Monthly Archives: December 2019

Set Realistic Expectations and Keep the Dream Alive

Another one by Scott Rhoades!


There’s a common affliction shared among most–maybe all–writers: we expect too much too soon. And it can kill a writing career faster than the loss of a favorite pen.

Writing requires persistence. It takes time to write a book, and more time to write a book that sells. You have to chug along through endless days of work and rejection before good things start to happen. But it never fails. As soon as that first paragraph is laid down and we get excited about what we’re writing, we have visions of bestseller lists and blockbuster movies.

The problem is, if our expectations are unrealistic, the inevitable frustration that comes with being a writer and shakes our confidence can push us to believe it’s not worth the effort, and we decide we’re not good enough and give up.

First novels are rarely published. Same with second novels. Sure, it happens. Many successful writers, though, have multiple books in a drawer, an unread testament to the need to learn and gain experience.

Why should it be any different? You won’t play a symphony the first time you sit down at a piano. Your first painting won’t get you a spot in the Louvre. The arts take practice. They take work. They take patience.

So, what if you change your goal? What if you redefine success? You have no control over what publishers want, but you control whether you write and keep writing.

Writing that first novel is a major achievement, published or not. Arthur Plotnik talks about this is his (sadly, out-of-print) book, Honk If You’re a Writer, reprinted as The Elements of Authorship (also sadly out of print). Plotnik points out that many people decide to write a book. Of those, the number who actually start is very small. The number who get to The End is so close to zero that it might as well be zero. 

Make getting to The End your goal, not publication. That puts success completely in your own hands. If you get there, you’ve accomplished something a tiny percentage of people have ever managed to do. That’s a really big deal. If you make it, you’ve succeeded.



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