Those of you who have read some of my previous blog posts (assuming anybody reads this blog anymore) know that I’ve addressed the issue of rejection before. My feelings on rejection have stayed fundamentally the same: rejection is part of the game. If you plan on being a writer, you need to plan on getting rejected. Over. and over. and over. Unfortunately most of the rejection letters we get aren’t really all that helpful, so sometimes we will continue making the same mistakes in our writing over and over and getting rejection letters over and over. This is why we need to continually try and hone our craft – go to classes, find different people to read our stuff, and join writing groups.
As if mustering the willpower necessary to keep going in the face of repeated, heart-stopping rejection wasn’t enough, we have to deal with the brutal reality of the need to pay bills, feed ourselves and our families, and possibly even put gas in our cars. Most writers have to deal with the daily choice between spending time doing things that earn money and spending time doing things that are fulfilling (like writing).
I have a demanding day job that often requires that I work from home, work after hours, and even the occasional weekend. In addition to this, I also write technical books on all kinds of computer programming topics, including iPhone, Mac, and Windows Phone 7 programming. When I am not spending time working on those projects, I enjoy spending time with my family – the simple pleasures like watching TV with my girlfriend, going to the movies, getting out of the house on weekends, etc.
So when I step back and look at the potential to spend enough time working on my writing to get good enough at it to get published, the prospects look grim. Any writer will tell you that the secret to being a great writer is to write. You need to write, and you need to do it every day. Just like a guitar player needs to do a few scales every day just to keep the fingers nimble, a writer needs to write a few paragraphs every day just to keep that part of his brain working. Writing is not like riding a bike – the longer your brain spends not writing, the less your brain likes writing.
The question then is, given a busy (albeit rich and fulfilling) life, do you attempt to continue writing even though you know you just don’t have the time to do it justice… or you do throw in the towel and give it up? You hear stories about writers who were able to walk away from their day jobs and become successful, published authors on their first try like Brent Weeks but we also know that most of us can’t afford to take that risk. We can’t walk away from our day jobs and live on Top Ramen for a year while we write our novel only to have it never published. Nearly every published writer tells us that we should never plan on using money from writing to pay the bills because that just doesn’t happen to the average Joe.
For me, the answer is never quit. Writing fiction makes me happy and so I am going to try harder to re-arrange my schedule so that I have more time to do it. Even if I only get to write one paragraph a week, that will have to do. Even if I get 100 more rejection letters this year, that’s going to have to do because of this one important fact:
What I love is writing, getting published is an optional side-effect.