2.20.2007

When to give up

At what point does one simply give up? When does one say to oneself "I can't write, and I'm wasting my life doing so?"


Never.

Publication may be nice but it's not the only reward.

The very act of writing is its own reward. It teaches you (if you pay attention) how to see the world through different eyes; how to wield language skilfully; how to organize a persuasive presentation.

You recognize that writing is a creative art and brings you joy.

You recognize that doing something difficult over and over again, and trying your utmost to improve is a worthy endeavor even if you fall short of your goal.

You recognize that these moments of despair or frustration or fear are part of the process, and will make the achievement of your goal just that much sweeter.

65 comments:

Philippa said...

I wonder whether the real question was "At what point to I give up trying to get published?" Is there an answer to that?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the inspiring advice. You have no idea how much some of us newbies needed to hear that!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

Beautiful response Miss Snark.

I love to write. Being able to make a living doing it is another story. Working on my first novel has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

Anonymous said...

I think if you can quit, you should. Why torture yourself?

kitty said...

And sometimes when you're at those "moments of despair or frustration or fear," you are on the brink of a breakthrough.

Shell said...

Miss Snark, you spoke directly to my heart today. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

When you get blocked by constant rejections and setbacks, writing feels like a dead end. You can't put a sentence together without criticism but when you don't write, it gnaws away at your peace of mind.

I found a way out of depression by commenting on sites like this and Evil Editor's. There's no pressure to be perfect or to 'win' and it's fun. I entered competitions, joined on-line groups (suggested by the Snarklings), wrote to papers, scribbled notes to friends etc.

It's Spring. Breathe some fresh air. Feed the squirrels (sorry, KY, the red ones here are so-o-o cute). Plant bulbs...whatever it takes.

Kate Thornton said...

People, if you don't keep writing, you won't get any better at it.

Miss Snark is right (as usual) and there is more to writing than getting published.

And if you don't keep at it, how can you improve?

I think the point to quit is the point where you simply do not want to do it at all any more. But I hope you never get to that point.

Creative endeavor is never a waste of your life.

December Quinn said...

I agree with Anon 2. I quit smoking last month and it was an absolute piece of cake compared to the terror inspired by the thought of giving up writing.

Termagant 2 said...

I'd be willing to bet there aren't many writers who haven't thought about quitting. Who haven't thought, "I'll never measure up to XYZ author I admire, so why go through the pain?"

There isn't any joy without pain. Light and dark. Like life. If I could quit, I doubt that I would. There's too much payback for me. Every book I've written has changed me (for the better? check with my friends) in some small way. I wouldn't trade it.

But I do think about it.

T2

Angela said...

Beautifully said!
Thanks, I needed that!

Anonymous said...

I've been giving up at least twice a week for the past fifteen years. When I was forced to turn in my old Brother Electric seven years ago after my publisher refused hardcopy I thought for sure I'd give up. I've had tantrums because "they" spelled my name wrong, burned pages because an editor hacked me to a million pieces...even once flew to Amersterdam for the weekend on a whim to celebrate that I'd given up. I'll probably do it again at least once this week...But I'm still here; and I can always take those books down off the shelf to prove it.

marit83 said...

That was such an empowering statement.

I have been dealing with such an unforgivingly big and invisible writer's block since graduating a Creative Writing major two years ago. I have not been able to enjoy writing at all, and I think it was because I had accustomed myself to writing for deadlines that I forgot how to write for myself.

Your advice has helped me take a step in the write direction; to learn how to write for myself again.

Kara Lennox said...

Profound advice, Miss Snark.

I threaten to quit about once a year, but I know I couldn't.

You have to find joy in the process of writing itself. Publication is great, but publication will not make you happy. It's the doing, not the getting, that brings joy to your life.

The time to give up writing is when you no longer get joy and satisfaction from the process.

Sometimes taking a little break from writing is okay, though. Sometimes you have to let the creativity well fill up again.

Anonymous said...

Nonsense. The whole point of life is to be as rich and sexually attractive as possible. If you don't get a $750,000.00 advance from FS&G while you're still young enough to be a hot cover photo, then you should give up writing at once and try another angle.

billie said...

