I'm sorry. You said what now?
If you’re a writer, we need to have a chat.
If you’re a new writer harboring visions of being picked up by a fancy agent at a blogging conference and that fat book deal you know you’re gonna land before the year is out, pull up a chair and get comfortable.
If you’re a self-pubbed writer hoping to get people talking about your book, grab the popcorn bowl off of the counter and take a seat. This is for you, too.
Before I get all preachy, I want you to first know that I’ve been on the other side of the equation I’m about to present. I think it’s probably fair to wager that if we haven’t done it, most of us at least thought about doing it at least once, even if it was the mental-d00dle equivalent of a fifth-grade crush and the resulting puffy hearts written around his name on the cover of our math notebooks. There is always a story about some relative unknown bumping into fate and becoming a household name. Just like there’s always a story about some lucky scmhmuck spending his very last dollar on a lottery ticket and hitting all the numbers.
If we don’t quit our jobs because we’re smart enough to know the likelihood of us holding the ticket with the winning numbers is probably little to none, we should also realize we can’t force a happy accident when it comes to our writing and our paths.
There are no shortcuts when it comes to writing and success. There are, however, two very simple rules.
1) Be Patient — Learn to meditate. Practice holding your breath under water. Put water in a pot, turn on the stove, and watch while you wait for it to boil.
Sound mundane and boring? It’s supposed to be. But it’s taking too long? It’s supposed to do that, too. Growing your audience is going to take time. Lots of time. And hard work. You will beat your head on multiple walls because the process is so damned frustrating. But beat your head and take your knocks, you must. As time passes, your audience will grow, as will your professional network of writers who are on your level and willing to shout to the ends of the earth to help you. Why? Because they know you’d do the same for them.
2) Get Lucky — No not that kind of lucky. I’m talking about the Dumb Fucking Luck kind of lucky. Something you write goes viral and your blog suddenly has more hits per hour than you’ve clocked in a month or Oprah decides to talk about you, making you an overnight sensation. You can’t plan it. No matter how hard you try. Then again, if you manage to get lucky, you also need to be smart if you want your 15 minutes of fame to stretch into a successful career. Which is why # 1 is the recommended route.
What won’t work? Contacting published writers you only know via social media and asking them if you can pay them to put your work in front of the impressive list of contacts and connections it took them years of networking and hard work to build. Or asking if they would like to blurb the book you haven’t even written yet.
Don’t do it. Don’t even THINK about doing it.
JUST STOP IT RIGHT NOW.
That, my dear new writer, is professional suicide. You can justify it by citing all the happy accidents that have made unknown writers into literary untouchables like J.K. Rowling all you want. I’m just going to tell you that for every J.K., there’s thousands of you’s and me’s writing and getting rejected and writing and networking and writing and revising and writing and getting rejected again. But we are still writing because it’s what we are meant to do. Success or not, we need to do what we do in order to not go crazy.
To choose the writer life is to choose a difficult road. But you chose it because you believe in your voice and in your story. Remember that. And then get back to work.