Thursday, August 4, 2011

Why write?

I've had a writer's website since the late 1990s, but I just created this one in May. I like the idea of having a blog site because I can add things to it that would not necessarily fit on a regular website for a writer -- like I can tell you about the writing process and speaking, and I can write posts that might help another writer, either by offering encouragement or real life suggestions for getting published or becoming a better writer.

So, why has this site been sitting here without a post for three months? Getting started is the hardest part of any project, and I suppose this blog is no different. Two months ago I wrote this post and decided no one would want to read it. But giving it a fresh look today, I suppose it is not such a bad place to start.

In the beginning . . . I've been a writer for a very long time. Being a writer isn't a job. It's like being Scandinavian or a Pisces -- you just are. And you have to write, like you have to eat. In fact, sometimes when I'm writing, I forget about eating. When I'm not writing, I'm thinking about what I'm going to write. I'm not even sure how long I've known I was a writer, but as a freshman in high school, I took typing because I knew reporters and authors had to type everything. I worked on my high school and college newspapers and earned a degree in English -- and then I had a severe case of self-doubt. Who would ever hire me?

So, I never even applied for a job as a reporter. Instead, I tried something even more difficult and ego-deflating. I became a freelancer! Like everyone who decides to attempt freelancing for national magazines, I got a lot of rejections. But eventually I started getting published a little. Within a few years, I had a decent list of credits, including several articles in Baby Talk. I finally applied for a job as a newspaper reporter 12 years after graduating from college, and I was hired. But before working as a reporter, I decided I wanted to write books. One of these days, I'll write the whole story, but I had probably written more book proposals than anyone who didn't have a book published -- or at least it felt that way. 

I suppose one of the things I want to do on here is to encourage writers to keep trying. We've all heard stories of people who had dozens of rejection letters or spent years trying to get published, but when I heard those stories, I always focused on things that didn't apply to me. One author had more than 100 rejections on a single manuscript. Well, I'd never sent out a single manuscript that many times, so obviously I had nothing to complain about. A novelist wrote seven or eight novels before getting one published. I'd only written one novel, and a book proposal isn't nearly as much work as a novel, so she was obviously more persistent than I was.

Until I had a signed book contract in my hands, I had never allowed myself to do my own math. I'd been trying to get books published for 20 years.

Writing that sentence still makes me stop and stare. 20 years! For their entire lives, my children knew me as a person who was always trying to become a published author. From a variety of how-to books to memoirs, they were rejected over and over again. It seems amazing that I kept trying. But then, I'm a writer. A writer writes. It really is that simple. When you love something, when you live for something, you just keep doing it.

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