Do you ever find yourself at a crossroads wondering if you should write or do something else? I don’t just mean on a day-to-day basis of should I write or should I do the dishes, though it can come to that. I mean, wondering if you should take a chance and write the book that has been nagging you at the back of your mind for years. Wondering if the kids are old enough, you’re in the right season of life, that you can once again pursue your dream of being a writer. Wondering if the time as come to walk away from it and do something else all together.
The Industrial Revolution and mechanization was supposed to make our lives easier. Remember that myth that we were all supposed to be living lives of leisure while the machines did all the work? I don’t have to tell you how well that worked out. Our waking hours are jam-packed, and getting busier every year. The day job eats up a lot of hours, the side-hustle eats up even more, and if you’re an entrepreneur growing your business, there isn’t a lot of time left over at the end of any day.
Our time is precious and it is up to us how we spend it.
You’re reading this because you want to write. Maybe you are well into a manuscript and need a bit of a push, maybe you’re deciding whether you want to start writing. I’m not going to ask you to monitor how much time you spend binging Netflix after a stressful day. While that information is useful for basic time management and evaluating your writing habits, that isn’t what is going to give you the clarity you need to decide to write or not to write.
I’m going to share with you three stories of three writers who had to decide. It just so happens that these are all fiction writers, but it is their situation, their decision, that anyone who writes or wants to write, can connect with. Perhaps you find yourself in one of these situations, or something similar. I must also add here that one of these stories involves one of my clients. I don’t usually share what happens with my clients except on the broadest of terms, but this client gave me permission to tell her story. It is a fantastic illustration of today’s topic. I’m also going to tell you about two of my writing friends. They didn’t give me permission, I won’t use their names, and we’ve already discussed this enough that I think they’ll understand. If they’re reading this, you know who you are: love you!
My client recently attended a conference. One of the sessions she signed up for was a workshop with an agent. This workshop had about fifteen attendees, they all had to submit the first twenty pages or so of a novel ahead of time, for feedback. The agent running it is a well-known, reputable agent. As a side note, these kinds of workshops are amazing. I highly recommend them if you can get into one.
OK. So my client was my client because she was having difficulty writing consistently, and sticking with a story long enough to see if it was going anywhere. The submission deadline for this workshop was great motivation and gave us something to focus on. She sends in her pages and as often happens after a writer hits the submit button, thinks of all the things she could have done differently, what would make it a stronger opening, and so on.
The day comes for the workshop. My client is in the room, looking around at the other attendees, there’s some small talk, people putting faces to names and stories. The agent comes in, identifies my client, walks up to her, no one else, and stage whispers, “I love your work.”
My client now has two options. She can waffle between writing projects and never finish one (which, as her coach, I would never allow her to do) carrying with her the fond memory of what the agent said; or, she can get her novel done and edited, and submit it, starting with the agent from the workshop.
Friend 1 has been working on a novel for years. It’s taken him so long to finish it because there have been extended periods of time, months on end, where he hasn’t written or edited it. He’s workshopped it, had it critiqued, and continues to edit it.
One evening, while a bunch of us are having dinner, the conversation, as it does with writers, turns to the various kinds of rejections we’ve recieved. Friend 1 pulls up a rejection he received by email from one of the top agents, pretty much the dream agent of everyone in the room. Friend 1 had received that rejection a few years ago, and essentially it said, not this one, but send me more. I must note here, that that agent almost never sends a personal rejection like that, and the rejection was not for the novel my friend has been working on, it was for a previous one.
Friend 1 has yet to submit anything else to that agent. Friend 1 had all but given up on writing since that rejection came. Rather than seeing this rejection as a positive step forward, a recognition of his talent, Friend 1 simply saw the “no.”
After our dinner, and after I rather pointedly dismissed his excuse, that it was a rejection, that he wasn’t a good writer, he had a choice. He could get back to writing because clearly this agent saw something in him, or he could continue to call himself a writer, but not actually write.
Friend 2 is a talented writer. She has worked hard, put in her time, written her million words and then some. Over the years, some major editors have shown interest in her work, but for whatever reason, it hasn’t gone any further. Friend 2 doesn’t just write novels, though. She also writes short stories. She’s getting them publsihed, largely in token or semi-pro paying markets. She’s a stay-at-home mom, whose kid is in school full days. She keeps house, works as a freelance copywriter, and writes. On the phone, she complains constantly about how hard it is to get published, how she doesn’t want to write any more, how she’s never getting anywhere with her writing.
It is hard to get published, and while she was getting stories published, they weren’t in the markets she really wanted to be published in. I knew that she’s a brilliant writer, but even the most brilliant writers need to get feedback on their work. Friend 2 wasn’t doing that. She’d write a draft, edit it, and submit it. She’d get her stories published, but in minor markets. She had the time to write, and the talent. How much better could she be if she got the feedback? She didn’t want to take the time to do that, she wasn’t sure she wanted to write any more. She ended up quitting.
Friend 2 is a lot happier now. She’s a very busy freelance editor and does the most amazing wood-work that she sells. Of course, about a year after she quit writing, an editor contacted her about a manuscript they had previously rejected and were now interested in it. The publisher signed her and published her novel, and Friend 2 is working on the sequel. Perhaps a little begrudgingly, but she’s writing it.
Friend 2 had a choice. She had the time and the talent. Was she going to keep complaining, keep wasting it? Would she dig in and write, or would she move on to something that brought her real joy?
As you think about your own situation, what is the crossroad you are at? What are the decisions you are avoiding making? Do you have an idea for a book that you want to explore but aren’t sure how to start or if you’re good enough? Have you received positive feedback from editors, agents, or experts in your field, and now you’re not sure if you can live up to that positivity? Did you see that feedback as a rejection rather than the positive step forward that it is?
What is your answer to the age old question: To write, or not to write?
And don’t forget to sign up for my FREE course, Three Things You Must Know When Starting To Write A Book, to further explore your ideas, how and where to start writing, and if now is the right time for you. Just click on the image below, and it will take you there.