Sage Advice for Young Writers and Bloggers
The first thing I did when Emily asked me to guest write a post for her blog was to be amazed that anyone would want to take such a risk. The second was to look at the topic: what I would tell a 23-year-old who wanted to be a writer or a blogger. I did a quick calculation and discovered that in the intervening decades between age 23 and where I am now, I have lost approximately 239 lbs and gained approximately 259. My hair has changed color and style 41 times, and my bra size has gone from 34B to 34D. My shoe size and hat size have remained constant, but my height has decreased by 1.5 inches. Two husbands appeared, but not at the same time. Small beings in my immediate vicinity have appeared, gotten larger, and eventually disappeared. One has now produced two small beings of her own, thereby assuring me that in the distant future, after I am gone, someone will look at photos of me and wonder why people looked so funny back then.
Writingwise, the decades have contained fiction and non-fiction, some self-published, some published by others. A couple contests were won. A short story was read on NPR. Many rejections were collected. A blog was started a little over two years ago. None of my writing has made me famous, and very little of it has made me any money at all. All of it seemed of value when originally written, but not all of it withstood the test of time.
So, back to the topic: What would I tell a 23-year-old now, about wanting to be a writer and/or a blogger?
The good news is that you are coming of age at a time in which anyone has easy access to self-publishing. The bad news is that you are coming of age at a time in which anyone has easy access to self-publishing. Chances are overwhelming that the only way you will see your work in print will be because you put it there, not because you are discovered. Chances are also overwhelming that you won’t get paid for what you write. There are way too many writers out there, really good writers, happily giving their words away.
Most people who are currently successful in publishing are online. Print magazine subscriptions are plummeting, while Huff/Post is thriving. The Kindle has passed the vibrator as the #1 sex toy for women. So throw out your dildos, and whatever you do, do it online.
Just because you have a passion to write doesn’t mean that the world is waiting for your words. They are too busy stockpiling water for the Armageddon or watching Bachelor Pad 2 or standing in line for the next iPhone. Whether you have a publisher or not, the only person who will market your book is you. If you don’t create a demand for your book, there will be none.
The easiest way for a literary agent to assess the quality of your work is to ignore it. Literary agencies throw unread manuscripts into large boxes and anyone who has time on their hands can take free reading home. Few people do. If you want someone to actually read what you submit, you are going to have to be very creative and very diligent. In other words, you are going to have to do more than send out query letters.
Like book writing, people aren’t waiting for your blog posts, either. Building up a blog readership can be ridiculously time consuming, and, just when you are patting yourself on the back over having 1000 followers, you discover someone who has 10,000 or 100,000 followers and they aren’t famous, either.
Freshly Pressed is like a one night stand. A hot one night stand, yes. A one night stand that will make you shriek and rock you to your toes and back again. But it won’t last longer than that. You won’t be able to take it home to introduce it to your parents. It might ask you out again for more one night stands, but on subsequent romps, no matter how spectacular, some part of you will know the deal. You will know that in the morning, you’ll be alone again, and Freshly Pressed will be gone, off to fondle another blogger.
The bottom line is that you won’t listen to any of this because you really, really believe in the depths of your soul that you have what it takes to be a writer. You believe that what you write will be the next Big Thing. You believe that the world will take a texting break in order to read what you have written. And thank goodness for that. Because after the marriage and the mortgage and the mayhem of child rearing, you might set the writing aside, in favor of more pedestrian pursuits. And that would be a shame. Because you might have been the one to beat the system.
P.S. from Snotting Black: Isn’t she great? Visit her blog! Give her a high-five!