Thanks for the reminder that the process itself is the real work of writing. I know this, but at times it's easy to let it slide out of sight.

Kerry Allen said...

You can quit? What kind of medication do you take to silence the voices in your head that won't otherwise shut up until you commit them to paper?

Kim said...

I've also had those moments (usually following a rejection) where I think about chucking it all. It's too easy to think that your writing sucks, that you have no talent, and there's no hope of ever getting beyond the dreaded form letter.

However, those moments never last more than a day or two before I'm back at my computer. I can't imagine not writing. It's impossible. It's a part of who I am and I think that's true of every writer. The ones who can quit and walk away are the wannabes, who like the idea of being published, but don't have the inner drive to do what it takes.

I have stuff I know will never see the light outside of my office, and that's ok. I wrote it for me. If I never published again, I'd still write. I can't imagine it any other way.

E.S. Tesla said...

And here I was, hoping that James Patterson would just quit...






kidding, reallyy......

The Grump grumps. said...

How does a writer give up writing aka "creating worlds"? Just curious, because I've had the "itch" for decades. It gets very annoying if I don't create -- and non-fiction doesn't scratch it.

I've just finish my 350,000 word novel (aka trilogy), the first project I've completed in decades. For those of you still trying to get to the ending, believe me the experience is soul-warming -- even if you never sell it.

katiesandwich said...

It's not about the destination, it's about the journey. That quote perfectly describes the writing process for me. I want to be published, I do. And the exhilaration I'll feel when I finally see my name on a cover, when I read my words on bound pages, will be greater than I can imagine, I'm sure. But I don't write because I think it would be cool to see my name on a book cover; I write because I love it. The title "Published Author" and all the squishy, happy elation that goes with it is just a nice side effect of what I do. Doing what you're passionate about is never a waste of your life. Without passion, what's there to live for?

Joelle said...

I think a lot of people (myself included when I started) think that because they love to write, they should be able to do it well from the beginning. Sure, I could write a great term paper in college, but it has taken me 14 YEARS, yes YEARS to finally get to the point where I have an agent who might want to rep me and editors that answer my emails. It's not that I'm lame, or stupid, or even not very good. I had to LEARN how to write a novel because I'd never written one before and novels are not term papers. People (myself included) who want to write often start submitting the second they've finished anything. You would not book yourself into a concert hall to play a piano concert once you'd learned one song and only been playing seriously for a few months, even if you'd been messing around on the piano your whole life. Go easy on yourself and take some classes, workshops, and read, read, read.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Amen.

Jenn said...

I come to this site ocassionally because it's informative and someday I'd like to be ready to sent my ramblings to someone like you. But reading this post has given me a whole new respect for you. I'm both awed and inspired by what you've written.

Anonymous said...

"At what point do I give up trying to get published?" Is there an answer to that?

The answer is, that's up to you. Only you can decide of writing brings you more pain than pleasure, and you'd rather be spending your time doing something else.

I know writers who've quit--but found they couldn't stay away for long. I also know writers who've taken a break from writing, and come back with renewed energy and enthusiasm.

sognatrice said...

Aw, brava Miss Snark! And Kitty, your comment reminded me of one of my favorite lines from Virginia Woolf's diary: "And I always remember the saying that at one's lowest ebb one is nearest a true vision."

kathryn magendie said...

Oh, bravo, Ms. Snark - listen to her advice...

I know publishing is supposed to be the end-all, the grand-all, the Oh I've Made It-all - but I will tell you this: it is never enough. Iknow from my bit of experience so far--You can publish somewhere and think "I've done it!" and then comes the thought, "But I must do more to be called a writer..."

And the cycle starts -there is always that "thing" you have to reach to feel as if you are successful. And I don't think it ever ends for writers --even the Stephen Kings and the Grishams (though they have much to be satisfied and brag about I suppose).

Here's something else--find your niche, find that thing - that "voice" we're always talking about - its inside you, it is-as cliche'd as that sounds. You'll know when you hit it, because you will think, "Ah, there it is..." and the words come and you are happy.

