If you are just starting out as writer, there is something you need to know. I have to tell you right now, before you write even one more word down.
Writers don't do it for the money.
If you are aspiring to write the next "Great American Novel" because it's sure to make you tons of money, don't do it.
Trust me, as much as writers would love to have fame and fortune along with writing credits and books on Barnes and Noble's shelves, they aren't doing it for that reason alone.
They are doing it because they love to write. They need to write. Writing is what they think about when they are supposed to be thinking about other things.
Don't believe me, here's a quote attributed to Timothy Egan that puts things in perspective:
"Most of the writers I know work every day, in obscurity and close to poverty, trying to say one thing well and true. Day in, day out, they labor to find their voice, to learn their trade, to understand nuance and pace. And then, facing a sea of rejections, they hear about something like Barbara Bush's dog getting a book deal."
There's no point in writing if you aren't all in. You've got to be more than willing to write when you should be sleeping. You have to want to write when you should be snoring the hours away. It's more like, "I know I should go to bed, but I've got to get this idea down on paper".
Writing is not a want; it's a need. When you go days without writing it should feel miserable, because it's your favorite thing to do. That's what all in feels like, but what does it look like?
All in looks different than it feels. The feelings associated with all in are what make some writers feel like impostors. If you set your sights on writing all weekend, and then wake up Monday morning and realize that all of your weekend was not spent writing, do you feel bad about it? Are you less than all in?
The answer to that is an admant, no! All in is not composed of weekends or even entire weeks. Spring break writers, that one applies to you with your notions that you are going to revise your entire first draft in seven days. I've been there too. We set massive goals and then feel terrible when we don't succeed.
All in is a compilation of the time you devoted over years, not weeks. That's right, years. If you don't feel like you can keep writing for years with no return on your investment, other than your own personal satisfaction with the end product, than you should rethink your writing career. Countless authors have toiled over manuscripts for years and never received publishing contracts.
Writers that are all in may not even enjoy writing on most days. If they are anything like me they despise editing with a fiery passion, but they cannot stop typing or scribbling on the back of bar napkins and receipts. Their hearts want to write and their bodies follow blindly.
So if you missed your goal of writing for every waking minute over the weekend, and then only spent three days of Spring Break revising your first draft, does that mean you aren't all in?
Only time will tell. If after a year you look back and most of your "writing time" was spent on writing, then I would boldly assert that you are all in.
But what counts as writing? Some days are going to be a bust. That's inevitable. You are going to try and write all morning, but other matters will come up. You really tried, but your dog also really tried to eat a bag of Hershey's Kisses and had to be rushed to the vet. I get that.
That afternoon, after all the commotion subsided and Rover is sleeping soundly far, far away from all forms of chocolate, you will set out to write again. But the whirlwind day has zapped your energy. Putting pen to paper just isn't going to happen.
What do writers do when they aren't writing? They read. So you decide to do some "research related" reading in your genre. Except, that your genre is mystery and you're reading a book about the plight of honey bees. Colony Collapse Disorder is a mystery to biologists so same thing, right?
No, not really, but I say it counts. It counts because you are studying someone else's writing style. You are learning and subconsciously absorbing details that can add flavor to your writing later on. At least you aren't watching reality television. You get huge kudos for that.
All in takes many shapes and forms. Writers have got to be all in, but at the same time, they must balance their lives and accept that every waking moment can't be totally devoted to their craft. Don't feel bad about slipping up on occasion, we all do it.
Provided that you have accepted the terms of being all in and you understand that your dedicated efforts may not result in the NYT or WSJ raving about your novel, being all in is not a sentence of any kind. It's a thrilling venture that never ceases to teach new things or provide milestones to celebrate. Writing isn't a hobby; it's a life choice. And it's one of the best one's out there, if you're all in.
If you're looking for some motivation, or feel worthy of a short break from writing, check out my writing Pinterest board. Be sure to share this post if you found it helpful and to follow me on Twitter as well.