When I started this journey to becoming a writer I believed that, in many ways, I would be powerless in the big machine that is the publishing industry. Writers often feel like it's other people who have the control over their destiny - over whether their book succeeds or fails, over whether they get a contract or not, get an agent, etc. More often than not, it feels like you don't have much choice over how things turn out. But after thinking about this a little more (and having a great discussion with the fabulous writers Helaine Becker and Claudia Osmond last night at the torkidlit tweet-up)I really don't believe that's true. I think writers have more control or choice in the direction our career takes than we believe.
The biggest choice writers make is the choice to be a writer. No one held a gun to our heads and made us take this path. And no one is holding that gun to our heads now. So when we complain about how hard and unforgiving this profession is - make a choice. Keep writing or don't. You're in control of that.
Some writers feel trapped in unpleasant or unfulfilling relationships with their agents or their critique groups or whatever. There is a choice there too. If you need to change your situation it is your choice to do so. No one said every decision would be easy. Heck, even choosing between two good things is hard. But, again, the point is that you can take control of your life by making a choice. And by choosing to do nothing that is also a choice. But don't say you can't control your outcome and then feel defeated by the situation.
Some writers talk about how their book wasn't publicized enough or it was lost on the shelves. What kind of choice do we as writers have there? Well, writers can try and market it as much as they can on their own - a choice many writers take. Some target a more manageable PR and marketing plan like developing an online network of writers who can support and publicize each other's books. Others let the fates - and the public - decide on whether the book will be found. That again is a choice. Whatever the outcome - success in book sales or not - you have still taken some control of the situation by making a choice.
Then there are the writers who choose to focus on the next book. Maybe they've decided to make it bigger, better, more commercial, more controversial, more this or that - whatever they choose to focus on no one else has decided that direction for them. And this may be the most powerful choice of all. We choose to write what we choose to write. That is completely within our control.
So the next time you think you're a cog in the wheel with someone else turning your life this way and that, think about it. Are you really that powerless? Really?