Make yourself happy first -write for yourself first, and the rest be-damned. Maybe after you find that place, your voice, your writing will feel more comfortable, and maybe if you want to then, you can find ways to express yourself so that others can respond to it--blogs for instance, or small online zines, or letters (oh, the forgotten letter that is mailed with love) to family and friends(don't throw anything at me here everyone!)

Never ever ever ever NEVER give up something you love, or that makes you happy, or gives you peace, or makes you feel as if things are "right" with you.

I write because I have to - sometimes I hate how it clings to me, this want want want- and even then I am compulsed to do it, but most times it is the greatest GD feeling in the whole GD world -I can't imagine not writing -never. I can't imagine my world without my words. Do you feel this way? then write. Do you feel even a bit like this? then write. Even if you don't know what you feel-then write.

Anonymous said...

Never. Yeah!!!!!!!!!

desert snarkling said...

Thank you, Miss Snark.

Anonymous said...

Maybe our questioner was meant to be a painter? Perhaps she or he is hiding from her life's work of painting because he thinks it's easier to be a novelist (and know what pronouns to use ;-) )?

Or perhaps they were meant to sail boats ... anyway, it seems to me that it's kind of an individual thing. I don't really argue with Miss Snark on this -- it's the kind of answer I give when people ask why study calculus. It teaches one to think clearly and that's worth a lot. :-) [Besides, math is fun. ;-) ]

Diane said...

When I was studying arts administration I remember a very wise lecturer telling us that every artist needs 'creative dissatisfaction.' Yes, they love what they have created initially, but then the dissatisfaction creeps in - the urge to do better and more. I'm sure this applies to writers as well as visual artists.

At 15 I wrote a really bad novel but kids at school were hanging out for the next chapter. A teacher from another school read it, and wrote me a letter which included the advice to never stop writing.

But I did stop. Three years of an English/Theatre Studies degree,reading a classic novel a week, and churning out the literary criticism instilled a fear that I could never emulate these writers, and how dare I even consider it? All my creativity was gone.

Seven years ago I moved out of the rat race and found my writers group (www.nvwg.blogspot.com). Now I'm learning and honing the craft, I've just been advised that I came second in a short story competition and I'm reaching the point where I will be brave enough to submit.

Thanks, Miss Snark for your inspirational post. I will be taking it to my writers group meeting on Saturday to refer them to your site (especially for our newer members).

Maya Reynolds said...

Kate said, "If you don't keep writing, you won't get any better at it."

She's absolutely right, but there's another piece of the equation that needs saying.

I had an employee once who castigated me for promoting another employee over her. She said, "I have twenty years of experience, and he only has four."

I responded, "No, you have one year of experience twenty times. You have completely ignored my suggestions for improvement, and you refuse to go to classes to update your skills."

Both Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein have been credited with saying: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

I was fortunate enough to have three published writers who critiqued my work at different stages of its progress. Each savaged me (in a very loving way) and, after each experience, I put my manuscript aside and took a break. A week or so later when my wounds had healed, I went back and looked at their comments. They were right. I listened and learned. I rewrote and I kept at it.

Eventually, it paid off.

If writing is both a journey and a destination, you have to stop periodically to make sure you're on the right road so that you don't end up in a swamp somewhere wondering where you went wrong.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Oh, hogwash and stinky male goats!

Quit! Give it up! I do it all the time.

It's okay to give up writing. I know. It's part of my makeup to give it up at least once a week. It makes me happy to give it up. It's a form of stress-relief. It allows me to reassess where I am with my writing. I've found that most of my problems aren't with writing; they're with querying. If I have a writing problem, it's finding an idea I can take to its finish.

I'm a lot like Jeremiah, the prophet. He suffered a professional crisis: "And I said: 'I will not mention Him, and I shall speak in his name no more.' And in my heart it proved a burning fire encased in my bones; and I got tired of holding in." For a sometimes-frustrated writer, this is a familiar feeling. You share it? Fine! Quit. At least for a day.

[Oh, and that quotation from Jeremiah is from Jeremiah 20:9. The translation is my own. Didn't know Pixies could do that, I bet.]

Anonymous said...

