Monday, March 15, 2010

All or nothing--a writer's biggest mistake

Years ago (when I was younger and more foolish), I wrote my first book. Now I could have decided that I'd written the next bestseller. So what if I'd never even read a book on writing or had anyone critique it. But I'd written a book! What more can I say? Wasn't that enough?

And then I hosted a writer's group for over a year. "What are you writing now?" I asked.

"I wrote a book."

"Recently?"

"A few years ago. Doesn't that count?"

If I had stopped with that first book, I'd never have seen my work improve. I'd still be sitting around thinking that publishers weren't fair. They just didn't get my plot or see my potential.

Instead I wrote articles. I worked on a second book. A third book. And now a fourth.

Am I where I think I should be now?

I don't think so, but you might be surprised how many writers think one book entitles them to publication. Sure, for some it happens. For the rest of us. The MAJORITY of us--it takes writing a whole lot more.

Are you an all-or-nothing kind of writer?

26 comments:

BeckyJoie said...

I think I have writing seasons but not by choice. LIFE has dictated that for me some. I really miss being involved in a writer's group too. It helped me to keep writing. I love to write. That's not the issue. Time. Stress. Busy activities. Parenting. But somehow, the seasons appear and make way for writing. I think it will always be a part of my life although some days it is more a part than others. I'm glad for your example. I'll be glad when I have time to write more too.

Janna Qualman said...

I think part of me fell into that trap, that sense of entitlement. (You phrased that so well!) But I know better now, and I'm gonna keep at it. I'm in it for life, as they say.

Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought said...

Hopefully this answers your question:

I will continue to write even if I never get another thing published.
~ Wendy

Sassy Granny ... said...

It's a good question, be it with writing, or painting, or business ventures. Living off yesterday's success is like eaten yesterday's manna.

Oh Lord, feed us fresh manna today!

Blessings,
Kathleen

destrella said...

It would be lovely to have my one book published. Thanks for the different view. :O)

Heidi Willis said...

This is so true!! My first completed novel I thought was pretty good, especially when I had agent interest in it.

Then I wrote another, and realized how bad that first one was, and how much I've improved. That first book will stay under the bed with the dust bunnies!!

I keep writing, and hope I keep getting better. I think I am, anyway!

Jan Cline said...

Part of me dreads the thought of having to write several more books before Im ready for publishing. Let's see that would make me...well, a very senior citizen! I wonder if Mark Twain felt this way?

Heckety said...

There's a lot of people out there who think that a very little effort entitles them to a whole lot of payback or entitlement! Nothing to do with being a writer, believe you me!!!

Thank you for the suggestion that my machine tension was off- you were right, and problem almost solved!! You rock!

Lin Floyd said...

I learn more with each new project and also revising, attending critiques and just letting a project age...

patti said...

I'm more of a plodder, Terri. Too stubborn to give up. Plus when the Holy Spirit whispers...it sure helps to keep those words eking out.
But you know it don't come easy...
Patti
www.pattilacy.com/blog

Nehha said...

One cannot and should not rest on past laurels, that's true. I agree.

Georgiana said...

It's amazing how many books it takes to start "getting it." At least for me! In the past I've been an all-or-nothing, but I am slowly learning that I can pull back, just a little, and possibly enjoy the journey rather than recklessly aiming for the destination.

Tamika: said...

When I started I thought every first book was published. Ha! Now I know the process is extremely delicate.

With my first project, I'm taking plenty of time to learn as I write. It may or may not ever see the light of day, but I plan to keep writing until make it to the bookshelves.

Trudy said...

I'm not sure what kind of a writer I am...still experimenting with it. I haven't written a book or even organized my poetry into book form. Perhaps you have some advice on how to get our of the rut of not even getting started on something you KNOW you are supposed to be doing?!

Beth in NC said...

I have no idea what type of writer I am either (agreeing with Trudy above my comment). I pray to have some direction and start writing seriously someday.

Thanks for the wisdom!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Terri -

Does a painter create a single canvas? Does a composer write one song? Does an actor learn one role?

I'm reminded of the old saying, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice. Practice. Practice." Why should it be any different for writers?

Blessings,
Susan :)

Warren Baldwin said...

I think there is a difference in writting a book and being a writer. Like the difference between teaching a class and being a teacher. Filling in the classroom one time doesn't make it a commitment or activity over time, like actually being a teacher does.

I read recently where one writer says he knows the first 100 pages of a new book he is going to have to scrap. The direction of the book may change, the writing was not that good, etc., but it will take 100 pages just for him to get to page 1. That's being a writer.

Good post.

paulgreci said...

Great post, Terri!!
I think writing can lead to unexpected places both personal and professional. I'm not sure where my novels are taking me but I'm enjoying the ride of being a writer. Thanks!

Jody Hedlund said...

So true! Writers who have that sense of entitlement usually haven't written enough or been around long enough to realize just how much we still have to grow! We always have room for improvement, right?

B. WHITTINGTON said...

Really relate to the post "ALL OR NOTHING." I felt like that when I wrote my first novel. Took me two months and it was all narration. BUT I took all those pages and turned out a decent novel - good enough to attract an agent but not good enough to attract a publisher. However I got a master's degree with the novel - learned so much from that one and everything I've written since. We never quit learning how to write. That's what is so fun about writing. There's always more to learn...thanks for posting my exact experience. Blessings.

T. Anne said...

I'm embarrassed to say I'm well in my teens. Good news is, I'm in good company! I cringe a little for novice writers slugging through there first MS with such high expectations. Live and learn, though, right?

Lily Robinson said...

I have always written... poems, essays, songs, short stories. I want to be published, but if no one wants this book, I will continue to write. It's just what I do.

Kara said...

Great post! I'm just writing. One day I'll have the time to get more serious and think about publication on a big scale, but for now I write:)

Nancy said...

You're right, of course. One needs to go on and write some more. Every book gets better, or should. I think your doing all those articles and things will make you a very good writer over all.

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

Just finished my 4th book. Plan on re-visiting the first one when I have enough courage. Oh dear, the growth I've experienced over the past four years.

peace~elaine

Nishant said...

It would be lovely to have my one book published. Thanks for the different view. :O)
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