Sink or swim

Yesterday, I went to my writer’s club meeting. One of the speakers at the meeting has authored or c0-authored over 80 books. No, I did not accidentally type an extra “0” — she’s extremely successful at her trade.

She spoke about the publishing world, specifically, how to get a publishing contract. She talked a lot about — wait for it — platform — and how essential it is to bring your own national audience nowadays.

I already knew most of what she said, but there was something about that talk that made me incredibly depressed afterward. I’m not sure why. I left the meeting feeling absolutely down in the dumps.

I don’t care if I make one dime as a writer. I’d love to make money, but that’s not why I do it. I don’t want to publish for fame or fortune. I don’t want to write a book because I want to be on a talk show, or see my name in lights.

I want to publish a book because I have a story in my heart, and I think that telling it might help others. But while I sit here, putting the final touches on my book proposal, with the hopes that by mid-May I can start querying agents, I’m really beginning to wonder about what happens if nothing happens? What happens if I can’t get an agent? What will happen to my goal?

I want to write because I love writing, but I want to do it well. I want the bylines. I want to be published in widely read publications. I don’t care about the money, I don’t care about the fame, but I DO care about being a success. I’ve been this way my whole life — if I’m going to to something, I have to do it really, really well.

So I’m asking myself now, if I never get a book published, or never get published in a big national publication, will I still feel the same about writing? Am I shallow enough that if I can’t become more widely published as a writer, then I’ll just give up? Or will my love for writing always be enough?

I loved this piece about being a late riser. Particularly since I’ve never been a morning person. Also, the next entry is up at skirt!


7 thoughts on “Sink or swim

  1. When I started blogging I also wrote a book — it’s kind of embarrassing now to read it — and I’ve taken the parts that were decent and blogged them or turned them into short essays — but basically, I first tried and tried to get an agent or publisher — all the same story though, too much mommy lit, no platform. And I never became a blockbuster blogger either, so that didn’t really change. I gave up on the idea that I would ever even just eek out a living as a writer and now I’m focused more on non-commercial writing (when I have time) and working on an MFA so that maybe by the time I tire of what I’m doing now I can teach at the college level (which was what I always really wanted to do anyway).

    Sorry for crazy long comment…

  2. Staci,

    Let me get this straight. You’re a writer, an MFA student, and you just opened up a coffee shop? Damn, woman. What can’t you do?

    I’ve thought repeatedly about the MFA. What it ultimately comes down to for me, is that I have no interest (at least not right now) in teaching.

    And I’m sorry you didn’t find an agent. It’s a shame, because you are one of the more witty and fresh voices out there.

  3. I don’t think there’s anything shallow about wanting success. You have stories to tell and you want others to read them..makes sense to me! And I think you tell wonderful stories–I can’t wait to read more!
    By the way–it doesn’t get much easier once you get an agent. With the state of the publishing business right now, landing a book contract, as a first time author (even with a pretty good platform) is a long shot. My agent is starting to submit this week, and I can’t shake this doom-and-gloom feeling, like it’s never going to happen. But I do absolutely believe in luck + opportunity=success. I’ve prepared myself as much as I can, and now I have to hope lightning will strike. And I sincerely wish the same for you.

  4. Best of luck to you, Jennifer! Please report back if you get good news.

    I do know what you mean about having an agent. I have friends who’ve had strings of agents with no success. And you’re right, it does seem to be harder.

  5. Thanks Anjali — right now I’m doing slightly less than mediocre at everything, including writing, so… there’s that. And I deferred my MFA commitment to start in January (because surely in January I’ll have it all together, right???). I’m stretched too thin really, but I’m optimistic that it will all iron out – eventually!

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