Vicki Hinze © 2003-2011
Is it hardest to be:
• A new writer?
• An experienced aspiring writer?
• A newly published writer?
• Or a multi-published writer?
I’m hoping you have your rhino hide in place because the answer isn’t a pleasant one.
Most writers believe that once you achieve a certain goal, be it getting your dream editor or agent to read your work, or making that first sale, or making the second sale, that the challenges and hard times are over and that simply isn’t the way it works.
Writers at every level face challenges, just different challenges.
• The new writer struggles with learning the intricacies of craft and those of an unfamiliar business. S/he often feels as if s/he is floundering, lost in the tomb of “don’t know how.” How to master this technique, to convey the vision in the head onto to the page. How the business works. What happens when, who makes it happen. Walking unfamiliar ground, the new writer needs affirmation that s/he can write, and the resources for getting that affirmation are often difficult to find. A daunting challenge.
Because the new writer hasn’t yet learned that the only affirmation that truly matters is that which comes from within. Earn it and the affirmations desired from without–from others–will come.
• An experienced aspiring writer struggles to make the leap from unpublished to published, for recognition of the effort s/he has expended to learn both the business and the craft. S/he is asked repeatedly, often by well-meaning people who have no idea how potent a sting the words carry, “When are you going to sell a book and be a real writer?” At this level, the challenge is in honing the craft and trying to gain the attention and respect of a good agent and editor. Daunting challenge. Because the experienced aspiring writer has gained some degree of affirmation but typically not that of those closest to him/her who play very important roles in his/her life.
The writer at this stage of his/her career craves validation. S/he hasn’t yet discovered that the validation first must come from within. When the writer
feels his/her own work is valid, holds merit, s/he writes with authority and
conviction, and that translates onto the page. Only when translated can that
validation come from without–from others. Until then, readers can’t
experience it, because the writer hasn’t experienced it. (Remember, a reader
can’t get out of a book what the writer doesn’t first put in the book.)
• A newly published writer struggles with swimming in uncharted waters about the writing and the publishing business at his/her specific publisher and with his/her specific editor. Was the book bought by mistake? S/he wrote one salable book, but can s/he do it again? What does the editor expect? How do they work? What does the writer have to do now to help the book sell? What will the reviewers say? The immediate family, the in-laws? How will friends react? The pastor at church?
This is a time rife with uncertainties. Daunting challenges. Because for the first time the writer truly feels vulnerable. S/he is standing soul naked before the world, and the world might not like what it sees. Horrendous pressure here because there are still so many unknowns to be dealt with and the writer must face them feeling vulnerable. Writers at this stage of their career often equate what people say about the book to be what those people think of him/her.
These writers have not yet learned that this is the major reason why writing only books you love is vital. Having immense faith in the work infuses the writer with strength and courage that minimizes the impact of outside influences. As my mother used to say, “Faith in what you’re doing puts starch in your knees.”
• The multi-published author, in ways not so different from the new writer, struggles with the creative side and the business of writing. S/he has sold book after book, but wears a label of the type of books s/he writes. When s/he wants to spread his/her creative wings, s/he’s apt to find a less than enthusiastic publisher. Future sales and position within the publishing house rely heavily on sales. And in that area, the writer has little control and the bulk of the responsibility.
Business concerns alter from those of the newly published author, but often they only intensify. Sell-thrus (the percentage of books sold compared to those printed) and reviews, list placements and book buyer’s reactions all weigh in on what the writer writes next. Readers want more of the same type of book the writer has given them previously and they depend on the writer to meet their expectations. Disappointed readers don’t buy books. Publishers who don’t sell books have lousy bottom-lines; too many, and they’re out of business.
These writers are still learning, too. The challenges inherent to their level of writing and selling.
The point is, when it comes to career ladders, regardless of what rung you’re standing on, you’re going to face new challenges. They never go away, they just change in nature. And that’s okay. Actually, that’s a good thing because with each new step we change and grow. We learn and grow stronger and that gives us the ability to courageously step up to the next rung.
I suppose I could have said that it does get easier. So many authors feel once they’ve sold that first book, the hard times are over. But I would have had to lie to you to do it, and I won’t do that. It doesn’t get easier.
It’s always going to be difficult, just as the writing–no matter how much you love it–is always going to be difficult. But it’s also fulfilling and interesting, and you’ll never be bored. And there will come a time when some stranger writes or calls or stops you on the street and says that what you wrote made a difference in his/her life. In my humble opinion, there’s a lot to be said for that.
But my opinion isn’t what matters in this. What matters is your opinion. After all, you’re doing the work and facing the challenges, so you must decide.
Is making a difference in someone’s life worth the challenges to you?*