Catching the Elusive Dream

Guest blogger Stephanie Rita Clark takes a look at taking those first difficult first steps toward becoming a published writer. 

There are countless aspiring authors out there who dream of publishing their writing and even making a living off their writing, whether that be script writing, novel writing, poetry writing, etc. Many of these people will accomplish their dream and live happily ever after. Many others will attempt to follow their dream but get rejected and give up, and many more still will be too afraid to even send out their writing, if they manage to finish something that they feel like had been worth their time. A lot of us have no idea what to do in the future and what steps we should take, and I am one of you.

Stephanie Rita Clark

We have read hundreds of our favorite books, watched our favorite movies, and recited our favorite poetry. We have been trying to write those things ourselves for years. We have all dreamed of having our own works read and loved by millions. We all imagine receiving fan-mail from thousands of people who were able to connect with what we have created. Some of us have gone to college, and many others have barely passed high school or have not at all. We all have the same question: How do we become a writer?

I aspire to be a novelist. My story is fairly typical of writer, and I have even managed to write my first draft of an urban fantasy, which is more than a lot of us aspiring authors can say. I have already started researching to see what to do with my novel once I finish polishing it to perfection. I have come across a lot of articles and blogs giving advice, opinions, and success (and horror) stories related to the publishing world. There are so many varying opinions out there, and as a Hoosier, all of this forces me to quote James Dean from Rebel Without a Cause, “You’re tearing me apart!”

All of these people are pulling me into different directions, and it is a little overwhelming. Some people are telling me to query literary agents, big publishers, or small publishers while other people are telling me to go independent, and then they tell me all these things I have to worry about if I take their advice, like marketing and writing this amount of books each year to keep everyone happy and keep up a schedule and pre-write first and all kinds of scary things that I am not ready to think about at this point. Some people say I should send my smaller works to get my name out there and build up my query letters, and some people seem to have had instant success without sending things out but had to wait decades before they got published.

When I think about all of this, it gives me a headache, and I have to wonder if I should have become a carnie instead. It seems like it would have been easier and less stressful, especially when you take into account that people seem to have shorter attention spans and tighter budgets and a general preference to something that you are pretty sure you have no desire to write. I would not have to worry about which publishers or agents want to scam me and if my writing would even be good enough to make a living off it. I would just hand out tickets to people and travel around and not worry about writing at all, or maybe I could be like Emily Dickinson and write all this stuff but request it be burned after I die a lonely old maid.

I, however, would have to live with the disappointment in myself for the rest of life, and the thought of disappointing myself, my friends, my family, and my teachers has given me the drive to keep working on my novel, but the distractions and the worry have made it difficult to stay on track—to give me the confidence I need to be a writer. I have come the closest that I ever want to come to experiencing writer’s block (and I could write an entire blog telling you how and why I do not believe writer’s block is more than an annoying excuse) recently because of the ridiculous stress that I have put on myself by worrying about what everyone else thinks.

Finally, I leave you with my advice: Stop worrying and just finish your project. I know that is easier said than done, but it is the only piece of advice that I have come across that is of any value to me at this point. If I keep worrying about whether people will like my story, if I would even be able to make a living out of this, then I will not be able to complete that first step of becoming an author, and I will not have any reason to decide whether I want to be independent or write for big publishers. I can decide all of that later, and I would suggest that you fellow aspiring writers do the same. Otherwise, we will go through life feeling disappointed that we never followed through with our dreams.

I wish you fellow aspiring authors the best of luck, and I hope to have the chance to read your stories someday.

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