Welcome to Smugglivus 2015! Throughout this month, we will have daily guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2015, looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2016, and more.
Please give it up for Rin, everybody!
Since becoming a published author I’ve been approached by fans or have received emails wistfully stating that they too, wanted to be a writer before life got in the way. That they’ve written something, but decided they weren’t good enough. Too many other responsibilities, too much work.
But do we, really? When you live in a society with all these new breakthroughs in technology, wouldn’t life actually become easier? Cellphones, computers, and internet make doing work faster than it used to be. Given the amount of people on social media, I say that if you have enough time to scroll through Facebook checking out cat photos or to instagram your favorite meal, then you do in fact, have time to write.
And I should know, because not too long ago, I was just another fan myself; cursed with the want, but lacking the courage.
It’s not that we’re too busy. It’s just that technology has given us more reasons to procrastinate; more reasons to psych ourselves out of writing. That doesn’t stop those reasons from being valid, because that’s how self-doubt works. A growing misconception , I’ve found, is when people think it’s easy to write a story, right up until they start writing it. But most people don’t get that far enough to know that.
And if you’re a wanna-be writer starting out, with little credentials to your name, it’s easy for you and your work to be dismissed.
There is a certain stigma that prevails among many unpublished authors regarding the duration and extent at which they should talk about the manuscripts that
1.) they are writing
2.) they are revising
3.) they are currently sending out on query
4.) they are stuck on, and are bemoaning
in their respective blogs. Unless you’d proven your worth with the world-weary editors and agents of the publishing world, your works are original fanfiction as far as the majority is concerned.
And I understand that. Really, I do. Whether it’s about a one-legged heroine in a dystopian America led by Donald Trump’s mutated hair, or a paranormal romance between a “plain” girl and a half-unicorn half-merman, or an erotic romance about a woman’s unusual chapstick fetish – writing is a private endeavor, and isn’t something you can dangle before the public without being plagued by the self-doubt of not being good enough to warrant even a serious critic.
Prior to finding an agent, I could have counted on only one hand (if the hand had been amputated and had three fingers left) the number of times I’ve mentioned any of my works in my author blog. In fact, I’ve written more entries talking about my refusal to share tidbits of my work than otherwise. I could lie and say that it was my irrational, compulsive fear that fellow would-be writers wandering in may pick up ideas from my self-proclaimed high-concept themes and wind up oversaturating agents’ inboxes with similar. It sounds ridiculous, because it was.
The real reason was my fear that most people – family, friends, significant other, frenemies (or as I’d like to call them, enemiends) – wouldn’t understand why I spend the majority of my time making things up and writing them down, instead of some other more noteworthy responsibilities like organic farming or lawyering or curing cancer.
We’re all writers of our own stories. But we’re also made to believe that some books are better than others. Celebrity stories are interesting stories. There’s a recognizable face value attached to their names. Would anyone have been interested in a pre-Friends Jennifer Aniston or a pre-Parks and Recreations / Guardians of the Galaxy Chris Pratt?
Published stories are interesting stories. Pre-published stories? Not so much. That’s the ingrained mindset.
And that isn’t healthy. At least for a writer.
No matter how ridiculous you think your work might seem in the eyes of others, you owe it to yourself to talk about it. Adjust to the feeling of letting more people inside your secret world. It’s hard to stem the flow of self-criticism, nitpicking at every bit of text from inside your own headspace, and the idea that other people could possibly confirm your worst fears that it really does suck is a frightening notion. But that’s what being a writer is all about, and if you can’t deal with what a handful of people are going to say about something you’ve written, then you will never make it past the agents, the publishers, the book bloggers and critics, and that opinionated mind-hive we occasionally refer to as the internet.
I wish I’d been less self-conscious about it. Nobody knew I’d written a book until I’d found an agent. I felt like validation can only come from finding an agent who liked my work, and not from my work itself. I didn’t have personal support as a writer because I chose to isolate myself from the fear that people I knew may not find my book interesting after all. So I hid my story from others on the assumption that I thought I already had nothing interesting to say. Maybe it wouldn’t have taken me as long to send in that first query letter. I might not even have sent anything at all – it only took one person to take a look at my work – the first person to even read it! – and demand that I owe it to myself to finish what I’d started.
And so this is for the writers like me: the ones too shy to write their hearts, the ones ready to consider their work unreadable in exchange for never hearing how poorly others might judge it.
Like any Alcoholics Anonymous member, you need to stand up, face your peers, and say it with the same passion and fervor that I am saying it:
Hi. My name is Rin, and I am a writer.
I write horror fiction and fantasy, and I am a writer.
I was worried about not being good enough for publication. After my books were published, I’ve found that those fears have not changed. But now I know I was a writer long before I received any kind of validation for it, and so are you.
The only requirement to being a writer, is to write a book. To learn the kinds of stories you keep inside is never a waste of time, and there is no embarrassment to such explorations.
So, keep writing. Be the flint that brings out the spark of your ideas – the light that ensues from such work is never to be ashamed of. Write like you’re on fire and the words are water. And if people should come to watch you burn, then so be it.
But keep writing.
Always keep writing.