A few years ago, I posted an April Fools joke on here that I’d signed with an agent. Well guess what?!
No, I still don’t have an agent. *snort*
Yesterday I was going through some old papers and folders looking for some information and I came across a one-page handwritten outline for a story. It was vaguely like the one that eventually became the “first” novel I ever wrote, but based on the stuff it was around I knew I had to have written it long before I actually started writing. Speaking of which….
Tomorrow, April 2nd, is my five-year anniversary of Being A Writer.
That’s right. Five years ago tomorrow, I sat down and wrote the first sentence of my first novel. I had no idea what I was doing, I had no outline, I had no plan, I had nothing. But I wrote it. I started. Curious to see it? I was, so I looked it up:
Prince Canton sighed in relief as he slouched lazily in his chair. It had been a very long day. He pried his left eye open to look out the window, and visibly flinched when he realized how late it was.
It was pretty terrible, and the book that followed was terrible too, but that didn’t stop me from writing it. I wish I knew the exact date that I finished that draft, but the closest I can guess is September 28th-ish of that year. A good six months it took me to write what…53K? Maybe? Oh the follies of youth.
It’s incredible, really. Last week I saw Sam Sykes talking about writing advice on Twitter. He said:
So, always, the best advice on how to be a better writer is to just write a whole bunch. Suck at a lot of it. Get better. Invest time. — Sam Sykes (@SamSykesSwears) March 23, 2016
And he’s absolutely right. It hit me hard when I saw that, and made me remember one of the first quotes I heard when I started. It was from Ira Glass. I’d heard people say “you’ve gotta suck at it before you can get better,” or something to that end, but Mr. Glass said it in a way that I was able to make a sort of game plan out of it. Take a look:
A gap. A period of years, where you can tell that what you’re making isn’t as special as you want it to be. It’s missing something. And the only way to close that gap, is to write.
Guys, this is a big deal for me. I’ve been writing for five years. I’ve been trying, I’ve been working at it, learning as much as I can, reading, studying, and writing. And it’s been five years. That feels like such a long time, and it is. Five years. Five. Years.
The bad news now is I still suck at writing. But the good news is I suck a heck of a lot less now than I did five years ago, and I can confidently say that there are even a few things in writing that I am very, very good at. I hope.
Either way, I needed this reminder. The reminder that in the big picture of things, I am moving forward. I am progressing. It’s hard to see that sometimes when it looks like everyone around you is getting agents or selling to editors or releasing a book. I’ve said it before, but it’s conflicting, isn’t it, when you are genuinely so thrilled for your friends and their accomplishments, and yet a small part of you wonders…
…will I ever get there?
There’s a small part of me that cries inside all the time, no matter how much I try to shut it up. It wonders if after all this time, all I’ve done is wasted five years of my life. I wonder if these words, these stories I’ve poured my heart and soul and sweat and tears into will ever ever be good enough to sit on a stranger’s shelf. It’s hard, sometimes. It’s hard to see the bright side through so many clouds.
But the thing is, I’m not going to quit. I know that. I’m too stubborn. I’ll keep writing, and I’ll keep working, and eventually I’ll get published somehow–though who knows when. But I know it won’t be easy. And I can’t even say that it gets easier. Because you know what?
With AGOS on the shelf all shiny and finished and ADSOM3 on the desk with its guts hanging out, it’s hard to remember one becomes the other. — Victoria/V.E. Schwab (@veschwab) March 13, 2016
Even Bestselling Authors feel this pain.
It’s not easy, and the fear of failure is constant. Why do we put ourselves through this? Why do we “suffer for our art” so much? Here’s why: because at the end of the day, when someone reads your words and swoons at a kiss, or cries at a death, or laughs at a joke, or swears at you for something you did to their favorite character–
That makes it all worth it. It’s weird, I know, but it’s true.
So this is my advice to me on my fifth anniversary, and my advice to you no matter what stage of your career you’re in: keep writing. Keep creating. Keep dreaming those dreams. The only way you fail, is if you stop trying. So don’t stop. Never stop. Keep moving forward; you’ll get there.