“BEING A WRITER, WRITING FOR A LIVING, IS ONE LONG PERSISTENCE GAME.
“EVERYONE WANTS YOU TO QUIT. YOU GET KICKED DOWN. YOU COME UP SWINGING. YOU KEEP GOING. EITHER YOU’RE COMMITTED TO IT, OR YOU AREN’T”
This is a quote from a young writer named Kameron Hurley. I have no doubt that this was her response to a question from another writer who was feeling the pangs of lonely frustration. Either that or she was feeling that in her own literary life.
This is a valid thought for everyone who writes. Heck, it’s valid for everyone with a passion, be it writing, the Visual Arts or even something as arcane as Higher Mathematics where the world rarely understands what you are doing. Passion drives the person to continue to create even in the face of a universal ho-hum.
I have been writing fiction since I was a snot nosed kid in grade school. Back then I was collaborating with a friend to churn out a series of Cowboy and Indian sagas. My friend’s teacher praised him and encouraged him to keep at it. He became a doctor, but quit writing. My teacher said that our stories were stupid and told me to forget it. So, naturally, I’m now 72 years old and still trying to write that better story. I guess I could be the Poster Child for Kameron Hurley’s quote. My quote would be, “Don’t let this happen to you. On second hand – keep at it! The world needs better stories.”
Over the intervening years (decades) I have written a ton of stuff and had some of it put down on a printed page here and there.
When it comes to making any money from all of this – know that somethings pay better than others. The most I’ve ever gotten for anything I’ve written was for a textbook/study guide about Traffic Law and safety. That was for a Traffic Violator School in California. They needed it to comply with the DMV rules and Court guidelines…and they wanted it funny. That opus earned me about Ten Grand. Other than that little shaky money-maker the money coming my way has been sporadic and not worth hiding under the mattress. Maybe hiding it all under a pot holder, but it was not enough to warrant the effort it takes to lift the mattress.
A goodly part of my personal and professional financial desert is as arid as it is because I really haven’t pushed very hard. Most of the things that garnered me anything at all approached me rather than me sending out query letters or doing elevator pitches.
The Traffic School thing fell into my lap. I was doing some teaching for them. They liked my style. We worked out a deal and there you are – 10 K in my pocket.
Professional writing is a lot like Show Business in general. You find work or work finds you. You audition (Send out query letters). If they like you…you get cast (They buy your work). If they don’t like you – “Thank you! Next!
And if you get too many “Thank you! Next!”replies you keep training and put together your own one person show (You self publish).
It’s not easy nor is it able to give you even the remotest of assurances that your show will be a hit (Selling more copies than to just family and friends). But at least you are staying in shape and working you chops (Writing every day).
And so it goes – “You get kicked down. You come up swinging. You keep going.”
Whether your passion is to pen the “Great American Novel” or to tap dance your way onto 42nd Street – the same things happen over and over again, but you keep going. I know performers who have been knocking on that Show Biz door for more than 30 years. They’ve had a sniff of the Perfume of Success now and then but they have never hit it big and maybe never will – but they don’t quit. They are on Day Job #75, but they are still out there, doing what they love, keeping at it, coming up swinging when they get kicked down.
Never giving up.