I think it is important to address this topic because so many people out there also want to achieve publication, but may often miss the point. I write because I love to write, I mean I can't not write; it's part of my makeup. Writing, to me, is cathartic. Anyone who knows me well, knows I write and have been writing since I was a little girl. So, why do I write? Simply because I love writing.
I once attended a retreat with the fabulous Patricia Lee Gauch. We spent a week in the mountains of North Carolina discussing, critiquing, dreaming out loud...and so many of her students asked about how to get published. She told us something that made perfect sense to me and I have carried with me my entire life, "If you are writing to get published, you are missing the point." I understood exactly what she was telling us: Real writers write for the love of writing, publishing is simply the cherry on top.
If you want to pursue publication, first ask yourself why you write. If you are writing for the love of writing, dig your heels in and keep on keeping on!
The thing about writing is that you must love it to pursue a career in it because it isn't all roses and champagne. People tell me often that they too have written a book and want to publish it. My reply is always to encourage this. Why not? There are so many stories out there worth telling! There's plenty of room in this great, big world for new writers! I do worry, however, that many of these people see the publication process as all roses and champagne. I also often feel that they think I can give them my "secret" to getting published. The good news is there is no secret! Truly, anyone can be published if they are ready to work for it! The bad news for most, however, is that there is no "quick process". My publication came after decades - yes DECADES- of hard work. It wasn't "luck" that I was published. I Am Currency wasn't my first book or my first attempt at being published. My publication came after a lifelong love and passion for writing which refined and improved for over 30+ years, decades of research, an English degree, decades of trial and error with query letters, attendance of writer's retreats and workshops and conferences, membership into writing groups, critiques, rejections...with a sprinkling of success here and there throughout it all.
Being a writer can be tricky because it is one of those things that can teeter on the fine line between hobby and career. I have a quote from one of my favorite authors, Pat Conroy, hanging on the wall by my writing desk. It is a quote from his book, My Losing Season, but actually words from his favorite teacher at the Citadel who told him: "You must learn to think of yourself as a writer." Even after the publication of two novels and a third on the way, I still often hesitate to call myself a writer. Why? My life is not glamorous. My process is not perfect. I am no expert. Often, my life looks like the chocolate factory from I Love Lucy...but I love it and I will continue to write for the rest of my life for the love of writing.
My best advice to aspiring writers is to research, read, attend conferences and workshops, welcome and accept critique, and don't give up. Start small with publications in local magazines and newspapers. Work your way into pieces in anthologies. Once you have a portfolio of small successes, begin pursuing publication of your manuscript. This was the process I used. It took decades, but I ended up where I wanted to be. Don't expect favors, just put in the work. And don't expect champagne and roses or a glamorous life. As you can see from my recent author interview, the life of an author can be a lot like an episode of I Love Lucy.
In a recent author interview from the super sweet Terri A Wilson (http://www.terriawilson.com/blog/whitney-l-grady ), I reply to a question about how I balance all of life's demands with my writing. Here is the Q+A:
"How do you balance writing with the other demands in your life?
Remember the old I Love Lucy episode when she is working in the chocolate factory and the belt goes faster and faster and she ends up in a chaotic mess? Often, this would be the best example of my attempt at balancing it all. Like most moms, some days I am organized and have everything working like clockwork…other days, it’s a chaotic mess!"