I’ve been writing for the past twenty-two years.
I’m twenty-four, now.
(Yeah, I started making up poetry before I could even physically form the written words. There was never that moment of what do I want to be when I grow up, because I already always knew what I was.)
And even so, even after all of this time and all of these little tales, part of me still feels like I’m just kidding myself here, in thinking that I can actually attempt to write professionally. But after having rolled all my objections around between my teeth for a good while, and having given it a good bit of thought, this is the approach I’ve finally decided to take.
If I fail at first, that’s okay. If I suck at first, that’s okay, too. I can forgive myself for that, and I can bounce back and keep moving forward.
What I couldn’t forgive myself for is not even trying at all.
Writing is not like most careers, where you go to school for x amount of years, come out with x kind of diploma or degree or certification, and then can suddenly prance merrily off on your happy little way to earn yourself a living, because you are now magically qualified to do so.
Writing does not work that way.
The only real school you’ve got, with writing, is sucking. You have to suck, and you have to keep sucking, because that’s the only way you can ever hope to learn. You suck. You get rejected. You stop and figure out why you were sucking and getting rejected, and then you go right back to work so you can fix it and start all over again.
Twenty-two years later, and I know I am still nowhere near where I could be or should be with my writing.
I don’t find this particularly daunting. I think it’s exciting.
Writing can be so much harder than most other careers, yes. But with writing, you also have almost limitless potential to improve. If you’ve got even a smidgeon of talent and the determination to go alongside it, you can hone it. And you can keep honing it. And keep honing it. And keep honing it until you have something valuable, something you can make a career of, and then you just keep honing it even after that so you do not grow stagnant.
You can always be relevant, and marketable, so as long as your heart is in it and you fucking try. With writing, you can guarantee that you are never obsolete. “Job security” is a bleeding joke otherwise, but that one little thing right there makes it worth it, to me. You can get out of it what you put in.
And I am okay with that.
I am okay with the fact that, inevitably, not everyone is going to like you, or the stories you tell, or the way that you tell them. It’s just a part of storycraft, as natural as the sucking. It happens. You deal. You blare Rick Astley if you need to, but you keep going, and you don’t give it up.
You listen to your muse, first and foremost, and not to anyone else. (Unless you’re lucky enough to have those rare special friends and peers who can also act as your muses, in which case you should listen to them, as well.) You trust your muse.
I’ve always felt like stories come through me, rather than from me; I am nothing but a conduit, a vessel, and as such, my muse has a much better grasp on this whole thing than I do. When he’s happy, when the story feels like it has been told to his satisfaction, that’s when I’ll know it’s ready, that the story is actually what it’s supposed to be.
If some other people don’t like it, oh well. Your main committment should always be, first and foremost, to the story itself. If it’s ready and you have let it become what it needs to be, I promise you, there is someone out there who would hold it in their hands and think, Yes.
Not everyone. But someone. You’ll make someone smile; you’ll make someone feel.
And, really, do you need more than that? Isn’t that enough?
Don’t you believe in the stories enough to believe that they deserve to be told, no matter what?