Here I blog about writing, editing, reading, books, submissions, freelancing, getting published (and rejected), journalism, revisions, life after the MFA, teaching writing, and living the writer's life. Welcome. BUT -- if you are a writer: Write first, read blogs second.




Monday, March 30, 2009

Writers' Complaint Department: Stress and the "Support System"

I've come to believe that important relationships in the life of a writer are never really separate from our writing. Witness the following round-up of rants, venting and whining I've collected from various writers I know over the past few weeks. I thought I'd take a stab at a few; and in case you think I don't include myself in this list, or that I've got it all figured out, think again.

Complaint: My spouse / significant other / best friend / parent / other important person in my life is not interested in reading my drafts.
Suggestion: Consider this a blessing. Many writers are completely thrown off course by reactions from family members to unpublished work. Either they say I love it, just because they love you, or they say something like, Well, this is just a first draft, right? because they expect it to read like a Pulitzer and a bestseller rolled into one, or they say nothing. All or any of the above reactions will only drive you crazy.

Complaint: My spouse / significant other / best friend / parent / other important person in my life thinks this "book business" is taking an awfully long time.
Suggestion: Let me guess. Deep down, you think so too. A book is a multi-year project; if your manuscript was pitch perfect and ready to submit tomorrow, and you got an agent the day after tomorrow and the agent sold the book in a month, you are still a year or more away from a publication date. But even before you get to that stage, factor in writing and rewriting and revising and editing (in other words, somewhere along the continuum you are on now), and you're looking at probably about 5-6 years from page one, word one, to author. So the fact that you've been at it a while is completely normal and typical for every writer who's not yet published a book. Your spouse / significant other / best friend / parent / other important person in your life – or maybe YOU -- perhaps doesn't know this, so it seems like it's taking forever. It's not. It's taking the usual amount of time.

Complaint: I need more writing education / professional editing help / workshop time, but my spouse / significant other / best friend / parent / other important person in my life, is strongly against spending any more.
Suggestion: It does take money to get quality writing education and/or guidance. But… scholarships, fellowships and financial aid do exist; work-study and/or barter situations can be found (or negotiated); classes/editors/workshops can be spaced out across years; conferences or workshops could be coupled to family vacations; and budget-friendly educational opportunities are more abundant than ever now.

Complaint: My spouse / significant other / best friend / parent / other important person in my life, secretly (or perhaps not so secretly) doubts I will ever get published.
Suggestion: Both as a break from the BIG PROJECT (i.e. book), and as a way to alleviate the self-doubt in anyone's mind (including your own), think about writing some short pieces for small magazines, newspapers and/or online venues. You may or may not make money (and sometimes you will write just for the publishing credit), but you can: 1. prove to anyone who is wondering, including you, that your writing does have value in the outside world; and 2. build a little list of publishing credits; and 3. get some satisfaction from seeing something you wrote has made its way into print (or pixels) - and within weeks or months, not years.

Complaint: I have pressure from my spouse / significant other / best friend / parent / other important person in my life, to use more of my available time to earn money, rather than to write.
Suggestion: Sorry, I won't dare give suggestions in this department. What sane person would advise another on how to deal with the differing financial views and demands within a close relationship? All I can say is, welcome to the world of the in-it-for-the-long-haul writer, in which you bargain away chunks of precious time, which you want (and perhaps need) to spend writing, in order to make money, so that you can continue to write in your non-income-producing hours, and to finance further writing education. Everyone has to figure this out for themselves, based on too many variables to make it reasonable to give blanket advice. For now, dear writer, I have a few hours of paid work ahead of me, so that I can write most of the day tomorrow. And, I hope, feel okay about that.

2 comments:

lindakays said...

Excellent responses. I'd been publishing poetry for years, but it wasn't until I got paid for a essay that my mother said, "Now you're a professional writer." grrrr...

Aaron Silverberg said...

good contributions. My dad said to me "writer's write." i've written two books of poetry, self-published both and sold almost 700 copies.
i write a poem every single day and
the comittment to the craft has its own peculiarly delightful rewards.
Aaron Silverberg