It always gets a few laughs, because they think I'm kidding.
Work hard for four years, and you can get an engineering degree. In seven years, you're a lawyer. Eight and you can practice medicine. Hard work = success.
Writing isn't like that. You can bust your butt for ten years, working every day, and not earn a dime. A BA in fiction writing means you're eligible for a job at Wendy's. An MFA means you can teach--but is no guarantee you'll sell a book. And why would you want to teach if you haven't succeeded in the field?
So when does a reasonable person say when? After how many rejections should you decide to try something new?
I've talked with writers about the anguish of writer's block. They speak of their WIPs like it is a monumental task to be conquered, a war to be fought, torture to be endured.
This is how you want to spend your free time?
I read a lot of newbie writing, and 90% of it is bad. Could it be improved? Sure. I always spout that persistence trumps talent. But it took me 12 years to sell a book, and the stuff I was writing back in the day was better than much of the newbie stuff I read. Does that mean I'm fostering hope for hundreds of writers who won't sell anything until 2025, if ever?
The odds are against you, moreso than almost any other profession. Very few have what it takes, and even if you do, lady luck may snub you anyway.
Here's a short list of reasons to quit. If you see yourself on here, it may be time to try your hand at something else.
- You've been doing this for more than five years, and haven't sold anything.
- You've got some kind of degree in writing, and haven't sold anything.
- Writing causes you pain.
- You've been working on one novel for five years.
- You're great at starting stories, but never finish them.
- You want to be a writer, but spend all your time going to classes and researching, but never get any writing done.
- You could live without ever writing again.
- You think that writing will make you rich.
- You believe that once you sell a book, it's a cakewalk from then on.
- You truly feel that you have something important to say.
- You think being a writer is cool.
- You're doing it to show your family and friends.
- You want to win awards.
- You believe that editing, rewriting, and revision are for the less-talented.
- You have a thin skin.
- You think that writing will make you famous.
- You think that once you're in print, that will be enough and you'll never want more.
- You think there's a conspiracy keeping you from getting published.
- You don't live to write.
- At the end of your life, if you're still not published, it will hurt you.
If any of the above apply to you, consider doing something else with your free time. While high school sports couches crow that quitters never win, Dirty Harry famously said, "A man's got to know his limitations."
Why torture yourself when you could do something you'd be more successful at?
The cold hard fact is: most of the people trying to get published won't get published, and most of the people who do get published won't be successful.
Which brings me to the most important point of all:
21. If this blog entry made you consider quitting, you absolutely must quit.
If all it did was rile you up, well, welcome to hell. I wish you much success.
I also recommend Prozac, alcohol, and lots of understanding friends.