I had a friend who was interested in being a photographer. She learned that after graduating with a Bachelor’s degree, she would have to work as an intern for at least a year (if any photographer would have her) and hopefully she’d get a job at that company. If she didn’t, she’d have to get her foot in the door at a different photography company.
I learned that becoming a newspaper reporter is very much the same. You start as a no-pay intern, work up to a little-pay copy editor, and slowly move up from there. It takes years before you can get the dream job of reporter.
Agents and authors stress to us how difficult this industry is. Unpublished and disillusioned writers moan about how much work they put into their book and how it was all for naught because no one responded to their queries. I know I should be intimidated because smart people say so, but I gotta be honest:
When I hear about what writers have to do to become published, it doesn’t sound all that different from any other worthwhile career. You study and practice for years, you work for no pay, you work for little pay, you keep working until it pays off.
Writers whose first book didn’t sell might say it’s different because their book is more than just a job – it’s blood, sweat, and tears, it was supposed to change the world – but do you think photographers don’t care just as much about their careers? Do you think reporters don’t get just as frustrated when someone less talented gets their dream job?
Some people realize they’ll never be good enough no matter how hard they work. That also happens with every other career. Example: just because you want to be a doctor doesn’t mean you can be. Disappointed med students drop out all the time. All over the world, people aren’t getting promotions because they’re bad at their jobs.
Doctors have to study for a decade, and it costs a fortune. Writers, on the other hand, don’t even have to work eight hours a day. Most people are on fire if they write one hour every day. There’s a lot of studying we need to do, but all the resources we need are cheap or free. We’ve got it pretty good.
Yet for some reason writers will finish one novel, submit it to a hundred agents without doing their research and without getting other people to read their work, get a hundred rejections, and complain it’s too hard.
If writing is a fun hobby for you, getting published will be the most time-consuming activity in existence. If writing is a career, the workload doesn’t seem that bad.
So many writers act like helpless martyrs and I have to believe – I just have to – that if you put in the work, you’ll get there. I’m tired of hearing all these self-pitying artists try to scare the crap out of me by pointing fingers at incompetent agents, overly-picky editors, small publishing advances, and uneducated readers.
Maybe this is just me being green, but I’m optimistic about the publishing world. I believe in the process. I trust that Good Book + Industry-Savvy Author = A Writing Career. No Writing Career = stop complaining and get back to work.