Writers flipping lie, man. We lie all the stinking time. We make stuff up and sell it. That’s fiction. We’re good at it. Call it creative thinking call it whatever the heck you want. We lie.
I’ve told some big lies growing up. The dog did it, my brother did it, aliens did it. Lies, lies, lies…
But you know what else I’ve discovered about writers- We Lie to ourselves more than anyone.
I know what your thinking- I don’t lie to myself. Listen, if you said that- You just lied to yourself.
Imagine there is this magical ring of manure circling your head. Every time you lie to yourself a small piece falls. But you can’t wash it away- It stays there, stuck to your skin. Eventually, you walk around covered in manure and realize you missed out because you believed a bunch of GARBAGE about yourself and your writing that wasn’t even true.
Publishing is tough. I know. I’ve been there. Still am. I’ve had countless short stories rejected, been told I couldn’t write, and even had a mom email me mad because she thought my story “My Friend Louie” was a twisted piece of evil… (That’s a bit true: It is a mangled up twisted bit of evil told in a Raw Memoir style about a troubled teen with a psychological disorder who believes his baseball bat is talking to him: Now Go Buy My Book)
But I’ve lied to myself, so many times it’s held me back in what I want to accomplish.
So here they are- In no particular order- Lies we writers tell ourselves. I’ve told these all to myself.
1) I just write for myself- It doesn’t matter if I get published.
Oh come on, don’t tell me that. I use to say that as well. Until I had a short story published and wondered aloud- I hope someone is buying it..? Do they like it…? What do they think of it…? Writers write to be read. Sure there is the hobbyist, but those are rare- The very act of writing a story is for the purpose of communication. Saying you only write for yourself is like Jesus saying: I’m going to tell a parable, but it’s only for myself. You write to be read.
2) I don’t have time.
Seriously…? You’re going to tell me that…? I have a full-time job where I’m a senior level executive in a very Busy Marketing Company. I’m involved in church. Have two of the most insane Toddlers. And a wonderful wife. I eat right; I work out daily, I read, watch TV, and still manage to write. Life is about Balance. It’s tough to find because it means sacrifice. Do I get stressed- You bet. Do I get mad and bark at my kids- Sure. Do I forget to tell my wife what she means to me- Yes. I fail. But I have time to do all those things which are important plus write. You have time to write. Turn off Netflix, Hulu, put the book away, tell your friends no, stop sleeping in, and write. 15 minutes a day. 30 minutes a day. Doesn’t matter- Just Write. I always tell people when they can’t find time to work out, read their Bible, or write, then they need to do those things in 25-minute increments. Why…? Because 25 Minutes is only 1% of your day. You can find 1%…
3) I don’t care if it sells.
Oh please, YES YOU DO!!! I don’t know of a single writer who hasn’t checked his / her Amazon rankings. Maybe Stephen King – But he is the exception to the rule. But if you haven’t crashed the Big Bestseller List, then you check them… Trust me- I know. Saying you don’t care if it sales is like my boss saying “J.J. – If this campaign doesn’t work, it’s alright.” We pour a lot of time, creativity, and money into our campaigns. They better work. And if they don’t- (Trust me- Some haven’t) we have to find out why and fix it.
4) I don’t care if I get Bad Reviews.
Listen, bad reviews come and go. I got one because it was to Christian. Another one said I was evil (The Mad Mommy). Your story isn’t going to connect with everyone. That’s a fact. And in my case some won’t understand your voice. But you care, believe me. You do. You know how many times someone has asked me to vote down a bad review. (Don’t do that by the way- More likely I’ll vote it up) People don’t like to be criticized. They don’t like to see something that they pour time, effort, and energy into. Even if what the reviews are saying are true- We care. I get nervous anytime my wife reads my work- I get anxious when I email a story to a critique partner. You care, and other writers understand. So pour out your frustration to those who can relate- Stop keeping it locked inside because you want to pretend you can handle it.
5) I have to work at building my platform before I can write a book- That away it sells.
Here is the issue with this. If you spend all your time trying to build your platform, what are you going to say/sell when you step up on that platform. If you’re writing nonfiction and building your brand through blogging- You may be able to get away with this. But a fiction writer- Dude, just write the blasted book. I believed this lie for a long time. Partly because I work in Marketing and it’s branded within my mind. Platform/ Branding- Worry about that junk later. Right now just write. Imagine if a young new man came into your town- Passed out flyers, had a booth at a local health fair, and was telling everyone “I’m opening a new family practice. My name is Dr. Boo.” What would we ask him? Well, where is it…? When does it open…? What kind of insurance does he accept…? What would you do if his response was this: “Well, it’s not open yet. I still have to finish med school then do my residency. But, it’s coming soon.” Most of us are going to laugh, move along, and forget about him. The 4 P’s to Marketing are Product, Place, Price, and Promotion. But you have to have a product first… The horse is your story- The cart is your brand and platform- Go write.
6) I don’t listen to writing experts- They don’t know what they are talking about.
Well, chances are you won’t make it – Or here’s is a news flash – Maybe your listening to the wrong expert. If you are writing Science Fiction, you probably don’t want to always listen to the industry advice of someone that only sells cookbooks. I would even recommend finding experts in the genres you write in. Sure a lot of the industry news is across all genres. But agents that sell only Romance more than likely don’t know much about the Science Fiction market. There are a few great agents that crossover- But still- Sci-fi fans are a different brand of cookie. I don’t think anyone writing Romance would come to me and say, “Hey, you got any marketing tips.” I would be clueless. One, I don’t read the genre, so I’m not in the target market, and Two, I don’t have a clue what makes Romance readers click. I just don’t. It’s a great genre with great writers but don’t ask me how to fix your plot holes because I’m clueless when it comes to mainstream Romance. (Both in fiction and in life). There are writing experts out there in your genre- Find them- Listen to them- And learn from them…
7) Writing is too expensive- I can’t do this.
Man Shazam!!! This is the biggest freaking whopper of them all. Writing is cheap. Just grab a pen and paper and go to work. Publishing is expensive. Editing is expensive. Cover design, advertising, and writers conferences are expensive. Storytelling- Is the cheapest hobby there is. Write it on a chalkboard, on a note card, or draft it on a used tea bag. Just write. Click to Tweet
8) No one is publishing my genre- It doesn’t seem to be salable.
That isn’t quite as accurate as many think. The big publishers may not be publishing many titles in your genre- But that doesn’t mean small presses aren’t. Don’t be afraid of a small press. They are out there- And some good ones too. Remember, Bloomsbury was a small, well-respected, independent publisher. They were the only publisher willing to take on a children’s book called: Harry Potter. Look what happened.
I write this post mainly to me. I’m guilty of all these things- And I’m guilty every day. I have virtually no success as an author. Zero, zilch, zip… But I understand what holds me back. I lie to myself. I’m sure what I say seems arrogant, brash, even a bit pompous.
The truth is I get irritated by people that make excuses- Why? Because I hear them all day long, and normally, I’m the one making them.