After reading a lot of articles about how today’s literary marketplace is more cutthroat than ever, it’s easy to become discouraged as a writer. We are, after all, a sensitive lot; it doesn’t take much for a wordsmith to throw the written baby out with the bathwater. A bad review here, a missed opportunity there, a blown marketing promotion or editing job in between, and we have the prescription for career suicide. Add in the myriad celebrities whose ghost writers make the vapid and inane seem reasonably deep, and it takes one only a matter of nanoseconds to understand why aspiring writers feel they are working in the sweatshops of content mills and small-time freelancing.
Yet this begs the question: what did we really get into the world of writing for?
If the answer is “the money,” then trust me, folks, you are all in the wrong profession. My very first “real world” writing job was actually a presentation – writing, editing, and designing a presentation package for my former college, Georgia Southwestern State University, in 1995 for its potential elevation to the NCAA’s Peach Belt Conference. I received $400 for my efforts – a massive sum for a poor college student, and I did it using borrowed equipment and just flat out gumption, savvy, and know-how. Yet I didn’t do it for the money; i did it for the same reason I ran my college newspaper for chicken feed not once, but twice, and why I chose to toil in the content mill universe.
Simply put, I love the work of writing because, honestly, it never really feels like work!
My novel, “A 38 Day Education” has been on the electronic shelves for a little over a month. I’ve sold less than a dozen copies that I’m aware of. While i am grateful for every sale, I would love to sell more! I want the nice car and house and lifestyle that celebrity writer status will afford me, and I am confident I will get there. Yet, as my editor is fond of saying, “it’s a marathon, John, not a sprint!” This is beyond an axiom; it is a statement which becomes a mantra, one which sustains the average writer just trying to break through.
Writing should never be solely about the money. Yes, earning potential for a breakthrough writer plying their trade can be quite lucrative. There is no doubt that, had I decided to go the ghost writer route, I would probably be making far more than I am right now, but that deal with the linguistic devil would mean I have to cede one thing which I cherish above all else: creative control.
It is remarkable easy to write a novel when you put your mind to it. What busts your knuckles, leaves you battered and bruised, and feeling like Chicken Little in a bombing range is sensing that all your hard work and effort is for naught when your book is met with something worse than animosity; the dreaded sound of crickets chirping. That’s where I’m at right now – grateful for the positive review, but craving more. This is a lull, but I actually have no fear about it. I have accomplished something few ever accomplish in their lives; writing and being contracted for not one, but two novels, and my entire series on the verge of publication. I have dreamt of being published for something my whole life, and now that dream has become reality.
Those of you who feel discouraged, don’t. There is a reason it is taking time for your work to be noticed and break out. The market is, indeed, flooded with idiotic content, absurd political treatises written by ghost writers whose celebrity bosses have all the common sense of boiled cabbage, and the ridiculously simplistic self-help book which is about as effective at relieving deep personal problems as several consecutive shots of liquor. In short, those of us who “toil in the fields,” if you will, are doing what we love for the right reasons and, for that we should be proud.
Never compromise, never surrender, and always look around for that next rainbow.
If you want to learn more about me and my writing, go my website, http://www.getinjohnshead.com.