If your Nerve, deny you — Go above your Nerve —
UCLA Professor Richard Walter talks in this video about a young man asking him if pursuing a career in script writing is a reasonable thing to do, and he says "No!" He tells the interviewer, writing a screenplay, writing in general, it's tantamount to going up to someone and saying "I had this dream... can I tell you about it?" And should they be a kind person, and say "Sure, tell me about your dream," then adding the addendum, "Ok, it's going to take X number of hours, and I'm going to need ten bucks from you."
It's not reasonable. You'd have to be bonkers to expect to make money out of a career doing that. You hear all the time, from all different writers: when you become a writer it is because you cannot be anything else. Nothing else satisfies. Everything else seems even less reasonable.
No other career but writing has ever made sense to me. And, luckily for me, writing a story has never been hard for me. I truly enjoy writing, and I have a million ideas, and I have since I first started writing when I was in elementary school. However, writing a story is not the same thing has finishing a book, and it's not the same thing as publishing a book, and both of those things are hard. Especially when you're self-publishing, and you have to plan out, and undertake each stage with minimal help and only the amount of money you can afford to invest in a project that (if you're honest with yourself) might not pan out.
The title of this blog post is one of my all time favorite quotes. It comes from a poem by Emily Dickinson. This quote embodies the first step towards becoming a writer. You're going to have doubt. Go over Doubt's head to the big boss which is Courage, and do the thing anyway.
When you do? You'll hit road blocks anyway. The decision to self-publish was my first road block. I asked myself, did I want to wait months and months trying to find someone who believed in me as much as I did? And once I did find that person, did I want I want to sign over the majority of my rights to someone else? Did I want someone else to design my cover and how the rest of the world first got a look at the thing I had poured my heart and soul into?
No, no, and no. Thank you very much. That path is perfectly fine, but it's not for me. I've seen the modern book cover trend of stark text on minimal background, and I've heard the horror stories of authors who got picked up and then put into storage for ages. Hard pass.
I figured, if I was going to have to put in the work of writing the books, promoting the books, and all the rest anyway then I wanted my dream to be on my terms. I think that's as reasonable as this career gets.
In the preface to his book "Gardens of the Moon" (which, full disclosure, I have not read) writer Steven Erikson leaves off with this quote:
"One last word to all you nascent writers out there. Ambition is not a dirty word. Piss on compromise. Go for the throat. Write with balls, write with eggs. Sure, it's a harder journey but take it from me, it's well worth it. Cheers, Steven Erikson"
I ran across (and love) this quote in a pared down form, "Ambition is not a dirty word. Piss on compromise. Go for the throat."
Does anyone remember that scene from Mulan where Shang hands her the two weights: discipline and strength? If you don't, here it is.
Honestly, Dickinson's quote, and Erikson's quote, they are those two weights weights for me. You need both to reach the arrow, which is finishing a book, and then self-publishing it. You need to go above your own limitations, and you need to work your tail off and get exactly what you want.
If you have any questions about the process, or anything else, feel free to drop it in the comments down below!