“I walk a lonely road; the only one that I have ever known
Don’t know where it goes, but it’s home to me and I walk alone.
I walk alone, I walk alone.”
– Green Day, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”
I think we can agree that this post has probably the most depressing epigraph (and, possibly, topic) to date. Sorry about that.
I promise my next post on writing will cover the other end of the spectrum, “The Good of Being a Writer.” But I wanted to save that one for later, considering it’ll be longer and quite a bit more uplifting.
Here’s the annoying thing about life, in my opinion: no matter what that one thing is you love doing, there are always drawbacks tied to it. If you love acting, you need to rehearse countless times and recite the script until it’s etched into the walls of your brain. If you love teaching, you have to deal with annoying kids and (usually) a low salary. Most people find a middle ground that works, but it’s never perfect.
Writing—well, to get more specific, novel writing—is far from being a perfect ambition. I didn’t choose it, and I didn’t come up with the dozens of drawbacks that come with being an aspiring author. (Wouldn’t that be nice, though.) Both just hit me.
For starters, I’ll list as many said drawbacks as I can think of, then break them down:
- You make almost no money.
- The publishing industry isn’t a fair one.
- Writing well is so much harder than people think.
- As an aspiring author, people rarely take you seriously.
Alrighty, here we go.
You make almost no money
For me, this is the smallest of issues. Maybe it’s just because I’m young, but I couldn’t care less if I don’t make two cents off something that gets published. I write because I have stories I need to tell, and the reward of having people read those stories (and, for bonus points, enjoy them) is better than any paycheck I could ever get.
I hope I’m not the only one that feels this way. To me, the best kind of writing comes from true inspiration, rather than the urge to fulfill some official requirement or to roll in dollars. Odds are it won’t happen anyway.
The publishing industry isn’t a fair one
Yes, everyone who’s involved with writing, and some who aren’t, know this. But it’s still worth repeating. Every day, books that don’t deserve to be published hit the shelves, and stories that could probably have been bestsellers end up getting rejected. That’s just how it goes down. For me, that mostly just means I’m determined to make my own story as perfect as it can be. This won’t skyrocket my odds by any stretch, but it will improve them.
Writing well is so much harder than people think
I won’t dwell on this one too long, as there are countless other articles devoted to just this one issue. Countless books, even. So many people read a story, think, “I could do way better than that,” and sit down to try. Then when they can’t do better, they get frustrated. They can imagine what that perfect story is like, but it just seems impossible to convey, to group words together in the right way to sound awesome. Most people would argue that this is the most egregious problem when it comes to being an aspiring novelist. Unfortunately, I’m not most people, and my belief is that the last issue on my list is by far the greatest.
As an aspiring author, people rarely take you seriously
I should clarify this point, as it’s my strongest one of this post.
Okay, let’s try this out: Allow me to paint a picture for you.
Pick an amazing book. Any book. For the purposes of this, we’ll call it “Book X.” Book X is the newest phenomenon, with kids of all ages. The movie adaption is coming out soon, and you’ve already got your tickets for the midnight premiere tucked in your purse. Everyone at school is talking about Book X, and it’s become so popular that adults are starting to read it, too. It’s fun to talk about the characters, which parts are your favorite, how amazing the author is.
Quick pause: Which book are you thinking of? For me it’s “The Hunger Games,” but that’s completely beside the point. It doesn’t matter what book. It’s Book X.
As with most of your favorite stories, you parooze the internet for more info on Book X and its author. Then you read this really cool thing: the author, when writing Book X, was nowhere. No publishing creds, no leg-ups in the market, nothing. Just an author writing a story that they weren’t sure was even good. And the author, like many other authors, had tons of help in getting this project published. He/she had classmates read over query letters, teachers proofread chapters, and friends give pointers along the way. It was a group effort, and now that effort has become the newest phenomenon.
Touching tale, right? Now let’s look at it from another perspective.
Stick with me. I do have a point in this.
Rewind the clock a few years. Said author (I think it’s only fitting to call them “Author X”) is struggling with Book X. Like most authors, they’ve been working on it for a year or two…maybe even longer. They’ve beaten their head against the wall over this manuscript, metaphorically and literally.
I think we can all accept that no aspiring author can succeed alone. They need the help of others, whether it’s friends to edit or teachers to proofread or just people to support them. But the problem is, while you’re forced to think of your project as the next Book X, no one else can. It isn’t practical. In reality, when you ask people for help, some give it wholeheartedly. I know a few people in my case who have, mainly several friends who, back in tenth grade, read my first draft ever and told me two things: one, how bad it was; and two, how much potential it had.
Then there are some who help, and it’s great, but it’s only in passing. And it’s frustrating, because if only you could make them see! If only they knew how famous Book X would be one day, and how incredible of a story it would become! They would be scrambling to help you, dropping everything to help perfect the manuscript.
And, right around this point in your daydreaming, you come back to reality. You face the fact that not only is your project probably not the next Book X; but, furthermore, that you have to earn the right to be respected as a storyteller. Even by your friends. Especially by your friends.
When you’re a writer trying to go somewhere, all you want is for people to be on board with you, to be ready to do anything to help you finish up. But it doesn’t work that way, and it shouldn’t. Writing isn’t about people rallying to help you when you need it most. It’s about finding the strength to get your project done, whatever it takes. It’s about being pushed so you can be good enough, about earning the right to have those people rush to support you.
And that is the most difficult part of being an aspiring author.
In my opinion, anyway.