Every writer started because they fell in love with a book, or a story, and they couldn’t rid themselves of it. We have spent hours and days and even years carefully sculpting these characters and worlds and stories. We have breathed life into them and watched as bit by bit they start to breathe and walk and talk on their own. We have laughed and cried with them. By the time we are finished, they are so entwined in ourselves they are truly a part of us.
And then we send them out to the world for the first time. Terrified, like parents sending their kids off to the first day of school. We love them more than anything, but will the world be as kind?
Then there is critique, and we have to reevaluate them. Change them, rearrange them, delete them altogether. We scrub and scrub at our story until it is gleaming and our hearts swell with pride again.
Then comes the dreaded query. Letter after letter pleading with agents to fall in love with these characters and stories the same way we have. If they could only give us the chance, we know they’d love them just as much. But they don’t see what we do. Rejection letter after rejection letter, and even weeks waiting with no response. And when you talk about your story, you talk about it in terms of pitch and word count and plot arcs. Is it marketable? Can they sell it?
And this is just the beginning. Let alone if you become published and have to do revisions and line edits and have it picked apart and editors and publishers telling you how it should be. You watch them suck all the life out of it and it becomes nothing more than numbers and marketing and profit margins.
When we are faced with this, it is hard not to fall into the pit. As I am entering the publishing process seriously for the first time, I find myself distancing from my story. It becomes a business, a product. Which it has to be, if you are going to turn writing into a career. But sometimes I get too caught up in all of this. I get too critical of myself, feedback, my own writing. I forget why I fell in love with the world and the characters I created, and can only see all the flaws that people have picked out. I found myself doubting my story entirely. Would anyone really want to read this?
I think writers are self-conscious creatures, more than most professions. How could we not be? We are having parts of ourselves judged and critiqued, for our job. That’s scary. And it can hurt sometimes too.
But I think the most important part, for those of you like me who are turning their passion into their career, is to fall in love with your story and writing all over again, every day. It’s like a relationship. When you stop dating your significant other, stop being romantic and silly and forget why you fell in love with them in the first place, it falls apart. Date your book. Tell it it’s beautiful, buy it flowers. Read it all over again and remember why you fell in love.
When I was doubting my book, I went back and started reading bits and pieces of it. Pieces I had almost forgotten about. And it was like reading it, and falling in love for the first time. I rediscovered my world and my characters and they just came back to life and all I could think was, Wow. How did ever get tired of this?
Writing is a business. But it is also an art, a passion, a part of you.
Even as it becomes a business, don’t ever forget that little kid who first picked up a book and fell in love. Write for that little kid, not for the hundred other voices trying to tell you what to do.