Friday, January 27, 2012

Stray Thoughts: Meet Me in Outer Space

ESO-Horsehead Nebula from Wikimedia Commons
About Pessimism

I have read many articles and come across quite a few people who are pessimistic about making a living writing fiction. In the past few weeks, as I've been considering options for the future of my education (grad school or no grad school, that is the question), I seem to meet more and more people who - in my own best interest, I'm sure - feel the need to try and "be realistic" about my possibilities in the writing market. People who have never read a word of my fiction, I might add.

I respect these opinions and value the information I take away from the conversations. Each time, I assure the glass-half-empty folks that I am perfectly aware of the dismal statistics for writers. Each time I inform them that I plan on continuing to dare to dream. But not a single time has any of these people ever said, "Can I see some of your fiction?" before making a judgement on my ability or potential. Not a single time has any of them even said, "Great, you know. Well good luck! If you can dream it, you can do it!" Not a single time.

I don't know how different it would be if they were familiar with my writing; I have a feeling I would still continue onward towards my dream, but perhaps with the added to care to put a little more time in perfecting my craft (as if I'm not already putting a ton of time into that already). But for the folks that have never read anything that I've done, or perhaps have read some of my work, but it was limited to blog posts or other non-fiction efforts, I have a hard time letting their words frighten me.

About Chasing Stars

I conduct myself in my writing career as if I plan on hunting Rowling and King down and overtaking them in the market. If I feel that I have a chance to topple the juggernauts, then that drives me to work even harder to hone my craft and create the best possible stories that I can. My sensible foot is on the ground, I promise. I know that the odds are against me, truly. But if I go into the business of writing believing that success may not happen for me, then I am merely hamstringing myself and my ability, peppering every word of every story I ever write with doubt of my ability. Besides, did pre-household-name-Rowling's friends, family, and peers think that she was going to be as successful as she is? I doubt it. So don't count me out just yet.

I believe that to succeed, you must reach for the stars. You must believe that you can do it. You must believe in yourself. But it's even more than that. People dream all of the time, every single day. But how many people actually build that rocket that will take them higher than they ever imagined they could go? I could sit here all day and say, "My writing is as good as, if not better than, Rowling, King, or Rice. I could be famous." But if I am not working hard, working ceaselessly to hone my craft and produce worthy offerings which prove (or disprove) that sentiment, then they are just words. I am building my rocket to the stars and no one is going to stop me (this site, especially The Craft of Writing, where I attempt to teach in an attempt to learn, is part of that process, in fact).

More About Reality

I am grounded, though. I know that for every author that gets published, there are thousands of authors who are rejected. I know that some things are out of my control, like market preferences and publishing house backlogs. I know that few fiction writers make a decent living wage at it. I know that it's rare when a new author sells a book on their first try. But do you know what else I know? I know that I MUST write. I know that I MUST create stories, especially ones that I want to read again and again. I know that we never stop learning and no matter how good someone might think that my writing is, it can ALWAYS be improved. If I am going to do this anyhow, then why not dare to dream?

Here's the thing: No one can see the future. Not you. Not me. I have no idea if I will become a household name and my books are read and loved around the world. I have no idea if my books will be optioned for the big screen or television. I have no idea if I will ever get a paycheck on a novel big enough to buy my forever home and my dream car. But I do know this, and I know it for a FACT... if I don't aim for the stars, I will never ever EVER reach the stars.

Some people encourage me and have faith that I can achieve these lofty goals or, at the very least, make a living wage from writing fiction, but most try to "talk me down to earth." Here's what I have to say to them: "I know the risks. I know the odds. So stop trying to dismantle my rocket, I have a galaxy to explore."

... and so do you. So go build your rocket! And enjoy a couple (or three) of my favorite "outer space"-themed songs while you build!

Author's Note: After editing this post for publishing, I realized that it had a pretty strong sense of personal combativeness to it, as if someone had read something of mine and then said, "You suck" and this was the response to that. Or maybe I'm just insane and am the only person who read it that way. In case I'm not, this topic actually had a very strange origin: It came from a post that I was working on (which will be published soon) about traditional versus e-publishing. I make a comment in that article that "I act as if I have a choice [of which platform I can publish on]" and that led me to a digression about conducting myself as if I did actually have a choice, which then led to the whole "daring to dream" thing, and then to this.  Rather than bombard my readers with a massive digression, I plucked it out of the other article and plopped it into its very own. So thank my ADHD for having one of its "WAY the hell off the train track" moments if you liked this post.


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