I've never left a comment on your blog before, and I've been reading it for years. Tears sprang to my eyes as I read the entry and your lovely response. I've felt like this snarkling so many times. The same urge to quit doesn't just come up in writing...it occurs to me at work after a lousy day, or when I'm not the mother I want to be to my young son. I want to give up so badly, to run away and change my name, join a circus, throw in the towel. The simple act of not doing so is the only claim I'll ever have to heroism. If we don't have anything else as writers, we can have this: let's all swear a solemn oath to be too dumb to know when we're licked. Miss Snark, thank you for not giving up on us, and not letting us give up on ourselves.

Anonymous said...

I have been trying to quit for years, but it just won't take. I've finally become resigned to the fact that I'm stuck with being a writer.

ec

Twill said...

Here I have to part with Miss Snark. The correct answer is "Give up if you Can."

No real writer can. Does that answer your question?

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Dear Anon of the last sort:

Tomás de Torquemada loved maths of all sorts. ... You're in good company, I suppose.

I understand he was also unfailingly accurate when using pronouns.

Anonymous said...

Here's one thing: quitting isn't permanent. People talk about it like it's a huge once-and-for-all lifetime renunciation, but it's not. If you want to quit, then do. You can always un-quit if and when you want to - an hour later, a month later or a decade later - and whatever you did in between might end up helping your writing.

I wrote all through my childhood and my teens, quit to do acting, then sort of wandered back into writing years later because I had an idea that I didn't want to let go. Now I'm writing full-time. First book out next month.

Manic Mom said...

Wow. So good. I am not 'feeling' the second novel I'm trying to write but I think it's because I am not currently writing it. I think I will learn more as I go along and the lightbulb will switch on.

Either that, or I can still just hang around reading advice from literary respectables.

Like I even have a clue what I'm trying to say here. I should.. .whatever. I should just go back to the IM I was engaged in with Swishy where we were discussing who would be good in bed, and Clooney's like #1 on our list (aside from my husband, I guess).

Ah, the joys of procrastination.

Ron said...

No, Miss Snark is utterly and completely wrong on this one.

All of you: give up writing now. Stop writing and stop submitting.

That way MY query will finally get the attention it deserves. And if there weren’t so many books in bookstores, then book-starved people would have no choice but to buy MY book and I’ll sell billions… BILLIONS I say!

Bwahahahahaha…

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark's answer is beautiful, and I'm glad that this is the answer she gave.

But I'd like to play devil's advocate. The desire to write is a strange and dangerous drug.

For those of you who want to write, and so do write, and make time in your life to write fairly regularly, then well and good. This drug is your tonic.

It sounds as if the person who wrote the question perhaps belongs in the above category.

But: I am sure I am right in thinking that there is an unhappy horde of aspirants who _think_ they want to write, have a terribly powerful drive to express themselves ... but never actually sit down and write anything meaningful.

I put my hand up, I'm probably one of them. :-/

We perhaps eke out half a short story now and again, which we tinker with over months or even years. Perhaps we draft out a couple novel plans. But it never leads to anythng truly fruitful.

Instead, we are filled with a hungry, unending desire; a sense of energy diffused; and a foreboding that our wall-banging desire to become a writer - published or not - is going to warp our personalities, shadow our relationships with our real, fleshandblood loved ones, and leech our necessary careers of impetus and success.

And yet still this desire does not waver. Whether due to ego or whatever, the addiction remains strong while there flesh remains weak.

I'd just like to argue that maybe there does come a time to remember that life is short and precious, give away your 25 how-to-write books to another aspiring scribbler, and go get some fresh air and vigorous exercise instead.
Reality can rock, too.

Does that strike a chord with anyone else here? Or am I being too negative? Perhaps you are all fruitful and accomplished writers... *slinks off, after friendly greeting to KY*

Imelda said...

Or, you know, you could just go and play the bongos.

I agree that publishing is not the be-all and end all, but if your creative outlet is giving you grief, let it go. If you want it in your life, you will come back, probably rejuvenated for the break. In the meantime, do something else fun. As someone else said, paint, sail, bake (me), play bongos (also me).

And if voices in your head bother you, you could try storytelling. It is a way of sharing stories without putting them on paper. I have been a storyteller for 15 years and I have never once written down a told story. I find it liberating, as a form. It's still stories, but a different medium and maybe different is what you need.

