Help for the Hopeless
Copyright © 2003 by Angela Booth
You want to write.
BUT --- how do you deal with that gnawing frustration that keeps churning away in your heart that it is all hopeless?
If the definition of insanity is to keep doing what's not working in the confident expectation that it WILL work, then writers and other creatives are nuts.
When you're a writer, you write and you market your work. That's it. It's exactly the same process for Stephen King as it is for Stephen Brand-New-Writer. You dig a hole and you keep digging until they bury you in it or you hit a gold mine.
That's what makes a life in the arts so challenging. If you're a creative, you create, and you sell. That's all. This counter-intuitive process leads many writers on an endless quest for the "secret". There has to be something else, they think. It's too simple. There has to be more to selling your work than that.
The bad news is that there is no more to it. And that's also the good news.
Every word you write
Create your own Opportunities
That's easy enough to take advantage of. Write every day. Write constantly.
I know. You've heard it all before, you're sick of hearing it. You dont want to write every day until you get some guarantees that it's not all for nothing. After all, your partner has threatened to throw the computer out the window, and you want some semblance of a normal social life before you die.
It's true, every word you write makes you a better writer, and you dont get to be a better writer without putting in the time writing those words. Dig out some old files. Go back five years, if you've been writing that long. If you've been writing for less than five years, go back and read your first efforts. Does your beginning work make you cringe?
Your improvement has been incremental. The more you write, the better your writing gets.
|You can feel better about the writing you do for practice if you are at least helping someone else. |
Volunteer to write the bulletin for your church. The immediate feed back you get can do wonders for improving your work.
Volunteer to help the elderly write their letters, to the bank, to their insurance company, to their children. Volunteer to help one or more of them to write stories from their youth, and publish them locally, or even create a little book just for them to distribute to their family.
Volunteer to help the unemployed write their resume. Just walk right into the unemployment office and ask for the use of a desk on one specific day of the week or month. You should be surprised at how welcome the mat is they throw out for you.
Go walking down the street in the business section offering to help write a publicity release for free which will be published locally. If it isn't published locally, have a Kinko's type store print it out for you on colored stock and let the store owner pass it out to customers.
Look for magazines or web sites that only give a byline. Then work your way up through those who only pay a stipend. Above all, KEEP WRITING.
Along with writing, you should also read and study other writers. Take writing courses. The big benefit of a writing course is that you're forced to write.
But that's not enough.
Here comes the bad news. Selling is often a matter of luck. New writers like to believe that editors and agents are super-human beings who know everything. They certainly know better than writers. (Big wry smile.)
Editors and agents have problems even as you and I do. They have jobs to do, and they want to do them as easily and as quickly as they can, with the least amount of hassle. This means that when you send an article proposal to a magazine and another writer sends a similar idea, if the publication has worked with him before, he gets the job. It may not be fair, but to the magazine he's a known quantity. They know what to expect with him. On the other hand, if there's a book on the topic and the agent calls to offer the serial rights for less than it would cost to hire either of you, you both lose out.
Rejection is a fact of the creative life. Many genre novelists have written ten complete novels before the first one sold, and that sale was often a matter of luck. That novel was in the right place at the right time, so to speak. Let's see, at 80 to 100 thousand words per novel, that's close to a million words, before a single word sold. Of course, once a novel sells, the editor and the writer's agent will encourage the writer to dig out those past efforts, revamp them, and chances are they will be published too. (So if you're filling a couple of filing cabinets with unsold manuscripts, take heart. Look on them as your retirement fund. :-))
Many writers have to continue for years, doing what isnt working. They have no guarantee that it will EVER work. But if they stop digging that hole, they'll never strike gold.
How to survive until you sell (and forever afterward)
Firstly, dont forget to trust the process. It works. You create, and you market your work. That's all.
However, you also must:
* keep up with what's selling, so that youre not selling a bicycle in the rocket age. This doesnt mean you hop on every passing bandwagon. Trust yourself. If you're writing a multi-generational family saga-type novel and only chicklit Bridget Jones clones are selling, keep writing. The wheel turns. If you write from your heart, you will sell;
* get a life aside from your writing. If you refuse to live your life, your creative well will soon dry up. Keep living and keep writing. If you cant yet support yourself with your writing, take heart. Look on your day job as material. For a writer, everything is material;
* take chances. Write what's fun for you --- or whats painful for you. Take whatever happens to you, and use it. It's all material. If you've been writing for ten years and havent sold a word, write about that. (I'm not kidding);
* have fun with your writing. Never get so keyed up to sell, sell, sell that you stop enjoying what you're doing. At least 80 per cent of your writing must be writing you'd do for pleasure, even if they weren't paying you. I enjoy copywriting, it's a game to me, and I get as much enjoyment out of writing copy as I do out of crossword puzzles. Find out what you enjoy writing, and focus your efforts on that.
* try new stuff. Investigate other kinds of writing you might enjoy.
Our free Your EveryDay Write ezine helps you to investigate new formats for your work. It also helps you to keep your writing fun, and to stay motivated. We've covered topics ranging from pre-writing to self-esteem:
Or send a blank email to:
To sell your writing, keep doing what's not working --- yet.
One day, maybe TODAY,
it will work,
so keep digging that hole.
Other offers from Angela: Whether you're a writer, designer, artist or photographer, you'll find information here which will help you to expand your creativity, while helping you to make money from your talent. (And be your own boss, working from home.)
free courses :: e-books :: books :: reports :: creatives club :: join creatives club :: resources :: digital-e blog :: newsletters :: creative small biz :: csb archive :: your everyday write :: freelance copy write :: online store :: special offers :: writing coaching :: editorial services :: copywriting services :: what's new :: media releases :: links :: feedback ::
To read more articles by Angela Booth, visit the Digital- e Web site--Information for writers and creatives. Ebooks, free ezines, Creatives Club. Love to write? Turn your talent into a business! http://www.digital-e.biz/
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