“You’ll never make a living writing novels.” “A friend of mine writes books but I don’t know if anyone really buys them.” “Haven’t you been writing that book for a long time now?” “I don’t think people read anymore.”
I’ve heard these negative comments and many more. I’m not sure why people feel the need to say these things to me (or anyone). It’s clear I love writing books and spend a fair amount of my time on them. But the naysayers surround all of us. They are the little critical nabobs who sap the energy of our lives and who seem happy when we fail.
At first, I’m afraid I listened to these comments and perhaps internalized them at times. Years and years went by before I had the courage to attempt a novel. Finally, I dipped a toe in the water with the outline of a novel, and found nothing terrible happened. I then ventured up to my ankles and ghost-wrote a memoir for an HP executive, even as sharks circled with their faint praise. At this point, however, positive voices chimed in and balanced them out. I clung to this life raft and launched myself forward. My first novel took shape. The joy I’ve felt since then is indescribable.
Writing a novel is an act of bravery. Ask any writer. Although I can devour a book in a day, writing a novel takes a tremendous amount of time. (I’ve been tinkering with one manuscript for seven years.) It can take another year to edit the manuscript and, if you’re very lucky, find a publisher or prepare it for self-publishing. Then the world rushes in to tell you what they think of your hard work. A different type of critic will enter your life – strangers who demand value for their money. Not everyone is going to love what you do. Fending off those naysayers becomes part of the process.
More often than not, I need to remind myself of the reason I write. Not for praise, not for money, not for bragging rights or any other external reason. I return often to the beginning – to my love of fiction and the pursuit of telling a good story.
Accomplishing this drowns out the loudest critics. External rewards only go so far. To persevere, you have to dig deep and cling to the reason you started in the first place. Whatever you do, keep on swimming.