A middling writer has moved past newbie mistakes. They’ve learned about the craft of writing and the business of publishing. They may have a published work, a creative writing degree, or an agent. But they have yet to really break in. I consider myself on the high end of this stage, and have suffered from many of these maladies myself.
1. Quitting. Mostly I see this happen because writers feel stuck. They’ve sent out a few queries to no avail. They’ve done a few things to further their writing careers (maybe read craft books, joined a crit group, etc), but are unwilling to invest further. Or they simply can’t take it anymore. It’s just not worth it. After all, this is a tough business.
This is what I call the ‘weed out stage.’ This is where people who write for the passion of it hang on, and those that are so so find something else to do with their time. Maybe it’s for the best. But for those who couldn’t give up writing if they wanted to, it’s validation that this is really what you’re meant to do.
2. Fear of failure. This manifests itself in many ways. I’ve seen ‘closet writers.’ People who are afraid to go to conferences because they can’t possibly put themselves on the same level as ‘real’ writers. People who refuse to invest the time, money, and effort. Even people who are afraid of changes–changes like success. But mostly it’s the people who want it so badly that they don’t even dare try, or fail to push themselves. Because if they fail, they can’t live with that (I was one of you once).
These people write, but never with their whole hearts.
3. Laziness. To be a writer, you have to be internally driven. You have to make yourself write. And keep writing. And keep learning. Writing is a lot of work. Work no one is paying you for. Work no one is pushing you to do. Sometimes life interfers, throwing you a curve ball you don’t recover from. After the initial love affair dwindles, many just fade away.
4. Frustration. I’ve seen authors quit because of anger. Anger at rejection. Anger at all the ‘time they’ve wasted.’ Anger with the publishing system. This anger colors their writing to the point it kills the writer’s joy. When this happens, take a step back and write for the fun of it. Never forget why you write. You write because you love it. If that ever changes, switch careers.
5. Writing what will sell, instead of what speaks to your heart. I’ve seen writers try so hard to come up with something different. Something new. Something that will sell. It almost never works (in fiction). Often, the ideas are weird. The writing forced. You have to write what you love. Period.
Q4U: What challenges have you faced in your writing career?