Monday, September 22, 2014

"You Know Almost No One Gets Published, Right?"

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at
I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve had someone say this to me.   It’s always said with good intentions, I’m sure.  I always imagine that the thought process behind it goes something like this: 

Oh, that poor young lady wants to write a book.  Thousands of people try and never finish.  Thousands who do finish get rejected by publishers.  She’s so optimistic and enthusiastic—oh, I don’t want her to get her hopes up, only to be disappointed.  Well, here goes: “You know almost no one gets published, right?”

Somehow, people think that they are being nice or gracious by saying this to young, ambitious writers.  They don’t want you to be disillusioned when you find out that being published is difficult—so they tell you that it’s nearly impossible.  They probably figure if you give up your writing dreams now, then you won’t have to be disappointed later.  Or, maybe they don’t want you to give up writing, but they want to make sure that you do so with a healthy sense of despair.

Perhaps people don’t mean to discourage young writers when they say this.  Perhaps they don’t realize the effect it has.  It’s probably because they’ve never had the experience of having someone say that to them. 

It’s quite the experience, to tell someone about your life’s dreams, and then to have them say, “You know almost no one gets published, right?”  It’s not just emotional.  It’s physical.  Blood rises to your face as your cheeks and ears get hot—your stomach flops and goes cold.  A sense of embarrassment floods you.  You feel foolish for having such a stupid dream—a dream so stupid that people feel the need to remind you just how stupid it is. 

However, it’s not a stupid dream.  Besides, the statement that “almost no one gets published” is patently false. A lot of people get published.  Millions, in fact.  Amazon has over a million English language titles.  That’s just English.  The world is a pretty huge place and there are writers—published writers—all over it.  Today’s technology makes self-publishing surprisingly easy.  Traditional publishers still publish lots of book by many different authors.  

So yeah, I guess millions is “almost no one” compared to the seven billion or so people on the planet, but it’s certainly not as hopeless as a lot of people make it sound.  

A more accurate statement would be, “Few people make a living as authors.”  This is a factual statement.  Very few people do make enough money from writing books to live on.   But this shouldn’t stop you.  Yes, you’d like to get paid for your writing, and if you persevere, you probably will at some point.  Will it be enough to pay your bills?  Most likely not, but if you’re writing a book, you’re probably not doing it just to pay the bills. 

No. If you’re writing, you’re writing because you love it. 

Is it difficult to get published? Yes.  But so is getting a college degree, and nobody discourages you from going to college.  It’s difficult have a job, but no one discourages you from working.  Good things are always difficult to obtain, but we shouldn’t instill in ourselves a sense of despair, confusing the word difficult with the word impossible. 

There is no such thing as a healthy sense of despair.  If you believe that getting published is next to impossible, then it will be.  You’ll be so trapped in the sense of pointlessness that your writing will suffer and you may never actually finish.  I’m not making this up, either.  Psychologists describe this type of thinking as a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Besides, I’ve lived in that belief that almost no one gets published, and I promise you that it didn’t help my writing.  

If you really, truly believe that it is possible to be published, you’ll work your butt off to make it happen.   All published authors have something in common.  They worked hard to become published—and to do that, they had to believe that what they were doing was worthwhile. 

That’s why I’m ditching the despair.  I am done with believing that publishing is some foolish, stupid dream too impossible to attain.  It took me until age 27 to realize this—if I’d learned it when I was younger, who knows what I could have accomplished by now?  

No matter what your age, if you learn this important lesson now, who knows what you could achieve?  

So the next time someone tells you, “You know almost no one gets published, right?” 

You should reply, “I know.  But the people who are published had to work hard, believe in themselves, and have hope in order to reach that goal…  

“…and that’s why I know that someday, I’ll be one of them.” 

Share any thoughts you might have in the comments.

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1 comment:

  1. This is such an inspirational post- and so true. If I'm completely honest with myself, I know that if I were to put as much passion and energy into original writing as I do into fanfiction and roleplays, I would be sure to succeed in that area as well. For now, though, schoolwork and fan-stuff are my work areas. Maybe this summer I'll get the epiphany I'm waiting for, and I'll actually have time to do more than jot it down for future reference.