When an eight year old sets their mind to something, no matter how vague or grandiose it may be, they tend to either forget about it five minutes later or never give up on it. For me that was writing and getting published. I went from wanting to spend my life writing while also painting/teaching/designing/etc. to wanting nothing more than my name on a bookshelf. I’ve spent fourteen years of my life in pursuit of this idea I had when I was eight, but I think that somewhere along the way I forgot why I wanted to.
I love writing, and nothing will ever compare to the rush that I get when I get a new idea or finish a novel. I know that this is something I love and want to do for the rest of my life, and I will, but I think I got too stubborn with writing as a future and I got lost along the way. To be clear, it’s never been about the money for me. I’ve never wanted to be a billionaire by way of bestsellers, but I did want to be able to just write and survive off of that.
But when I was eight the world was different. Twilight hadn’t oversaturated the YA genre with vampires and The Hunger Games hadn’t brought dystopia to the mainstream. Self-publishing was still the redheaded stepchild of the market and seriously looked down on. Publishing works online through Amazon wasn’t even a thing, and certainly not to the extent where people can make $4,000 a month writing smut. And I think my mind and expectations for my writing future were stuck in 2002. I wanted to get a publisher and go on book tours and talk on The Today Show and do signings at Barnes & Noble.
The system these days is flawed. Blame the Internet, blame Twilight, whatever, but it’s hard to be a nobody and get published. You have to be published to find an agent to get published. You have to enter contests, pay money to possibly win, and add it to a resume of work. It takes a lot of optimism and hard work to keep at it the way a lot of people do. I definitely haven’t given it my all throughout the years, but I’ve heard enough jaded talk to know that the pickings are slim.
Nowadays self-publishing is as big as it was in the beginnings of the printed world. There are over 40,000,000 printed books on Amazon, but there are almost 3,000,000 on the Kindle. And of those three million on the Kindle, a majority are self-published. And, in some ways, self-publishing is the new key to the castle. If you have a successful e-book then there’s a chance that a publisher could snap it up and you could start selling paperbacks. Just look at Fifty Shades of Grey as an example. The-little-smut-that-could started off as a fan fiction, became an e-book, and then a printed bestseller and the rest is history!
Thanks to a recent conversation with one of my favorite English professors, I realized that in the past few years I’ve had this whole ‘writing career’ thing backwards. I was living in 2002 and completely forgot about why I wanted to really write in the first place. I wanted to write stories because I loved to do it, to inspire other people to write, and to make people happy. Haven’t I already done that a dozen times over? What old-fashioned mindset is keeping me from just self-publishing and putting my work out there? Why am I holding myself back when writing isn’t the end all be all of my life?
I know. I said it.
For most of university I’ve felt like a failure on some levels because I kept saying I was going to be published before I was 18…20…30… I let the rejections get to me because I felt like if I wasn’t in print then I wasn’t the writer I was supposed to be, the person that I felt people expected me to be after decades of big-talk. I kept imagining that I’d go to my high school reunion and let people down because I haven’t done anything spectacular and I’ve pretty much stuck to a normal plan. But what’s wrong with that? Nothing.
Are people going to look down on me if I self-publish? No, because that still means that I wrote a book in the first place. Are people going to wonder if I’m surviving off of my writing? Probably not. Thanks to technology and the modern era, there are a million and one ways for me to write and have a life outside of it that is just as fulfilling.
So where does that leave me? Confused, to be honest. Like I said I’ve had this all wrong for several years now and I was planning on writing during college, trying to get published, and working small jobs until that bestseller came around. That doesn’t sound too perfect to me now. I can write all the books I want, self-publish them and be a writer by every definition of the word, but I can do so many other things now. But what?
I’m trying to figure that out. Right now I’m playing around with the idea of getting a MA or MFA and teaching at the college level. Like, the idea of helping other writers develop their skills and teaching them about the things I’ve learned sounds amazing. I could also go back to school for any other number of skills or just try to find my way in the work force. I feel like there are endless possibilities again, and they’re equally frightening and exciting.
I guess we’ll just wait and see where this story goes.
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