Saturday, November 24, 2007

Don't Let Anything Stop You

I'm behind on my posts, because of heavy deadlines, but I recalled something last night and thought I'd post it as a motivation here.

Don't Let Anything Stop You

Last night I attended a concert of one of my favorite guitarists. The man onstage was older than me, and started this part of his career (touring and recording CDs) in his late 40s.

I'm betting he ran up against a lot of attitude obsticals when he tried to do it: "You're too old; no one wants that kind of music any more; you won't be able to sell to a major label; no one knows your name."

But now he's quite popular, has a mess of CDs (on major labels that are played on top radios stations nationwide), does two-three tours a year, and seems to be enjoying himself. Why? Because he knew what he wanted to do and did it anyway.

I don't know if this actually happened the way I describe, but I see it all the time with writers.

As a writer you will run up against all kinds of people, often very well-meaning people, who will try to stop you achieving your goals.

These people usually aren't cruel or jealous; often they are acting from the purest motives--they don't want to see you get hurt.

Well, guess what, you're going to hurt. Writing is painful and getting published is painful. There can be a lot of joy in it, too, but it's also going to hurt. No pain, no gain? (And who says working a "real" job won't have its own share of pain?)

On the other hand, some people will be jealous or mean-spirited, and they'll have varied motivations for trying to stop you.

But whatever the reason or emotion behind it, at some point you have to block out the outside voices and say "I'm going to do this anyway."

People doing their best to stop you can include: your mother, your best friend, your husband, your critique partner(s), your readers. Even after you're published, people who try to stop you will include: your agent, your editor, reviewers, readers, booksellers, and other authors.

Most of these people are not trying to stop you on purpose--far from it. But negative signals will be:

That doesn't sell

You can't put that in a: (choose one) romance / mystery / thriller / fantasy / literary novel

It's not realistic to make a living as a writer

The market for that is dead

So and so author is doing fantastic writing X; why aren't you writing it?

Editors don't want that any more

I'm tired of seeing that

When are you going to write a real book?

The above statements could be right, or they could be DEAD WRONG!

(For example, the things people told me "didn't sell" or editors "didn't want" when I started seriously pursuing publication (circa 1999-2000) sell like hotcakes now. What "doesn't sell" is relative.)

And then of course, there are the voices in your own head:

You're not good enough

That author is so much better than you

No one will want to read that

You'll never get published

You'll never make NY Times or USA Today

OK, you made it once, but you'll never make NY Times or USA Today again.

This book is pure crap

We are bombarded with this negativity all the time; it doesn't stop, no matter how high you rise in the business. (I've talked to mega-bestselling authors who feel enormous pressure to keep their sales at a certain level.)

What we have to do is find that place of strength deep inside ourselves (we all have it--some of us bury it deeper than others :-))

We have to hold onto that strength, even in times of stress, exhaustion, rejections, career problems, anger, heartache, despair.

We have to again find the reason that novel or story spoke to us, why those characters cried out for us to write that particular book.


The fiery spark that starts the novel is far more powerful than our own negative self talk or the well-meaning negativity from family, friends and writing professionals.

And who the hell knows whether it will sell or not? What editors are tired of seeing and reviewers are tearing apart might be the very thing that readers will get excited about and glom.

You just never know.

So if you find yourself saying to a newbie writer when they excitedly tell you about their idea, "Oh, editors aren't buying that any more." STOP!

It isn't being kind; it isn't helping an author not get hurt or rejected. It's planting seeds of self-doubt and drying up creativity.

Let the writer enjoy the fantastic experience of writing that book. If it truly doesn't catch an editor's attention today, it might tomorrow. Or the writer will learn how to strengthen his writing so he can sell the next one.

And if someone tells you: "That won't sell; you're not very good; that market is dead; no one likes those kinds of books; editors don't want that..."



Gillian Layne said...

I'm printing this and pinning it to the wall next to my desk.

I've been staring at my GH entry on my desk and wondering why I chose this year to enter. Now I know! There has to be a first year and a first time for every step, and this year is it for me.

Thanks so much for the inspiration.

Colleen Thompson said...

Excellent post, and so very true. There's always some shortsighted stodge-meister telling us what we can't do. But thank heavens, there are also brave creative types who feel the need to prove we can, too!

Kathryne Kennedy said...

Bravo, Jennifer, well said!

TinaGerow said...

GREAT post Jennifer. I linked to it from my blog. Very true words!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the inspiring words, Jenn. Now kick me in the butt if you ever hear me say any of those things:)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for those words of wisdom. I'll keep them in mind the next time my internal critique speaks up.
Tina LaVon

Erin Grady said...

Well said, Jennifer. My mom used to say it hurts to be beautiful (as she was ripping my hair out by the roots under the guise of brushing it). It did look good when she was done, but it sure hurt along the way. This publishing biz is a lot like that, I think.

Okay, enough lame metaphors. Thanks for posting and thanks for sharing. You are an inspiration.