Making Tough Choices: A Harsh Realization About Professional Writing
Other than writing, has there ever been an occupation as worthy of the title Professional Choice Maker? Ok, don't answer that. There are likely a lot. But, certainly writing can be counted among them. I have been sitting on this book for some time now. I started it in 2009 (it's okay to judge. I would.) and finished it last year. I don't know exactly what I thought was going to happen once I typed the last sentence but whatever it is, it hasn't happened yet. I know, I know. There is an entire slew of things that must be set in motion in order for this work to be ready for the marketplace. I've read blogs and books and everything between concerning how to do it but through all of that I am left feeling overwhelmed and utterly uninformed.
Low key, I do have one published work under a different name, but that was a long time ago and in a completely different era, it was a totally different kind of book, it failed miserably, I was burned by the publishing company and I don't want to talk about it other than I learned that I will not go that route again, which is valuable. There. So I suppose it is the world of self-publishing that I am speaking to.
It seems that the world of self-publishing books has changed quite a bit since I started writing this book and in fact keeps changing at an alarming rate. So before I get too far, I should just do something I don't do very often and admit that I am lost, paralyzed by options and systems. This is going to hurt, probably. I realized quite recently that the reason my book is not yet published is because I chose for it not to be published. Yep, that hurt. Maybe that resonates with you, maybe it doesn't. Maybe you have many published books or maybe you are in the same boat as me. Bear with me.
There are a few things that I know beyond doubt. One of those things is the assertion that I am a writer; a writer who can finish a book. Okay. Good. Another thing I know is that I am enthusiastic as hell about the genre of the book. I have marinated in fantasy and science fiction in one form or another pretty much my entire life. But dark fantasy in its varied permutations is really the place my imagination likes to hang out. Fine. So the problem, as it turns out, is that none of that gets books published.
As best I can tell, the raw truth is simply this: Choosing to get my book published will get it published. And I think that it is precisely because the world of publishing is so different than it used to be. But what does choosing to get my book published really mean? So toward that end, I am resolved to adopt the following habits:
- To be more teachable about being a professional writer
- To be more intentional in my planning
- To be more consistent in my action
- To be more connected to the writing community
In my daily life, I am a teacher. So you would think that I would have the first habit down. Well, I don't. And for those who don't already know, teachers are the worst students. The worst. But I realized that I don't know anything about publishing fantasy novels. I have to learn about what that even means these days and beyond. Additionally, I don't know anything about being a professional writer. Yes, I can write. But am I a professional writer? Nope. There are differences. There must be. Someone out there knows what they are. I need your help.
As a lifelong writer, I've been moved by whimsy and mood to write or not write. This has worked in the sense that my writing has the full depth of what I am feeling at the time I write, but it is not very efficient and it doesn't get books published. Like I said, I started this particular book in 2009. Eww. Moving forward I want to produce more writing and more often. I have all of these ideas and I want to get them out into the world. And at my current rate, I will be long dead before that happens. Ahem. This is going to require planning; planning my writing, planning the steps to being published, planning out the path to being a professional writer. But the planning requires planning too.
Then there is the doing and the follow-through. That is, following the plan. I seem to be okay at doing this in other aspects of my life, so why is it so hard as a writer? I don't know for sure, but I think it has something to do with the idea that writers are a sensitive sort. We are sensitive to what others think and do. We are sensitive to the drama and wreckage of daily life. We are affected. And here is what I am starting to realize: Those may be good qualities of a storyteller but they don't get books published. However, choosing to follow the plan just might get books published. So really, I am choosing to get out of my own way; to be able to switch back and forth between the me who is a writer and the me who is a publisher. Either way, I am committing to working the plan on a consistent basis, regardless of circumstances or how I perceive my level of motivation.
Finally, though perhaps most importantly, is the choice to engage the larger writing community. But this goes beyond blog posts, comments and social media. All of those things are useful but they don't get books published. Certainly though, authentic relationships with other writers might help. I must choose to surround myself with writers, both in corporeal as well as digital spaces. I am not talking about sharing and liking posts. For me, this means forging actual, two-way relationships with real people who are willing to help me on my journey and vice versa. This requires of me a choice to be vulnerable, available and relatable. Additionally, part of my plan is to document the entire process from here on out. So for those who are feeling the same way as I do, maybe my path will help you on yours.
So, fellow writers, regardless of where you are at along your writing journey, I would invite you to join me in mine. I want to know you and what you are working on. I want to know what you know. I want to understand this world of professional writing through community and relationship. What worked for you? What did you choose that pushed you into the world of professional writing and a published book? Are you willing to help me? I am willing to listen.
If any of this resonated with you, please share. I don't know of any better way to choose to move forward than to simply ask for help.