This is a guest blog by Violet Nesdoly, a freelance writer from BC whose special interests are writing non-fiction, fiction, activities, and poetry for Children, and writing articles, devotionals, and poetry for adults. I have to say I totally relate to Violet’s feelings and believe many other writers will too. It’s also why I feel we need to work together to develop a new model for publishing.
No one has to tell writers that they’re up against some pretty big obstacles these days. The latest Tsunami to hit the writing/publishing world was the news last week that some online bookstores (Amazon.com, Wal-Mart.com, Target.com) are wrestling each other down on book prices. One announces a price of no higher than $9.99. Another answers back they’ll do better at $8.99. Publishers and agents are predictably in a dither and asking whither.
As a very small writer fish in this increasingly red-ink ocean, that is only the last in a series of discouragements that include:
* Stiff competition for publication. The internet has outed millions of writers and made them mad for publication. (Go to any agent’s blog and take a peek at the number of followers – if they’re listed. For example, at the time of my writing this: Rachelle Gardner – 1364; Nathan Bransford – 2431; Pub Rants – 1358. There are a lot of eager, hungry writers out there.)
* The need for writers to not only be able to write, but to build a platform, market, speak, network, twitter, facebook, yada, yada.
* Add to that, personal pressure from realistic family members who see the bottom line and rub one’s face in the fact that this writing gig has really only turned out to be an expensive hobby.
It all adds up to (yikes, I never thought I’d hear myself say it) a temptation to quit.
I found my thoughts articulated rather eloquently when I was reading Nathan Bransford’s blog:
“In last week’s discussion about writers and sensitivity, Gordon Pamplona left a comment that stuck with me:
‘A lot of times the sensitivity about the writing is a stand-in for sensitivity about something else: you spent so much time chasing this pipe dream that you lose your job, your marriage, your kids; your kids don’t respect you because you didn’t write Harry Potter or Twilight; you charged a lot of money on the credit card for conferences and classes with no tangible results, and now the family is eating beans and rice. For many of us, writing is an addiction, no different from alcohol or drugs or gambling. And maybe people who are angry, bitter, stressed out, or despondent should take a hard look at whether this is something they should be doing—if it’s gone from a hobby to something that’s ruining their lives and their relationships with others.'”
As a society, we often celebrate tortured and struggling artists who finally make it big despite their obstacles, and yet we don’t often examine the flip side of this, which is that the vast majority of tortured and struggling artists don’t actually make it. We tend to encourage everyone to write (Person 1 tells an interesting story, Person 2 says ‘Wow, you should write a book about that’), and there are very few people out there willing to tell any writer they don’t have what it takes and should probably try pursuing something else with their time. I’m guilty of this as well—who am I to say whether or not someone will or won’t be published?
But is this the right approach? Is writing, especially when the odds are long and the cost to a personal life is high, sometimes akin to addiction? When does it cross the line from hobby to “habit?” And should we be encouraging everyone to write?” (from “Tell me, when is writing unhealthy
I ruminated on that for a while—and then the thought occurred: I didn’t have the luxury of just deciding to quit. Though I must never ignore the need for balance, outright quitting is a decision that’s not mine to make. Because the reason I find myself here hasn’t changed from what got me here in the first place. Jesus’ teaching on the stewardship of our gifts (as expressed in His story from Luke 19
) hasn’t been torn out of the Bible.
If I quit simply for the reasons above, I would be like the one-mina servant coming to the master full of stuttered excuses. “Here is the thing you gave me—this love for words and communication, idea and story, which I have invested for a while, but which I have put back in my handkerchief because… because I’ve only written short pieces and not had any success with books, and because I wasn’t good at marketing or establishing a platform, and because the competition for publication was fierce, and because there were so many five- and ten-mina voices out there, I just knew mine wasn’t necessary…”
And He will say to me, “Out of your own mouth I will judge you, you wicked servant… For I say to you, that to everyone who has will be given; and from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”
Thus there will be only one thing that can get me to quit—Orders from Headquarters. Otherwise I’ll be here, sowing my words, hopefully for a little profit but not above sometimes giving them away for free because that’s my way of obeying my Master till He gives me another assignment or puts a different talent in my hand to invest.
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