If you want to be a writer …
I’m getting very pissed off with a certain kind of behaviour in some of the writers I come into contact with, and I blame two things: the garrett myth and the Creative Writing degree. The first says we have to suffer for decades over our art and the second teaches students to spend a whole term polishing one piece of work.
I’ve recently spent time with a talented writer whose output for the past eighteen months is two stories. Two. Neither of which is ‘ready’.
What does she mean by ready?
She doesn’t think she’s worked them over enough, they could still be improved, she doesn’t want an editor to see them yet, it could be death to her career.
I actually asked her – what career?
She seemed puzzled.
How many stories, I asked, had she seen published in the past two years.
How many stories had she had published at all?
That’s not a career, it’s a hobby.
The hot and exhausting process of writing is NOT THE SAME THING as the cool, analytic process of revising what you’ve written. Neither of them are anything like the panicky, long-term process of submitting your work for publication. To have a writing career you have to invest in all three – you have to accept that at some point your work gets exposed to the editor’s eye – you must come to terms with the fact that editors will give you commentary that requires you to tailor your perfect prose to their needs or withdraw your story.
Writing is not a solo exercise. Until you start sending it out, you’re not a writer. And to send it out … you have to write it.