Friday, May 1, 2009

Wanting It Badly Enough

There have been many writers I've read or heard speak over the years that have given advice to other writers that basically says if you never give up you'll achieve your publishing dreams. The road to a book publishing contract is littered with the carcasses of writers not any better than you who, if they just kept going, might have seen their book in print. You may have talent up the wazoo but without the tenacity and discipline it takes to write -to keep writing - to 'never give up' you won't be published. Heck, you won't finish a book. And that is absolutely true. Absolutely. And I've always thought that tenacity was the key ingredient to getting a publishing contract. A smidgen of talent, a dose of luck, and a huge dollop of never giving up. But, as I think on it more, I believe there's something else that needs to be added to the recipe for making that publishing contract pie. Something more important than all these other ingredients.

You must want it badly enough.

Now, this 'wanting' can't be an ephemeral, 'oh, wouldn't that be nice if I got it' kind of feeling. Like you want those really nice suede boots or maybe a pay bonus for working on a really tough project. And the wanting can't be because you think getting a book publishing contract is going to make you rich, famous, happy and solve all your problems. Ha! You'd need some serious de-programming if you thought that was going to do it. Remember - be careful what you wish for. No, what I'm talking about is wanting that is a deep-seated, eternal flame buried in your gut that will not let you go and that you really can't explain why or how it got there. It must arise from a passionate love for what you are doing. Something that you feel you need to share with the world because - for whatever reason - you think it's important for it to be shared. Think about it. Why would anyone, ANYONE, put themselves through the weeks, months, and years of learning craft with no guaranteed payoff? Why would ANYONE put themselves through constant, sometimes painful rejection of their work year after year? Why would ANYONE spend so much time pulling their hair out when a book isn't going the way they envisioned or it's taking longer to finish then they thought or it needs to be revised for the umpteenth time? I mean, some days I'd really rather just go to the movies or read a book that someone else wanted published badly enough and had to agonize over than doing it myself. Shoot, I used to write in my diary for years, almost on a daily basis and that satisfied my writing needs for a long time. But at some point, the wanting to write for publication grew inside me. I wanted to put my words out there - even at the risk of ridicule. I wanted my stories and ideas shared, maybe discussed, maybe dismissed but at least out there. I wanted to expand my world and learn and grow and be excited at creating something that no one else had created. It's partly about validation. It's mostly about being excited and passionate about something and wanting to share it with the world. It doesn't have to be books - it's about whatever makes you passionate about something. You have to find that in your life otherwise life is pretty bland.

So when things look hopeless and you feel like you're not getting anywhere, when you've been rejected and you wonder why you keep doing this, ask yourself the only question that really matters: Do I want this badly enough to pick myself up and go after it again? And again?

And if you answered yes ... then you will be a published writer one day.


  1. Nelsa, I agree. Great post. You have to know that what you're writing deserves to be published. It's about stubborn persistence and drive. :)

  2. Thanks Jody and Ello. It's what I truly believe is the successful equation: Passion + Persistence = Published.
    It's the only way to survive in this mad, mad publishing world!

  3. I agree too!

    For whatever reason, I seem to need a windmill to tilt at and writing -- seeking publication, really -- provides that for me. Before, it was studying Japanese, and before that it was graduate school, and so on. I suspect I just need something to push me forward -- to give me a goal to work towards. But I certainly want it badly.

  4. Mary: That image of tilting at the windmill should be over every writer's computer! I know you'll win if you keep dreaming 'the impossible dream'!