Monday, March 18, 2013

National Keep Your Chin Up Day for Writers: second annual!

A year ago, I established (in my own mind, and on this blog) March 19 as National Keep Your Chin Up Day for Writers. I was responding to a friend who was exhibiting despair on Facebook about his writing career after decades of trying. The original post is here.

A year later, that guy has spent serious amounts of time with a Hollywood actor who is working on producing a film based on his novel. He doesn't need the pep talk anymore!

But many people do. Writing is the most serious "spec work" there is. We can spend years on a single novel, with not a bit of encouragement other than our own sincere belief that it can find an audience. Our work is often lonesome, unless if we have the focus and poor hearing to work in cafes and other public spaces. We're driven to write, and we hope that when we reach "The End," a literary agent will be eager to represent the work, an editor will fall in love with it, and it will see its way into print.

It's difficult to get published these days, as countless mournful forums on the internet testify. It used to be hard, and the gatekeeping was stringent. But these days the hatches have been battened down and fewer books find publishers. It's the economy. It's the book industry.

But we have to keep our chins up. We never know when good news is coming. And if it makes anyone reading this feel better, out of all my published acquaintances--from undergrad to grad school to writing workshops and retreats--only one has had an effortless path. (Hint: his book was about kites and jogging just a little bit faster.) I know dozens of people who hit the bottom of despair's tank...but their feet found purchase at the bottom and let them drift back up to the surface. We can't give up when our feet are itching to shove against that dank interior and rocket us to air, to gusty inhales.

Chins up. Believe in yourself, in your craft. If you are genuine in your search to improve your writing and tell a compelling tale, then publication will come. It may not be for this novel. It may not be for #2 or even #3. But devoted workmanship and a steady diet of reading others' quality work will yield results. For everyone who is craving publication today, acknowledge the desire and reassure yourself that you are doing everything possible to make that happen, by:
A. Sitting in the chair, eking out sentences until the book is done
B. Spending serious time and thought in revising--not just rearranging sentences and fixing commas, but truly re-evaluating scenes and how characters behave
C. Encapsulating the story in an elegant paragraph you embed in the query letter
D. Researching the correct literary agents to send it to

"Yes" is a word we delight in hearing. We can't hear it with our chins buried in our chests.

. . . . .


Christine_Merry said...

I like this post! The same can be said for painters, other artists, have to be your own cheerleader. Well said!

Kathryn said...

What a wonderful post! I just started subscribing to your blog on my reader feed (!) after thinking about how helpful you'd been when I took your mediabistro class a few years ago. Still eking out sentences, but the book I worked on in the class is nearly done. Thanks for your encouragement now and then.

Kathryn Pritchett

Erika M said...

Thanks, Christine! We do have to make it happen ourselves, whatever our medium. :)
And hello Kathryn, so nice to see you again! I'm delighted to hear your novel is nearly finished. GREAT JOB!!! Let me know when you hit the golden words "The End."