Years ago while attending my high school reunion, (I won’t tell you which one, because that would give you a clue as to how old I really am,) I found myself answering the inevitable question, “What do you do for a living . . . What career path did you take?” “Well actually, I’m an author.” Much to my wife’s delight, I finally learned how to say those words and managed to win myself the award for most incredible career choice.
I was thinking to myself the other day, for some weird reason, “I don’t know why people found that so strange.” (Yes, weird crap goes through my head sometimes.) I mean, ok I wasn’t one of the popular kids, I wasn’t by any means a ‘joiner’ I mean the only club or extracurricular activity I joined was the band, but even with that, I didn’t excel. I was the mediocre student that didn’t stand out. Okay so maybe I just answered the why people thought my career path was strange. Anyway, the whole point is that EVERYONE has a story they’ve written, right? Literally, I had people asking me, “do you think you can give my manuscript to your publisher?” I heard from a few, “Oh how cool, yeah I write too!!” And I remember saying to these people, “Oh yeah that is cool! Have you TRIED to get your story published? or “so, um unless your story has lesbian themes and origins, yeah my publisher isn’t going to look at it.” And I remember feeling two things as I said that, I’m sorry I couldn’t help you, and do the legwork. If you want your work published, send it to publishers, LOOK for submission inquiries. (Kind of bitchy right?)
I just happened to fall into being a writer. I didn’t go to college with the intention of being a writer, in fact, the one year I did attend college I majored in Ms. Pacman, and not going to classes, and even if I had gone to class my intent was to be an accountant. A very long way from writing by the way. I mostly started writing to get things in my head straight (haha see the wordplay there, I’m anything but straight.) I wrote to work my problems out. For some reason, the answers were easier for me to see and work through if they belonged to someone else. I wrote for me. Now when I met my now wife, she asked me what I did for a living, and I answered her honestly, but in a way that pissed her off, “I don’t do anything, I’m a bum. I’m disabled.” (It took her a while to drill into my head that being disabled, didn’t define me.) She said, “Okay, you’re on disability, but what do you do?”
“What do you mean, what do you do?”
“You have to do something to occupy your time right?”
“Um yeah, I write stories, I guess.” (I’m difficult 🙂 )
“Oh, so you’re a writer. Have you had anything published?”
“NOOOOO… I am not good enough to publish anything.”
“Have you tried?”
God, does this women ever stop? I mean this isn’t the Spanish Inquisition, “Well no, I’m not sure I’ll ever have some even read what I write.”
“Then how will you ever know your if work is any good or not. Or whether people will like it or not?”
“Well I don’t,”
“So what do you have to lose?”
“Nothing I suppose. But what if they think it’s crap?”
“Then they think it’s crap, but you’ll never know if you just tuck it away in the bottom desk drawer, now will you.”
Ugh, yeah I was right she doesn’t give up. She challenged me to actually write a story and submit it to any challenges I found. And I did. And I won second place, and a year after writing the story and winning the challenge, the sponsor of the challenge emailed me because she and a friend were starting a publishing company and wanted to contract my book. It turned out to be my lucky break.
Now don’t get me wrong, I totally understand how lucky I was and how I fell into a writing career, but there are other things involved in being a published author. It isn’t easy, and it doesn’t happen by asking a friend to show your manuscript to their publisher. It takes some talent, it takes work, in following through with rewrites, and editing, and being willing to understand that criticism is good, and you can’t always (or rather, you shouldn’t) dig your heels in and say “f’ you I’m not going to do it your way,” Understand the advice your editor and publishers are making are to help YOUR book be the best it can be. They are working to make money and help you make sales.
I’ve had people ask me how much money I make writing, first off it’s none of their business, and more importantly, don’t write because you want to become rich, write for you. The honest truth is, there can only be one Stephen King, or Nora Roberts. Write because it’s your passion, and YOU enjoy it.
Lesson learn in this, you never know what you can do unless you try.