Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Writing 101: Is It Hopeless?

You know those completely delusional singers on American Idol who are the worst of the worst, yet they think they're totally amazing? Have you ever wondered...if that's you? Sometimes questions pop into my mind, and they give me new story ideas. Sometimes they pop into my head and I wonder...is it hopeless? 


Where's Paula Abdul When You Need Her? 

Wouldn't it be great if there was an American Idol for authors? You could go in and read your blurb, maybe the first page of your novel, and Simon Cowell could tell you that you're fantastic and you're going to Hollywood. What for, I don't know. I haven't worked out all the details of the show yet (American Writer), but that's not the point. The point is this: when you're an author, everyone is Simon Cowell.

Emily Dickinson was a recluse who, literally, sat in her room and wrote about death. I'm not just writing that to be colorful. Sylvia Plath achieved a fair amount of success as a poet, wrote a popular novel, and stuck her head in the oven one day. Ernest Hemingway, well-known in his own lifetime, put a shotgun to his own head. Virginia Woolf put rocks in her pockets and walked into the River Ouse. 

Here's what I'm saying: writing is dark sometimes. You have to wallow around in the ugliest part of the human condition, in some cases, really dive into terrible thoughts and emotions. Every good story needs a villain...and it's always you. You're the one who tortures the characters, you're the one who kills them, you're the one who creates it all...and you're the one who will feel all the criticism with terrible keenness.


 
No one who isn't also a writer will ever understand it. You're going to spend most of your time with your keyboard, presuming you live in this century, and you're going to feel alone

Rejection letters come in the mail when you try to be traditional. Bad reviews and hurtful comments show up when you go an indie route. Family members won't read when they promised they would. Deals fall through, and cover artists may fail to capture the right concept. Things are going to get rough no matter which path you choose.

At times, it might all start to feel really hopeless. You might start wondering if you're any good at writing at all, or if you're just that totally delusional idiot butchering some once-popular song in front of Simon Cowell. You're too busy pouring your heart into the performance to notice how often he's rolling his eyes. 

There's an easy answer: you're totally that delusional singing guy. You have to be a little delusional to be an author. It's all quite arrogant, really, isn't it? You think you've got something so important to say that potentially millions will want to read it, not once but over and over again? That's delusional, and it's fantastic. It's one of the best things about you, about any author. And the world is full of Simon Cowells. There are going to be lots of readers, agents, publishers and family members who don't like your book. But if you put yourself into it, and put the work into it, there will be readers who do. 

And if there is even one person who wants to read your book and does read it, then it isn't hopeless. You may never get rich and famous, and odds say you certainly won't, but a single tweet from a real fan can take the pain out of a whole lot of rejection slips.

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