magic, and that’s the simple truth.
We’ve all heard, “Ass to leather” is required to finish a book. We’ve all heard that a writer must be in the right place at the right time with the right project to sell a book. We all know that there’s an x-factor in writing that can’t be taught no matter how hard one who has it tries to share it.
We suffer the frustrations–can’t get the scene just right. The rhythm, pacing is off. The character isn’t breathing–who cares what happens to her? And then there’s the rejections: too risky, too similar to another book we’ve just bought. And then we sell the story, and the promotion for it is non-existent, the reviews are stellar–or not–and no one, not even close friends can find the book in the store because the print run is next to nothing.
Then we sell the next book–for the same low advance and less than stellar terms because the sales weren’t stupendous on the first book, or the editor can’t buy the 2nd book because the sales weren’t stellar on the first one.
Never mind that the publisher only printed a few thousand copies and if every single copy sold, the work couldn’t earn out the advance. Never mind that even reviewers didn’t get a copy so word of mouth didn’t have a shot at helping sales. And never mind that the editor now handling your work hasn’t read it, much less been its in-house advocate.
Doesn’t matter. None of it matters. It’s your book, and you’re responsible.
Our dream disintegrates and once again you’re eating dust. And more dust. And more dust because we soon discover that now we’re in a worse position than a brand new writer.
The reason? We’ve got a track record–and it’s not one that will impress marketing into taking a chance on us. Editors can love the work, but they’ve got to get marketing on-board, and marketing just isn’t interested in the risks. More dust.
We start over, climbing out of the pit. Sometimes we do so with a new writing name, sometimes with the same name on a wing and a prayer. We are facing enormous obstacles and we do it–and continue to write the best books we can, and to hope that someone, somewhere sees the merit in them.
But during all this “dust” time, what keeps us going? It’s not money, and it’s sure not diamonds. Though we might enjoy a few sparkles here and there, we’re being covered in the dusty stuff.
It’s loving the book. It’s purpose. It’s knowing that no matter how hard it gets, this is what we’re supposed to be doing.
It’s having faith that the people who need to hear the stories we write will find them. It’s believing in grace. It’s knowing at cellular level that we can’t imagine waking up in the morning, not writing and being happy or content.
So we slog through the dust, pinching our nostrils to filter out enough of the tough stuff so we can keep breathing and pressing on, and we keep the faith.
And then something strange happens. In the middle of gloom-and-doom predictions, we’re happy. We’re amazingly peaceful. We’re working and writing, and while we don’t know how things work out, we do know that things will work out.
So we run on faith–at times, on fumes of faith–and just keep on keeping on. And things do work out.
Some editor with vision and guts comes into our lives, fights marketing and wins. And we sell our books, and marketing gets behind us, and we have support now to help us to reach more people. The more we create, the more fulfilled we feel. Blessings, all.
The diamonds come in chips before stones, and we should treasure the chips. They come to us when we most need a little sparkle. They remind us not to lose hope: a powerful, powerful ally.
And the chips gather and fall. Some are buried, and some catch the sun and shine brightly. And here and there, we are gifted with a diamond. They are precious and rare and we cherish and never forget them. The diamonds validate something good.
Looking back, I’ve been blessed with many sparkly chips during the past 18 years. A lot of dust, too, and some of that dust was the best thing that ever happened to me. There is merit in starting over. In reassessing and altering your path to one better suited to fulfilling your own needs.
I’ve been blessed with a few diamonds, too:
Friendships with other writers. What a blessing it is to talk writing with people who don’t get glassy-eyed bored but sparkly-eyed interested.
An amazing agent who is all that–and then some.
Supportive editors who care and trust, who are dedicated, who are great editors and not frustrated writers.
There have been a lot of up times. Awards and honors and great reviews (as well as a fair share of losses and bad ones). On this front, there have been two diamonds that weren’t stones, they were rocks. Huge rocks–to me.
The first was last year, when I was given the PRO Award. This award for helping other writers meant more to me than a six-figure contract. It acknowledges purpose. It validates efforts made were worthy of use. In my book, that PRO award was a 50-karet diamond, and far more treasured.
The second came on Friday. Jill Limber phoned on behalf of RWA to notify me that BODY DOUBLE, the first book in my WAR GAMES series for Bombshell, was a RITA finalist for Romantic Suspense. Being nominated for this award is a huge diamond because the competition is judged by my fellow writers. This is a high, high, all right. But win or lose the award, this recognition by my peers… I’ve won.
So there is dust and there are diamonds. And some might read this chat and decide the dust is too plentiful, or too heavy, for the few sparkles here and there and a couple diamonds. They’ll go where the odds are better to reverse that.
But if you’re a writer, it really doesn’t take much in the way of diamonds to keep you going strong. Not if purpose is at the core of your writing, because that drives you. The dust and diamonds? Well, they’re important, but they’re just dressing the windows. By writing, the sunlight’s already shining through the glass. 🙂
Yep, some days are diamonds and some are dust. Which is most valuable? Oh, lots on pondering on that and I’m afraid that the best I can do is say that nothing’s black-and-white. The truth lies in the billion shades of gray. And in the end, it’s hard to tell which to appreciate most–the dust, or the diamonds–and that makes it smart to equally appreciate both.
Dust can obscure, or protectively cloak.
Diamonds can cut, or snag sun and light darkness.
Best, in the end, to run on faith–or fumes of faith–and be grateful for both.
“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. 🙂
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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.