Being a writer is a curious thing. We are people watchers. We have a constant need to express ourselves through words, not by talking or with a youtube video, but with words. We live in our heads. Most days, I would rather swim around in my own imagination than deal with people. We are insecure, excellent at procrastinating, and are often self deprecating. We will readily put our soul on paper, but we are not always so ready for the world to see it. We are curious creatures. What’s even more curious are the unpublished masses. The writers who, along with their constantly swirling imaginations, dream of becoming a successful working writer. They want to see their books on the shelves of every bookstore and some might even wish to see a blue check mark by their twitter handle. Being a writer is strange and being unpublished is even stranger.
When I walk through bookstores, I can’t help but wonder how so many writers got published. Is there some kind of secret that only a few writers have been able to figure out? Is there a potion I can drink that will bring me success? Maybe there’s a secret handshake that can get me on a literary agents good side. Or maybe, just maybe, the secret to publishing success is getting your butt in the chair and actually writing.
I knew I was forgetting something. I need to actually write to get published.
Writing is hard. It takes time and an immense amount of concentration. It also takes just the right amount of self confidence. I’ve learned about these things the hard way. As I’m writing my thesis, I’ve realized I have less time and concentration than ever. I also have an extremely low amount of self confidence. Every word I put on the page will immediately get deleted or I will stare at my screen in disgust before moving on. You also need ideas. You know, those little morsels of joy that pop into your brain. Ideas are the chocolate chip cookies of imagination. With each bite, we get more gitty at the prospect of writing a story. Then we remember that those cookies need to be turned into words, those words into sentences, and so on and so forth. I have plenty of cookies in my brain, I just don’t have the drive to put it all on paper.
But writing is not the only challenge an unpublished writer may face. Writing is only the first mountain a writer must climb. Once a manuscript is complete, a writer must now find a literary agent that will hopefully get them published. The literary agent, much like the white rhino, can be an elusive figure. Unlike the white rhino, there seems to be a lot of them around, but they are not all taking manuscripts at once. Or they’re not taking manuscripts in your genre. Or your manuscript just sucks and they’re not taking it. If you are one of the chosen few, then the next step is hopefully getting published and if you do that then you can now call yourself a writer.
Hold on a second, what about people who self published? Maybe some writers want to take fate into their own hands. What happens with those writers? Well, once they too have gotten their manuscript done and polished, which usually means paying out of pocket for an editor, then they must design a cover. They also have to decide where they want to publish their work. Do they just want to publish for e-readers, maybe they could charge for pdfs, what about printing by demand? Once they’ve decided, now the self published writer must wait for readers to come to them.
Unlike writers who have either published traditionally or self published, I haven’t even finished a manuscript yet. Frankly, I only have bits and pieces of writing completed. I am the unpublished writer who has the dream, but no follow through. I want to write for the rest of my life, but the thought of starting and finishing my own novel is terrifying. My fate as a writers remains to be seen. Will I ever climb those mountains and turn cookies into words and sentences, or will I forever have ideas? What is most interesting is that the moment I hit the publish button for this article, I will be a published writer. I stand in a sea of bloggers, hoping that people will take the time to read my work. Even if they don’t, I am still published. I have still sat down and written something from start to finish. So what does that mean? Can I join the league of published writers or am I still stuck on unpublished island?