Also, if you do want to keep writing, by the sound of your letter, I would walk away right now from every crit group, assessment service and even well-meaning beta readers and just write for yourself. Find out what happens when you turn off the critics, external and internal and find your story. It may be something completely wonderful.

Or, you could just go and play some bongos.

Good Luck, Imelda

katiesandwich said...

Looking at the comments, I have to add something else. No, there's nothing wrong with quitting if you just don't want to do it anymore. And I agree that quitting can be temporary (I take days off when the creativity fountain runs dry, and until about five years ago, I just dabbled in writing whenever I felt the pull), but this writer asked if this was a waste of his or her life. And I say no. Not if you really love it. Quit temporarily, but if you still want to write, then do it. Even if not for a publisher, do it for you.

Melting Snow said...

If you really think you're wasting your life, then STOP WHAT YOU'RE DOING. That doesn't necessarily mean that you're 'giving up'--you're going on hiatus. As an anonymous blogger said, 'giving up' isn't a permanent condition.

Self-torture works for some people (me), but can't be sustained for long periods of time.

If you're not productive, you need to step away and find inspiration. If you're in N. America, spring is coming!

A Naughty Miss said...

Well... The only reason I bother with this whole writing thing is so I can just get rich, buy my own island, and retire...and then I can finally have more time to do something that will provide a more immediate sense of reward, like painting cathedral ceilings and such.

Newbie Snarkling said...

I have printed that and pinned it to the wall. Thank you Miss Snark.

harrietcat said...

I agree, don't give up! If your only goal is getting published, well, that's a recipe for frustration. If you want to get your writing out there, seek other opportunities. I live in a city where there are always "open mike" short story and poetry nights at various bookshops...critique groups...if you can't find one, start your own! (easier said than done if you live in, say, rural Idaho, I know, but the point is, publication is not your only outlet.)

I heart Miss Snark btw. A virtual cookie for Killer Yapp too!

B.E. Sanderson said...

Thanks, Miss Snark, and thanks to all the positive commenters here. You guys made my day. =oD

And to the original writer: Take heart. You're not alone. (Obviously since so many people have commented here.) Give yourself a hug, take a breather. Write some little things - shorts and scenes and characterizations. You'll catch your stride again. Honest.

Anonymous said...

What's so terrible about only writing to be published? I've had 3 books published. The first was a labour of love but the others were definately for the money and so are the one's I'm shopping around now. Being interested in money doesn't mean you are a bad writer and pure motives don't guarantee good prose.

I gave up writing fiction for 20 years. It wasn't a good move because I've lost a lot of my contacts, but during those 20 years I found plenty of other creative outlets. In fact I got back into it by writing sketch comedy for a group of actors.

As someone else posted, life's too short. If the pain is really greater than the pleasure take a good long break and see if you miss it.

Kathleen said...

Hear, hear! If you keep honoring intangibles, Miss Snark, and go so far as to allow creative writing a potential existence as beauty and art sans query letters, you might need to qualify your name and reputation.

harrietcat said...

There's nothing "terrible" - or even slightly bad - about writing with the goal of publication. And certainly nothing wrong with writing for the money, if you can earn any. But I do think it's good motivation to have an outlet for your writing that's somewhat under your control - hence the idea about going to readings or starting a writing group. Gives you something to think about other than your rejection collection (mine's rather extensive...) AND you can get feedback on your work, so you can improve on it and up your chances of publication.

kathryn magendie said...

Or....it could be like today, when my moody writer's mind is at its most moodyliscious and I want to tell you "oh, never mind what I said...QUIT! STOP WRITING NOW!" Don't torture yourself! Run away from it before you become some sort of word whore!

I hold two rejections in one hand, and a contract for an acceptance in the other-and the acceptance even pays a little bit--but those two rejections are for something I consider "important" and they feel heavy heavy -oh so heavy next to the acceptance- and oh, I hate the whiny writer - ugh ugh. I detest myself right now in all my angsty glory.

And today, just a scant day away from yesterday, I am tired and stomping around the house and ready to throw it all away, but knowing I won't and I can't and ...dagumit but sometimes I really am sick of myself and my prostituting my words.

