What It Takes to Write

Like most other authors out there, many people ask me the same questions again and again – what does it take to be a writer? What does it take to publish a book?

There are as many answers to these questions as there are books in a bookstore. A rich inner life. A rich outer life. A strong desire to spend most of your time alone in a room with only a glowing computer screen for company. Ideas. Talent. The willingness to develop your talent.

While all of these things are important, I think they skate around, but never touch on the most important thing any writer needs:

Courage.

The courage to pick up a pen or open a blank document. The courage to write down their thoughts, where anyone might read them. The courage to keep plodding away at something that they may not always love, because something inside them drives them toward that question mark of a future.

It takes courage to write. It takes courage to do a lot of things – skydive, bungee jump, tell your boss where he can stick it – but this is the kind of quiet courage we all have inside of us no matter how introverted or shy we may be. It takes courage to put pieces of ourselves down onto paper. It takes courage to share that with others.

It takes courage to accept the reality that publishing is a long and difficult road that never ends. It takes courage to wake up every day in pursuit of this, despite not knowing where it will take you.

It takes courage to look at our work with a critical eye and the knowledge that we are not yet the best we can be. That we may never be the best we can be. And it takes courage to strive for that anyway.

It takes courage to walk into that writers group our first day, clutching twelve paperclipped copies of our first chapter. It takes courage to sit there quietly while the other members of our group question our hard work, pointing out flaws we’re not so sure exist.

It takes courage to go home and set those notes aside. It takes courage to come back to them later. It takes courage to study them without dismissing them, and it takes courage to admit that maybe those other members might be right after all.

It takes courage to tear apart our manuscripts in the name of making it better, even when we’re convinced we’ll just make it worse. It takes courage to try new things, new techniques, new plots we never would have thought of if someone else hadn’t pointed it out.

It takes courage to look back over our revised manuscripts and admit that maybe we’re not so bad at this after all.

It takes courage to write a query letter. It takes courage to research agents. It takes courage to read blogs and advice books, and it takes courage to push ourselves to write the best representation of our work that we can create.

It takes courage to type in agent@agency.com. And it takes courage to hit send.

It takes courage to know that failure comes before success, even if we hope we’re the exception to the rule. It takes courage to read that first rejection, that first “pass” or “this wasn’t for me.” And it takes courage to read the fiftieth, too.

It takes courage to learn from the mistakes in our first query letter. It takes courage to acknowledge that it might not be the query letter – it might be the story instead. It takes courage to step back and examine our work with a critical eye all over again. It takes courage to fix it. And it takes a whole lot of courage to admit that maybe we aren’t yet ready for this step after all.

It takes courage to put our beloved manuscript in a box and tuck it away, knowing it will never be read by the masses. It takes courage to stop feeling like a failure. And it takes courage to open up another blank document and write Chapter One.

It takes courage to go through the whole process again, this time without the New Writer smell and all of the optimism it brings with it. It takes courage to finish a second time with that first manuscript looking over your shoulder. It take courage to present this new work to your writing group, knowing they’ll know it means you didn’t make it with the first. It takes courage to accept their criticisms all over again, and it takes courage to accept their praise about how much you’ve improved as well.

It takes courage to send out another batch of queries. It takes courage to open those emails. It takes courage to admit to yourself that maybe there’s a glimmer of hope the first time you get a partial request. And it takes courage to let yourself celebrate when that partial request turns into a full.

It takes courage to face the incredible hurt when that full is rejected. It takes courage to try again. It takes courage to change your manuscript on an agent’s request – on a maybe that may never pan out. And it takes courage to answer that phone call from the 212 area code when you’re in the middle of the busiest hours of your day.

It takes courage not to say yes right away to the agent’s offer of representation. It takes courage to ask questions. It takes courage to hang up the phone. It takes courage to email the other agents who have your partials and fulls, letting them know what’s going on, knowing this might mean even more rejection.

It takes courage decide who’s right for you. It takes courage to sign on the dotted line. It takes courage not to email every single day you’re on submission, and it takes courage to live your life while strangers in a New York City skyscraper decide your fate.

It takes courage to accept an offer of publication – or, if you’re lucky, choose from several. It takes courage to go through the editing process all over again, sometimes for a year or two or three. It takes courage to accept your book isn’t the lead and that it likely won’t become the smash hit you hoped it would be.

It takes courage to market yourself. It takes courage to tell the truth when people ask you what you do for a living, because you’re a writer now, and not everyone understands that writing is a real job, too. It takes courage to keep smiling when you see the doubt in their eyes, because they’re one of those people who don’t get it and likely never will.

It takes courage to walk into a bookstore on your release day and tell the employees you’d like to sign stock. It takes courage to go to book signings, uncertain if anyone will ever show up. It takes courage to look at reviews. It takes courage to stop.

It takes courage to start the process all over again, but instead of having that first manuscript staring over your shoulder, you have an entire audience and the expectations your first book has built. It takes courage to acknowledge your fears. And it takes courage to do it anyway.

Most of all, it takes courage not to give up on yourself no matter what this path throws your way.

Courage, more than anything, is what it takes to be a writer. But the good news is, at least you don’t have to jump out of an airplane to do it.

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About Aimée Carter

THE GODDESS TEST series is in stores now! PAWN, the first book in the Blackcoat Rebellion series, was released November 2013, and CAPTIVE and QUEEN, the sequels, will be available in late 2014 and 2015, all from Harlequin Teen. SIMON THORN AND THE WOLF'S DEN, the first book in a middle grade series with Bloomsbury US/UK, will be released in Fall 2015.

Posted on October 27, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. That was beautiful.

    (Although I will admit, some days I’d rather jump out of an airplane. At least that comes with an instant adrenaline rush…)

  2. This was amazing! Thank you for sharing this. Sometime I don’t think I have courage to write, but then I read something like this and it makes it all better 🙂

  3. (Slow clapping turning into a standing ovation.) That was beautiful.

  4. Thanks. I’m trying to be a writer and I’m tired of people who know nothing about writing telling me all about exactly what it takes to be a writer. You know your stuff and this is one of the most authentic things that I’ve ever read.

  5. This is beautiful. and very very well said. You’ve succeeded in making me cry. Thank you so much for this. it’s wonderful.

  6. Wow! I loved this post. I recently found the courage to share my story on finding my Deaf identity with the Deaf community in Australia because it is such a controversial issue. I wonder if you could have a read and give me feedback? The link is http://phoebetay.wordpress.com/2013/07/07/me-myself-and-i-2/

    I am a Deaf writer.
    Phoebe

  7. Salayman Amanzai

    it would have been nice if it gave some info on how to muster this much courage.

  1. Pingback: Links of interest from that world wide web yoke | Claire Hennessy

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