No, I’m not talking about romances. I’m talking about writing.
HH and I found a new series to watch on Prime–MY GREATEST DISHES. Each show highlights one of top 20 chefs who’ve won Michelin stars for their restaurants and asks them to choose four dishes that represent them and their career the best. Most choose a dish from their childhood, one that their family loves, one that brought fame to their restaurant, and one that represents their style of cooking. These are chefs, not cooks. Some of the dishes look beautiful and win raves, but HH and I look at each other and ask, “Would we really want to eat that?” Offal and pigs’ cheeks slow us down a little, but watching the programs is inspiring. Because every single chef we’ve watched is so passionate about the food he creates.
I imagine every artist of every type goes into his field of writing, painting, music, or performing hoping that he’ll be really good at it, that he’ll be “discovered,” and that his work will be rewarding, one way or another. Reality is harsh, and most artists suffer a lot of rejection and have to work hard to find any success. And to do that, they need passion. And perseverance.
The passion is one of the reasons it’s so wonderful to get together with fellow writers. When we’re in the same room or place, we eventually start talking craft and business, marketing and favorite books and authors, on and on. When I was a teacher, it was the same way. HH used to joke that you could take the teacher out of the classroom but you could never take the classroom out of the teacher, that when we got together, we talked shop. Same with the nurses I know. And I’m guessing it’s the same with anyone who’s passionate about what he does for a living.
When my writers’ group gets together, we talk about hooks, plotting, pacing, word choice, and how hard it is to make it as a writer. Is it better to finish a book these days and look for an agent and a publisher or to self-publish? How much marketing do you have to do? Can you get away without marketing at all, only relying on paying for ads? Shop talk. And it’s wonderful to bounce ideas off each other. We can agree to disagree.
I can’t think of one of us who hasn’t hit bottom at one time or another, and the rest of us are there to listen and encourage, to sympathize and strategize. Nothing a person wants to be good at is easy to do. Nothing that I can think of. The more serious you are about it, the harder it gets. And I don’t think that ever changes.
I’ve listened to writers who’ve written lots of books and become best-sellers, and they all worry that the new book they’re working on will be good enough, that readers will like it. When I first started writing, I hoped that it would get easier and easier. And in some ways, it does. You find things that work for you. And in other ways, it gets harder. Because you want your new book to be at least as good as the last one and hopefully better. If you keep trying to make each book better than the one before it, you can’t rest on the things that you’re comfortable with. You keep pushing for more.
Do you ever feel comfortable just doing what you do? I don’t know. I haven’t reached that point yet. I’m not sure I ever will. That’s what keeps my passion strong. That, for me, is one of the reasons I love to write.
Good luck to you in your endeavors. And happy writing!