I want more and the little things aren't ever going to be enough - and that, my friend, is not a pleasant feeling-it can be downright uncomfortable at times--it wars with the side of me I wrote about yesterday-the side who writes because she must and wants to and always will...then the word whore side of me laughs and spits and juts out her claws to tear her way up up up to where she wants to go.

So, ignore my advice from yesterday--quit quit quit!

and then when you do, and its excrutiating, when your gut is on fire and your brain is too full and your fingers ache to touch the keys and the blank page taunts you and you toss and turn and just can't stand it anymore...then you come home.

desert snarkling said...

What's so terrible about only writing to be published?

Only that it's an inefficient way to make a living if you don't have the love, too.

If you love writing, then getting paid buys you a little bit of time to write more instead of only focusing on making a living.

If you don't love writing, there are many other, better-paying fields in other areas that you also don't love.

Anonymous said...

Just what I needed to hear!
Thanks

Karen said...

Thank you! I printed this out and put it on my wall. Just what I needed.

Moneylove said...

Writing, like anything else, is 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration. In the beginning, you do it for love, but the rest of the time, it's work.

If you're writing for publication, the question whether or not you have a particular skill--the ability to string together a cohesive narrative many, many times.

The underlying question you may be asking is: Does it get any easier? Many well-known writers say it gets harder. Can you live with that?

Nichola said...

To all those who say publication is not important - stop submitting your manuscript. I dare you. Just stop. Never send it to another agent or publisher.

No?

Thought not.

Miss Snark didn't say publication was NO reward; she just said it wasn't the ONLY one. Do I write for publication? Of course I bloody do! Being paid to do something I love would be the ultimate validation and if that makes me a sell-out...well, I don't care.

Would I still write if I knew I'd never be published? Probably, but I sure wouldn't write as much, as often, because I'd have to be out there looking for a 'proper' job.

If someone could tell me whether or not I'll be published one day that would make my future a lot easier to plan for, but I think it's the uncertainty that puts doubt in so many people's minds. Is it worth trying to be published? Should I just treat writing as a hobby instead?

Not knowing's the worst. You're striving for an uncertain goal, the achievement of which depends on the approval (and acceptance) of others.

Zen of Writing said...

"You recognize that doing something difficult over and over again, and trying your utmost to improve is a worthy endeavor even if you fall short of your goal."

The path is the destination.

Anonymous said...

If someone told me I'd never be published again, I would stop writing immediately. I've read a lot of writers on various sites saying if you are able to give it up then you are not really a writer. But as far as I'm concerned it's like playing Lady Macbeth to your bathroom mirror, just not satisfying. The writer must have an audience just as the actor must have an audience because it's a two way street between writer and reader, the noise of one hand clapping. Otherwise you might just as well keep and diary, and even then people want to see their priceless thoughts in print.

I think Miss Snark is correct in so much as if you have talent, you should persevere. We all know how many times JK Rowling was turned down. The problem is, how do you know if you have any talent? You only have to watch the American Idol auditions to see the power of self-delusion when it comes to our own talent. So I would say, join writers groups, write, read, query and if the rejections are still coming thick and fast, try another style or genre and query again. If you are still getting form rejections and not friendly notes from agents and publishers then perhaps it is time to think, 'am I wasting my time?'

Ted W. Gross said...

This post by Miss Snark served to remind me why I respect this blog so much, even when I don't agree with everything said.

From time to time even the snarky Queen of all Snarks, speaks with a heart and great passion. She also speaks with wisdom (and I do not use that word "wisdom" lightly).

For that alone Miss Snark gets a big snarky hug. :)

Teddy Cobwebs Of The Mind

Christopher M. Park said...

Personally, I write because I want to change the way people think about things--even if it's only little things sometimes. A rousing good story just isn't enough for me; it also has to have depth and provide meaning. It has to make the reader think.

This is the position from which I have always approached writing, and so the whole issue of being a "sellout" has always been a little strange to me. From this standpoint, I'd only ever be a sellout if I started writing things that proposed ideas that I didn't really believe. I don't have any intentions of doing that, so the fact that I might someday make money through publication doesn't make me feel unclean in the least.

