Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Should you be writing?


There’s a very simple answer to this question. If you enjoy writing, YES, you should be writing. From time to time, I get submissions from writers who say they’d like to hear from me if there’s any point for them to continue to write. Well, I’d never tell anyone not to write. If it’s your hobby, your passion, something you love doing, keep doing it. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got talent, or if you’re ever going to be published. Do it for yourself. Or have you stopped singing in the shower just because you don’t hit the high note and will never be a recording artist? I know I haven’t.

A couple of years ago, I got a phone call from a man who’d read about me in the newspaper. He was calling to ask what I thought of his book idea, and if I thought it was worth writing it. The man’s daughter had battled quite a few demons and, ultimately, committed suicide. The father was now thinking about putting her story down on paper, but wasn’t sure whether it was something publishers would be interested in. I told him that a) unfortunately, I didn’t (and still don’t) represent nonfiction, b) it was impossible to tell based on the topic alone, c) there was never a guarantee in publishing, and most importantly, d) he should definitely write it down, even if it was just for his own sake. We then talked for a while about what writing down his daughter’s story meant to him and the therapeutical aspects of writing, and at the end of the conversation it was obvious that it would help him come to terms with everything, whether the story ever got published or not. It was a conversation that always stayed with me. Because it constantly reminds me of what writing is really about. It’s about doing something that’s dear to your heart. It’s about crafting stories and characters, about working through and sharing experiences (good and bad). Whether it’s a memoir, a children’s book, a romance novel… who cares as long as you enjoy what you’re doing and writing?

Essentially, that’s what we all did when we were teenagers and wrote into our diaries, right? We shared our innermost thoughts and emotions, we wrote about that one boy we were so sure we’d marry one day, only to swoon over a completely new boy 57 pages later. Back then, we wrote because we needed an outlet, not because we wanted to get published, make money, and/ or find fame. God, if anyone EVER reads only one page of my teenage diaries, I will probably emigrate to a deserted island. And even some of the stuff I wrote back at university for my Creative Writing MA... trust me when I say that I cringe when I just think about it. The pieces I wrote for the compulsory poetry module? Yeah, let's pretend that never happened. And wow, I did love inner monologue a bit too much. 

Writing is far too hard a career path to choose just to become rich and famous. It takes talent, huge self-discipline, hard work, and a lot of heart. (Still, how many writers’ writing can actually pay for their rent? And food?) So, you wouldn’t do it if you didn’t really love sweating blood and tears to put your ideas down on paper, right? 

That's what this post comes down to: perhaps agents and/ or editors don't connect with your manuscript (for whatever reason), perhaps they don't sign any of your manuscripts... yes, rejection is hard and nobody likes to get told 'no'... but if writing is what you love and want to do, then do it. Enjoy the creative (and maybe emotional) outlet it provides. Not everything that's written can or will be published.  And not everything that's written is meant to be published. I know my diaries aren't. And my memoir (if I had written one) wouldn't be. That's just the way it is. Not everything is suitable or relevant for a broader public. But you don't have to get published in order to be able to write. Just like I don't have to have a record deal to sing in the shower or my car. Or have to compete at the Olympics to play golf or hockey. Even if you're not particularly good at writing, who cares? I mean... seriously. Perhaps it comes a time where you have to be realistic about getting an agent or a book deal... but never stop doing what you love. Never stop writing. 

Never. Stop. Writing. 



6 comments:

  1. Every writer should read this. Especially those who have become jaded by the business and think agents are just dream dashing gatekeepers barring the gates of publishing heaven.

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  2. Teenage diaries... When I was younger, I asked my mom if she still had her old diaries, to which she told me that she had thrown them away. I could NOT understand why. Reading my own now though, I get it. :P
    Nice post, Julia!

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    1. I have to admit that I got rid of some of the most embarrassing entries. ;)

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  3. This is SO beautiful. I'm so glad I stumbled across this. I agree with Travis--every writer should read this. I think it's so easy to get caught up in the business, that we forget *why* we write sometimes. It's about the magic that can be created on the page and how it makes us feel. And when a writer doesn't have their mind/soul/heart in the right place, it shows on the page. I also think that one doesn't truly begin to have "success" until they can get to this mentality. So many good things here!

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    1. Thanks, Morgan. I'm glad you enjoyed this post.

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