How do you know? When do you know?


Word count: 248                                   Reading time: 1 minute 

How did best-selling writer Jodi Picoult know that she was a good writer? Okay there were those degrees from Princeton and Harvard, along with the sales of two short stories to Seventeen magazine while still in college. All of that probably persuaded her she knew something about the world of fiction. Still the question is: after she’d received one hundred rejections of her first manuscript, what made her keep trying?

It’s hard for an emerging writer to stay confident when working in isolation with only a select few friends and even fewer relatives (if any!) to offer encouragement. Low moments have crept into my life and made me consider giving up writing altogether. However, I can’t do that because my head will explode if all these stories and characters aren’t released.

So I’ve searched for methods that might help me determine if I have the stuff of a true writer. I scored high on Caro Clarke’s Am I Really a Writer test. Pamela Redmond Satran offers some reasons that a person might quit here and Adam Heine adds more to the list. I’ve considered all of their arguments but none of them have persuaded me to throw in the towel. Then there’s that exploding head problem after all.

Without encouragement, without a note of music to play for your family, without a dance step to show them or splashy canvas to wow them, how do you keep moving forward? How do you stay motivated in this solitary endeavour?


Photo by: Juliasha

Getting there (I hope)

Word count: 252               Reading time: 1-2 mins.

“How long does getting thin take?” asked Pooh anxiously. He’s stuck in the door of Rabbit’s house and wants to be free.

I’m suspended in the land of commercially unpublished authors and I want to be free of this place. How long does getting published take? How long should it take?

 In the book Outliers Malcolm Gladwell asserts that acquiring greatness demands a huge investment of time, about 10,000 hours. Okay maybe I can’t aspire to greatness but I do want to create the very best fiction I can. Perhaps my apprenticeship isn’t complete yet.

Gladwell also points out that success "is not exceptional or mysterious. It is grounded in a web of advantages and inheritances, some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky.” Maybe 2012 will be the year when the planets will align in my favour.

When I am discouraged at how long the getting-published process takes, I search for perspective. The Crime Fiction Blog has a list of ironically-named overnight success stories that can take the edge off an emerging writer’s anxiety. Another source of comfort is reading rejection letters that were sent to famous authors. In the meantime I remind myself of Robert Heinlein's fifth rule of writing: keep it on the market until it is sold.

So I look to the shiny New Year with fresh hope and determination. Something’s got to give.

All you struggling apprentices out there, are you in it for the long haul? How do you handle those bruising rejection letters? 


Artwork: E.H. Shepard