I think the people who consider the rest of us sellouts are those who enjoy writing purely for the sake of the writing itself, and not as a means of communicating anything new. I guess. Otherwise, their position just doesn't make sense to me. Maybe they're mad because they can't write like Dickens or Poe and get published these days. Certain slower styles that were immensely popular in the past just don't sell now, and some writers can't get over that.

Fortunately, I don't have that problem, as it would seem most people here don't. I want to tell a story, convey some ideas, and create something that artistically resonates with me at the same time. As Miss Snark said, that's the important stuff, the journey is the destination, etc. But by the same token, I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't think that somebody was eventually going to read my work and be changed by it (whether or not they pay me).

Chris

My blog on writing

Kelly McCullough said...

Thanks for this. It provided the impetus I've been needing to write a post I'd been putting off. It's up over at the Wyrdsmiths writers group blog here and it goes in part like this:

Deciding Not to Quit...

It was a moment the Wyrdsmiths had all experienced at least once, and I suspect that almost any writer you talk to, no matter how well published, will be able to tell you about that moment...

About half of us are published novelists, and we've all been there.

kathryn magendie said...

Sometimes a writer has to decide what they are willing to accept, as well.

I write things for free--I write a regular column, twice monthly, and do stories, etc - all for free-and I'm getting read. (different from a blog, where you can write for free, and be "out there" - this is a publication that is printed and distributed by an editor/publisher/staff etc.)

I'll be starting another one in April-a regular column for a print pub and my fee payment will be very very small, not enough to even THINK of living on.

I have submitted stories and essays to some pub's that can't pay, or the pay is so small, I give it back to support the pub.

Some pay a bit more, but it is a one time thing.

Money is not the end-all issue for me (though it would be quite nice)--but, I am also lucky that I was able to quit my day job 2 years ago and write or not write or sit on my arse and contemplate the Great Smoky Mountains I see from my porch..ahhh.

I don't get the "Sell out" thing since I must have missed something - for to me, everyone has their own personal goals or reasons for doing everything.

I have a friend who has published three books and another in the works - she writes for the market, she admitted- "I write to be a success, to sell my books-that's it -its not about the writing,it's a business..." I'm probably somewhere on the opposite side of that-I write to please me and then I look up from my work, blink, and say "Hey!, will you publish this?"
Maybe I could sit down right now and write something for the "market," and I bet I'd get it published, because I'm a dagum good writer(laughing) - but, I'm talking about thriller/horror or romance or "matron-lit" type stuff that seems kind of easy to formulate(and that's the problem-formula -I'm too chaotic), but that's not me and I guess I'll never know where I'll go successwise by following my own as I do.

If you write with the idea you'll get lots-o-money and get to quit your day job - welllllll....don't quit your day job unless you have a means to/of support, for its few and few that get to do that, even "successes" still have to pay bills and work to do it.

I want to be read, sure, I WANT to be read...so, I'm willing to write for publications that can't pay me, or pay very little - just becuase I love it and because I know I'll be read by a lot of people --knowing that brings me a lot of pleasure.

If you want to write and get paid to do it, and wouldn't dream of doing it for free--then go for it! Like my friend did. It doesn't make one any less of anything.

desert snarkling said...

I think maybe too many people are assuming writing for pay and writing for oneself are mutually exclusive, too.

If we write what we love; if we work to make it better; if we take satisfaction from the work itself without knowing whether it will sell--these are all ways of producing books that are marketable, and just as marketable as books supposedly written just for the market.

It's not as if saying "the market needs this" and writing it is a guaranteed path to selling a book either, after all. Market-driven projects get rejected to, or fail to sell well once they're out there. A certain number of all books do.

And it's not like being passionate and caring about one's craft and throwing all one has into making the work the best it can be aren't things that help a work sell, too.

Only, if you do all that, you have a bit of your soul left if, like so many books written for so many reasons, yours turns out not to be one of the ones that sells.

Anonymous said...

I just sent an email to my writer friends telling them I was giving up. Then I signed on the catch up with Miss Snark's latest. Her words hurt. She's right. I can't quit writing, but I can quit submitting. Will I? Somehow I doubt it. I must be a glutton for punishment.