I was talking to a friend yesterday about the business of publishing and mentioned that it took me five years and six manuscripts to sell my first book. It’s occurred to me later though that we never stop trying to get published. It’s not as if, once you achieve the goal of selling your first book, you forever stay in that elusive state we called “published.”
Instead, it’s a struggle we continue for as long as we aspire to get paid for our writing. If we’re lucky and persistent, we write some things that sell, but we always write some things that don’t, regardless of persistence or luck. And there’s never a guarantee of selling again. So it’s really more like twelve years and counting that I’ve been struggling with this publication goal, some years more successfully than others.
I remember Jennifer Crusie making this very point back when I was still trying to sell my first book, and I found it a little annoying. Now here I am finally realizing it myself. :-> I didn’t want to be told back then that I might reach the top of the hill I was climbing and find nothing ahead but mountains.
I think what’s required to endure such a long journey without bitter disappointment is a bit of perspective. If you know ahead of time that the journey you’re setting out on is going to be a trek across the Himalayas, then you’ll pack and prepare appropriately. You won’t toss a bikini and a sarong in your suitcase, expecting nothing but sunny weather and poolside lounging.
For those of you who are writers, how long have you been writing? What’s been your biggest setback? And your greatest achievement?
Years since I began writing seriously: 12
Biggest setback: struggling with burnout
Greatest achievement: finding myself improving as a writer (I think, I hope…)
Great post! It was nice to see you talk about post-publication struggles. Somehow I’ve convinced myself that the next two books of mine to hit the shelves will be complete bombs. I’m hoping it’s just my neurosis flaring up again. I’ll find out come August. But I was watching a Biography on Merril Streep last night, and noticed that throughout all the amazing movies she was in, she was also in some stinkers. Yet, she’s still acting and still winning Oscars. The occasional stinker didn’t destroy her career. So why–even if my neurosis does have some basis in reality and my next book is a bomb–am I also equating that to the immediate end of my writing career?
So to answer your question.
Years since I began writing seriously: 5 1/2
Biggest setback: Having to fight off the irrational demons that keep trying to ruin my fun.
Greatest Achievement: That I’m still here.
I suppose neurotic thoughts come with being a writer, huh? I’ve been told by people wiser than I, that creative talent doesn’t grow in a clean upward trajectory. It’s more like, you struggle to get better, and maybe you write a good book, and then you start to learn something new, and you write as not-so-good (or awful?) book during that struggle, and you think, oh god, I’m getting worse, not better! But actually you’re growing as a writer. It just doesn’t look like it. Hmm, maybe this should be today’s blog topic … Thanks Lori!