Writing is fun. Writing for publication is soul-crushing and self-esteem destroying. There’s never a point at which you feel like you’ve made it. The struggle to finish and polish a first manuscript feels like climbing Denali, only to find that getting an agent with it is an ascent of K2, and then there’s the Everest of getting a book deal.
Even at that summit, there’s no rest. The air on Everest is pretty thin. The lucky authors with book deals have to worry about whether they can live through the edit letter, get a big print run, benefit from decent publicity, sell copies to more than just their mothers, earn out their advances, get another book deal, make enough money to quit the day job that keeps them from writing and meeting deadlines, and have enough self-esteem left over to write another book and another and another.
We all started writing because it was fun. I love to create characters by sewing together bits and pieces of people I’ve seen and watch them interact when I force them onto the same page. I love asking Stephen King’s “what if” and following the trail to see where it leads. I love revising—taking good sentences and making them better. I love sending off what I’ve written and hearing the criticism and the praise. I love the fact that whether any of it is ever published, I have thousands of pages of writing that one day my children and eventual grandchildren might find interesting. All that is just as true as it was the very first time I did it. I still love writing.
I could do without the rest, though. There are days when the language of a rejection hits me where it hurts, on a day when everything else was already going wrong. There are days when I put away a manuscript for the time being, and it feels like burying a child. I’m happy for my friends when they meet the milestones, but I admit it hurts when an author hits the publishing jackpot with that first, unedited novel without convincing evidence she’s ever heard of a query letter.
I continue though. Most of the time the writing itself and my fellow travelers on the path to publication get me through. I’ve made some of the best friends of my life during this journey, and I’d count my agent in that number. Sometimes, though, I need inspiration from the outside.
Here’s an example. There’s a boy on the local cross country team who never misses a practice or a meet. He never walks during a race. He never wins a race or gets a medal. His pace is just not that fast. Yet he runs, and keeps on running, every day, all season. There’s no glory in it for him. He runs only to run. To prove to himself that he can. That he is strong. Seeing him finish races after the winners have already drunk half a Gatorade reminds me that sometimes, there’s nothing more to it than that.
Don’t write for the glory. There isn’t much, even in the thin air on Everest. You started writing to make something where it didn’t exist before. Keep doing that. Write like that boy runs.
Write. Just to write.