The Dream of Becoming a Writer

Here is #37!

I had a killer headache today. Bad enough that it made me nauseous, and I had to take some time off from work. I’m feeling a bit better now, and I’m going to try and get my work done tonight. Before that, I want to talk about this post I saw on Bluesky.

Here is the direct link, since I wasn’t able to embed it.

I didn’t respond to Mr. Cargill or any of the other people in that thread. It is some sweet encouragement that people need to hear, and I’m not a monster.

But maybe I’m a little bit monstrous, because I have opinions on every sentence in the message. Let’s break them down one at a time.

“Your dream of becoming a writer isn’t stupid.”

Agreed. It is not stupid. If you’re thinking that you can write a book and throw it online, and money will suddenly fill your bank account, you’re being overly optimistic. But writing is all it takes to be a writer, and writing is not stupid. Writing is awesome. Writing is life.

“It isn’t unreachable. It isn’t a pipe dream. And it isn’t a waste of time.”

It’s relatively easy to become an author. The bar to entry is low. And, it isn’t a pipe dream or a waste of time to hope for the ability to sustain yourself on your writing. There are lots and lots of people that are doing exactly that, and between you, me, and the monitors between us, you’re a more talented writer than a lot of people that are making it.

Pursuing a career as a writer isn’t as outlandish as pursuing a career as an astronaut. It doesn’t take the same kind of investment as becoming a doctor or a lawyer. You won’t be gated by any physical limitation.

Let’s take a moment and separate writing from making money as a writer. As I’ve been witness to for a while now, these are different skillsets. Writing is about crafting a story. It’s pulling something from your imagination, shaping it with words and phrases externally, and refining it over and over until the fully realized narrative from your mind is translatable into the hearts and minds of another reader. That’s writing, and it’s wonderful. I will always encourage everyone — including you — to write.

Making a career out of writing is different. You have to be willing and able to talk with other people, starting with your agent or editor. Those are the first people you have to sell your book to, and if you succeed, you’ll have to find readers and sell to them, too. Along those lines, you have to advocate for yourself, knowing and protecting your rights as you bind the product of your work into a contract for print, production, and distribution. You have to manage your online presence and your brand, whether you have a dozen readers or a hundred thousand.

I encourage everyone to write, but I don’t necessarily encourage everyone to become a full-time writer. When I look at my effectiveness as a professional writer, I question whether or not I have a future in this field. I’ll always write, but there is no guarantee that I’ll ever be able to sustain myself with this thing that I love.

“Don’t believe anyone that tells you that it is. They’re drawing from their failed dreams, not yours.”

You should protect your heart and maintain hope. And, you should look at the motivation of those that might discourage you.

On the other hand, for those people like me that are offering a warning, not all of us are doing so from a place of despair or jealousy. As far as I’m concerned, my dream isn’t failed. I’m still working on it, and I’m many, many years into this effort. And I think it is a kindness to prepare young writers for the long journey ahead.

If you’re dream is to put out one book and be an overnight success, with enough money to quit your job and work full time as a writer, then you’re probably being a little unrealistic and you might want to prepare for some disappointment. If, on the other hand, you’re ready to write the next book when the first one doesn’t catch, and then write the next one, and then the next, you might make it.

It takes a great deal of luck to hit it big. The numbers are not in your favor, and it has very little to do with the quality of your writing. Sometimes the timing is all wrong. Sometimes things take off. Sometimes it’s a mystery when they do. Hugh Howie talked about Wool becoming an unexpected hit, because he had a lot of different efforts books out at the time, and Wool wasn’t the one he was promoting the hardest.

It doesn’t take as much luck to hit it medium. I know several romance writers that make a living by just consistently and frequently putting out stories. Some of them are making more than I am. They don’t have names as recognizable as Stephen King, Danielle Steele, or Bandon Sanderson, but they have a core group of fans and they’re selling a lot of books.

In the end, I’m not disagreeing with C. Robert Cargill. This is more of a footnote to his necessary and correct encouragement. If I were to rephrase his advise, I would say something like:

Be audacious in your dreams of becoming a writer, because you can make it, and it is a worthwhile journey. But as you turn that dream into a goal, remember that the road is not always smooth, and the end is not always in sight. Keep going. And also remember that the only way to fail is to never take a step down the road in the first place.

2 thoughts on “The Dream of Becoming a Writer

  1. I would add “And find your writing ‘village’ that will support you and your writing dream. Going at it alone can make the journey feel hopeless.”

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