This is an excerpt from a series of messages exchanged with Vermont author and former Westfield resident, Mike Walsh this morning-
Mike: Just sitting here remembering something that happened a couple of years ago. I was at a family gathering. The father of a fellow author was there. Their child had written six books and was proud of what they had done. The father looked at me and said, "She has tried this writing thing. She didn't do well with it, so it is time for her to move on to something else." I was flabbergasted with his comment. It is bad that most people feel that way. Namely, if you haven't made a lot of money at writing it is not worth doing it. I have never talked to the person about this. That author knows that she has done well in creating all of those stories and that is all that matters. This issue is something that all new authors have to learn to overcome. I was going to post this on the website but thought better of it. I don't want to discourage anyone. The fact that less than 5% of our population writes is important. Less than half of that number writes more than one book because of the superficial success measurements society puts on all of us. To write is to bare our souls to the world. It takes courage and commitment.
Susan: You should put this on the blog. Yes, it can be discouraging, but it's something authors have to deal with, and that is why groups in which authors support and promote one another's work is important. It keeps us from feeling so alone and hopeless in the world.
Here are some additional thoughts I've had since this morning.
I am the mother of an author. I have written for my daughter for her entire life. The greatest gift she's ever given me is her sitting down and writing stories for me. She began writing stories in first grade. They were better than the average first grader's work, which was pointed out to me by her teacher during a parent teacher conference. I had begun writing around that time myself, so I didn't think much of Kelly's ability to plot and write a story at that age. Her work wasn't always perfect. There is no writer living or dead who has ever sat down and written the perfect, flawless piece.
What I never did was say, oh, what are you wasting your time for? I encouraged her, supported her, and as she grew up we have grown together as writers and authors. She has self published two books. I am terribly proud of her. I would never dream of telling her it's time to try something else. She is a writer. It is in her blood and DNA. To squelch that would be akin to stepping on a pretty bug because it serves no visible purpose. EVERYTHING has a purpose. Musicians play the music that threads and resonated through their souls. Poets, authors, playwrights, screenwriters, blog authors....anyone who writes cannot NOT write. It is who they are.
Instead of discouraging creativity we should always make an effort to encourage it and nurture it. Most of the time creativity will not pay the bills, those boring routine but necessary jobs pay the rent and grocery bills and utilities. If a publisher gloms onto you and promotes the crap out of your work more power to you, but it's actually a very small percentage of authors who attain that lofty status. The rest of us labor away at what we love to do, pouring hearts and souls into our works and reaping extremely limited rewards, BUT, the greatest reward is following your dream and writing those books and getting them out there into the world.
And the best marketing tool is word of mouth. Who is better at promoting your work than you yourself? Your local author friends who also make author appearances. There are all kinds of writers in the world, and all kinds of readers. I always ask people who come to my table, what do you like to read. If it's not something I write, but it is something one of my author friends does write, I say, well, here's the name of a terrific author who writes books like that. I think you'll enjoy them. I may not have a sold a book, but I may have helped another author sell a book. I want to promote this idea of a network of authors and writers supporting one another and promoting one another's work.
And we should never discourage anyone with the guts to put pen to paper and write. I was a horrible writer when I first started writing. But I kept writing and my writing grew as I grew. I evolved and so did my ability to use words to evoke images and emotions. Never stifle the desire to write in anyone. Encourage, nurture, support, mentor, monitor and never forget, you were in that place once.
Another way to support other authors is to read their books and review them. You won't like every book, but always find something positive to say. If it's not your cup of tea, say, "Although this is not a genre I normally read I did find the authors ability to evoke images and emotions both poignant and provocative. If you like (insert genre here), then you're certain to enjoy this book." Keep it positive. Keep it simple. Keep it honest. Keep it in mind that your author friend will return the favor.
Well...I was just supposed to post that piece Mike had written to me this morning...and as usual, sit me down at the computer and I'll write forever!