Sometimes the hardest thing about being an everyday author is putting in the work when you realize hardly anyone is going to read or appreciate your finished book. While this can make it hard to keep on keeping on, writing book after book for what seems like nothing, it’s probably for your own good. There’s a reason you need to do your practice reps in relative confinement. Here’s why:
1. Because you suck.
Most writers spend their budding years lauded with praise from teachers, professors, classmates, friends and family. Getting out into the big wide world, however, we soon learn we’re not so special after all. Just like with any other talent, out in the real world there are plenty of people just as good (and better) than us. What we once thought was great writing might be mediocre at best. There’s a good chance your skill isn’t ready for the big leagues for a few years.
2. Because you’re not ready to succeed.
Although everyone has their own unique writing process, most writers take years to hone in on what works best for them. Starting out, you’ve probably got some bad habits to work through. It takes experimentation to figure out how you write best — lots of trial and error. There’s always the slim chance you write a hit straight out of the gates, but if you don’t understand how story works — how you did it — how are you going to replicate or sustain that success?
3. Because you can do whatever you want.
I’m going to hand the mic over to Austin Kleon in Steal Like an Artist to answer this one:
“… you want attention only after you’re doing really good work. There’s no pressure when you’re unknown. You can do whatever you want. Experiment. Do things just for the fun of it. When you’re unknown, there’s nothing to distract you from getting better. No public image to manage. No huge paycheck on the line. No stockholders. No e-mails from your agent. No hangers-on. You’ll never get that freedom back again once people start paying you attention, and especially not once they start paying you money. Enjoy your obscurity while it lasts. Use it.”
So what do we do in the meantime?
Think back to high school, college and other times in your life that seemed to drag on. You probably thought they’d never end either. But lo and behold, they came and went, probably faster than you thought. And no matter how the experience was, you probably miss some aspects of those times. I’m willing to bet one day you’ll miss this period in your career as well.
“Be where you are when you are.” I cant remember where I came across this advice, but it’s stuck with me ever since. The future is coming fast enough on its own. For now, work to enjoy the writing for the writing’s sake, and the rest will come. Write your heart out. Write anything and everything. Write like no one’s reading. They’re probably not and what an opportunity that is.