Writing is hard, yo. Getting your story, your characters, your ideas from that mushy, over-caffeinated (and potentially alcohol-muddled) grey lobster meat you call a brain is a task daunting enough that Hercules himself would likely throw up his hands and wander off in search of something a little less difficult. You know, like lopping off all the heads of the Hydra, or taming Hades’ little three-headed puppy.
The worst part is, once you’ve triumphantly slayed your story, and gotten it all down into well-disciplined rows of Times New Roman soldiers, well, that’s when the real hard part begins. Writing is easy, compared to getting your shiny new work of middle grade genius published and out into the world for thousands of appreciative readers. There’s that querying of agents step and praying the query letter you spent three weeks writing-hating-and-rewriting catches the perfect person’s eye. Then, even after that works out, there’s a seemingly endless string of hours, days, weeks, months, years, millennia spent wait for your agent’s matchmaking magic to turn up the one editor who both loves your manuscript like a fuzzy brand new kitten and has just the right hole in the following year’s publication schedule to slide it into.
All that together? Well, it’s enough to make any normal, well-adjusted person want to bite through a cast iron frying pan in a fit of HULK SMASH-ness. And let’s be honest, how many writers start out normal and well-adjusted, anyway?
We all have moments, well, days, more like, when no matter where we find ourselves along the patience-wrenching path to publication, we’re ready to both throw up and throw up our hands, and call that truck driving school that advertises in the middle of the day during Judge Toby.
Luckily, I’ve got the answer to surviving the Long Painful Road.
But you’re not going to like it.
I didn’t either, when it occurred to me.
The solution to preventing that transition to driving freight cross-country? It’s stupidly simple. You kinda know it already.
Go back to the reason you started this nonsense for in the first place.
In the beginning, when we have no words, no shiny manuscript, no hopes or dreams of bestseller lists, most of us have little more than an idea. A thought. A character. Maybe a scene playing out in your head. Whatever it was, it was just a tiny spark of story, and you fed it and nurtured it and worked it until it was a roaring blaze of something real, something you could feed all your adult wants and wishes into. But whether or not that story can or will fulfill any of those dreams and wishes is now largely beyond your control*.
Because you’re the fire maker. You take the spark and you build it. That’s your only role in this chain of events. It’s the only part you can manage yourself. The only part you truly control. All the rest depends on forces beyond you. Might as well lament the weather or the rising of the sun as bemoan the pace and complications of trying to get published.
So, here at the start of a new year, it’s the perfect time to think back to why we got started with this writing business in the first place. Time to stop shaking our collective fists at the sky in pointless frustration while the fire behind us grows cold. It’s time to get back to feeding that fire, to doing what we came here for.
It’s time to write more and complain less.
Because with writing, like everything else in life, the easiest way to solve a problem is to recognize that it was never your problem to fix in the first place. But if you focus on the fire, the words, eventually those other problems will sort themselves out without you.
*Not including self-publishing, of course. But that's a horse of a different color, and an entirely different post.