I am posting this in thoughtful response to the stir caused by a comment I posted on social media last week. In a nutshell–hardly realizing I was cracking open a nutshell–I suggested that it is counterproductive and even illogical for our society (and especially artists) to be so discouraging of a career in arts. Of course my focus was writing, but I would extend this message to any career in the arts. Further, I declared my intention to personally ignore such fallacious and harmful advice, and suggested that anyone who was so determined to believe that a career in writing is simply not possible was welcome to remain behind flipping burgers as I proceed to storm the castle.
I was surprised and dismayed at the vehemence with which some folks not only cling to, but defend the argument that writing is a poor and foolish career choice. After all, this is a writers’ group. A couple of people attacked the idea that writing is a valid choice of careers–and attacked me personally–so angrily that I ended up blocking them.
I don’t have time for internet duels; my siege engine is only 50% edited. A 165k word count trebuchet takes a lot of perfecting.
I was even accused of being biased against those who work in the food industry. As if my time in the Army was not often spent at more distasteful duties than flipping burgers. Let me assure you, I don’t think less of anyone for their choice of careers (or, in this economy, whatever job someone can scrape up in order to make a living).
The same, evidently, cannot be said of those who would insist that writing as a vocation is a path littered with the bones of fools and miscreants.
Writers, for the most part, do not have an easy time of it. I can tell you just from my experience that finishing a fantasy doorstopper has taken more work and skill than anything I’ve ever attempted, and that includes learning Arabic, getting Bachelors’ and Masters’ degrees concurrently, and raising a houseful of children as a single parent. A lot of 4 am, a lot of taking crap jobs so that I could keep a roof over our heads for just one more chapter, a lot of learning new skills and letting go of ego. I would say that the willingness to work hard, a willingness to let go of preconceptions, and blind tenacity are more important than sheer writing talent. If you wish to make a living at this, you need to be able to stop wishing and start doing. treat it like a career. Read trade journals, study study study, learn learn learn, write and toss, lather, rinse, repeat till your spine is screaming and your wrists are swollen and your eyes are begging for mercy.
But don’t listen to those who say it’s not worth it, it’s impossible, only xyz percent of people ever sell, advances suck, indie publishers suck, self publishing is for idiots and the Big Five will never publish another book. For those folks who say it is impossible, get real, be grateful for the opportunity to flip burgers and keep your eyes firmly fixed on the ground, I say, you’re right. A career in writing will always be out of reach for those who refuse to lift their gaze to the stars.
As for me, I am casting my fishing-net at a dragon, I am storming the castle. Life is short. Go long.
I hope you decide to breach those walls, too.