So many new writers have barely put pen to page when they start asking about how to find an agent or get published. They don’t want to hear that this is like trying to whip the cart down the road while the horse is off, cantering around the fields.
That first they must learn what it means to love writing for itself.
To revere it, actually.
If you want to be a writer, not just a hack, you’ve got to make writing top of your heap. It has to be, or become, more important to you than two of the following: money, family or friends.
It definitely has to be more important than TV.
You’ve got to do the work. Lay down sentences and paragraphs, like an athlete lays down miles. Put words through your fingers, like a musician drums scales. Go on your metaphorical knees to the mystery of inspiration, like a priest before an altar.
You’ve got to have daily practices that cocoon and strengthen your inner self, keeping it safe from the buffeting of outer distractions — and publication can be one of the noisiest of those distractions. (I recommend F-R-E-E-Writing and Inspiration Meditation as two of the most effective practices.)
As you forge your connection to the act of writing, you will find yourself making vows: “I’m going to write every day”; “I’m going to write 5000 words every week until I have a first draft”, “I’m going to finish the book by Christmas”.
Vows you will inevitably break.
You will work harder than you have ever worked at anything else and see yourself fall short. You will read back words that took weeks or months to get right — and hate every word of it. You will feel in your core what Iris Murdoch meant when she said: “Every book is the wreck of a perfect idea.”
You will feel resentful that nobody cares.
But you’ll come back round again.
Because nobody out there asked you to do this. The call came from inside and that’s the bond you must strengthen.
That is what will enable you to forgive yourself for the broken vows and the work that never lives up to your vision.
That is what will bring you – dragging and screaming, probably – to a true understanding of what writing gives and what it asks in return.
And if, in that understanding, you come to realise there is nothing else for you, you just must write, that – and not getting a publisher or an agent – is what makes you a writer.
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