When you have spells of no feedback, and your family and friends do not take your writing seriously, what do you do? There lies the crossroad. The point of decision between writing for reward and pats on the back. . . or writing for sanity and joy.
If you do one, you wonder why you cannot have the other. But in reality you understand that heavy focus on one always robs from the other.
I was at the bank recently, and the banker asked me what I did for a living. I said I was an author. He asked more. I explained I retired from the federal government at 46 to write, and I’ve been doing it every since. “Oh,” he said. “Now you can just have fun.”
I smiled and accepted the back-handed, ignorant, meant-to-be-nice compliment. After all, I needed his help. But the comment stuck with me for days after.
Add to that the comment of my father. Facing dementia, he calls almost daily, forgetting whatever we talked about the day before, usually asking, “Am I interrupting anything?” I usually say that I am working, which means at the computer writing. This week he replied, “Are you working, or just writing?” Of course, you don’t scold an old man for not understanding.
Then there’s the old friend from years ago who hubby and I met for dinner. “What book are you on now?” he asked. “Four?” To which I replied, “Eight, if we’re talking novels.” To which he said, “Wow, guess I lost track. So how’s it coming getting it on television?”
But then a reader asked me to read her essay and offer feedback before she entered a contest. A very reputable contest, so I gave it a look-see. It blew me away. The piece was poignant, deeply personal, and gripped me through the entire 5,500 words. It made me wish I had the liberty to only write from the heart and only for me. Wishing that making a living didn’t factor into the equation.
As a reader, take a second to respect the author. Whether you loved the story or tossed it in the trash, somebody on the other end poured tons of time and heart into creating that book.
As an author, take a second to remember that you have to write for you first and foremost. You have to love living inside your stories before anyone else can. And if the book doesn’t sell, well, you created a world for yourself. . . designed by you, for you, a place you can go back to for time to come.
And as a successful author, take a moment to measure if you’re still loyal to the writing. Because it’s that umbilical cord connection that birthed you and got you started. Don’t get so independent, or so successful, that you don’t recall that writing is what sets you mentally free.
BIO: C. Hope Clark is author of seven mysteries set in her beloved South Carolina, and editor of the award-winning FundsforWriters.com www.chopeclark.com
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