Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Writer's Journey

When you decide to become a writer and not just someone who writes *(see difference at the end of this post), you agree to travel down a path of highs and lows. Some examples:

High: You come up with a great idea for a book. The idea hits you one day and doesn't let go. You must write this book.
Low: Writing a book is hard. You have no idea what you are doing, how to plot an ENTIRE NOVEL and keep the story fresh from the first page to the last. The first several attempts are so bad that you are pretty sure the whole thing was a bad idea.

High: You don't give up, convinced that you just need the right inspiration. You read books on craft, and start telling everyone you meet that you are writing a book. Eventually you make connections to other people who write, both in the flesh and blood world and the online world. You learn strategies, like how to plot, develop believable characters, and write strong beginnings. You make new friends. You find a whole community of people and feel connected to a larger force.
Low: Some people in the writing community are mean. They criticize mistakes made by newbies (mistakes that you rush into your manuscript to fix - like omg did I describe my character by having her look in a mirror?) and sometimes do things that make you feel excluded. You worry that you will never fit in, that people won't like you. Or worse, they won't like your work.

High: You finish your book. Holy crap, YOU WROTE A BOOK! It is brilliant. Everyone must read it. Now.
Low: You make the mistake of sharing your un-edited manuscript with friends/family/random strangers online because you are just so unbelievably excited about having wrote a book. An actual book. The friend/family member/random stranger points out the ten million things you need to fix. Every flaw is exposed and you feel as though someone has taken your heart out of your chest and stepped on it. Repeatedly.

High: You recover from the criticism and learn who to trust to give you solid, helpful advice about how to make your book better. You revise, revise, revise, and feel incredibly good about the growth you've made as a writer. Idea number two pops into your head and you think, I can do this whole writing thing after all. You attend conferences and meet new people. You start to put your work out there to professionals in the industry. They appear interested.
Low: You get rejected. Over and over and over and over. You watch other people get snatched up by agents, published, and inundated with praise. It makes you want to crawl under a rock. Give up. But you keep plugging along and working on project number two. Or three. Because maybe that's how long it is going to take.

That's as far as I've gotten, but I know that the rest of the journey is fraught with more ups and downs. I've seen agented authors wait years to secure a book deal. Celebrated when the day finally came. I've seen friends experience heartache when their book is pulled from the shelves because of problems with the publishing house. I've seen authors in agony over bad reviews and/or their lack of sales, worried that their editor will reject every new idea. Done my best to encourage others to keep putting their work out there because it is beautiful, beautiful stuff.

It's not an easy life. But as writers, we create worlds everyday, and I think we need to sprinkle a little of that fantasy in our own day to day experiences. What keeps me writing is not so much the idea that one day my words will be out in the world, but the release I feel when I let myself get lost in the page. When I shut out the minutiae of daily life and plunge into the story. It feels like nothing else.
So why can't I do the same for my "real" life? Walk into a bookstore and picture my baby on a shelf. Imagine myself reading chapter one in front of family and friends at my release party. Celebrating every small success instead of wallowing in bitterness over every failure.

With each rejection I give myself permission to wallow for a brief moment, and then move on. With each high from someone else, I say hello to the green-eyed monster and then tell him politely to move on. There's no room for that in this life. When I wanted more than anything in the world to get pregnant and become a mother, jealousy was camped out in the front of my brain all the time. It was exhausting. But we are all on different paths, and the important thing to remember is that everyone, EVERYONE, has highs and lows. Celebrate the highs - your own, your friends, the random stranger you met online, and recognize the lows - give them their chance to exist and help you grow - but don't allow them to take over.

*Someone who writes: anybody really; grocery lists, thank you cards, letters to Santa - these are all things that someone could write.

A writer: A person who has dedicated part or all of his/her life to putting ideas on paper, to telling stories, to creating something meaningful from words.