Does your writing career need to go on a diet so that it can get stronger again?
It’s no secret that losing weight is one of the most common new year’s resolutions. The resolution is triggered by an ah-ha moment that too much of a good thing wasn’t actually a good thing after all.
I think that the same sentiment can be applied to our writing careers. In the pursuit of building platform, landing an agent or trying to support our lifestyles, sometimes the “career” part of our writing career can get big and bulky.
Your writing words are a living part of who you are. Your writing words deserve to be healthy, strong and agile to meet the challenges and rigors of the creative process. In contrast, when your writing words get weighed down by a writing career filled with too many expectations, it may be harder to woo the words to come.
In the fall, our Books & Such agency team read Elizabeth Gilbert’s NYT #1 best-seller, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear* We enjoyed discussing Gilbert’s insights and stories about what it means to love writing and overcoming the fears that keep us from enjoying the writing process.
If you’re familiar with Elizabeth Gilbert, you know that she wrote the oft-debated best-seller, Eat, Pray, Love. What you may not know is that Gilbert kept her day job until after that book was a success. In Big Magic, she writes about how Toni Morrison, JK Rowling and Ann Patchett did the same. She spends a lot of the book encouraging creatives to focus on writing and trust that the career part will catch up. Gilbert warns that weighing down our writing with our expectations can wreck our creative process.
I love how Gilbert writes about this:
“But to yell at your creativity, saying, “You must earn money for me!” is sort like yelling at a cat; it has no idea what you’re talking about, and all you’re doing is scaring it away, because you’re making really loud noises and your face looks weird when you do that.
But don’t count on the payoff, I beg of you – only because such payoffs are exceedingly rare, and you might very well kill off your creativity by holding it to such a harsh ultimatum” (pgs. 155-156).
As you enter a new year and consider your goals for your writing careers, is it possible to remove the excess “career” weight from your writing? I’m not saying that you need to stop writing blogs, doing podcasts or posting on social media. However, do you need to drop any excess weight that slows your writing down or drains your writing joy. One of the most common “weights” is our expectations around how we think that our writing careers should flow. Goals are good, but expectations are a tension that we’ve got to carefully manage. Take a moment and think – are there any rigid expectations that you’ve put on your writing career, like working with a specific publisher, expecting a specific annual income or a certain book contract to go through, etc?
As a new agent, I’m working with a few hopeful authors and potential clients. As we discuss their writing careers and how to position themselves best for representation or a future book contract, the goal is to focus on growing as a writer and trust that the career will follow in its time and in scale with whatever size that God knows is best for each person.
That’s my encouragement to you today. In 2021, take time to get clear on how you will grow as a writer and how will you measure your growth. Need a first step and second step? You may already know this but a great first step is attending a writer’s conference. Second, keep joining us on the Books & Such blog twice a week. Why?
We celebrate writers here!
We want to champion your commitment to cultivating your writing gift.
We pray for your words, your work and your willingness to take risks and reach for new goals.
Most of all, we want you to write – and write well without letting unrealistic expectations steal the joy of your words from the world.
In one of my favorite sections of Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert explains how she made a vow as a writer when she was sixteen year old. I’m not saying that you have to repeat this for yourself, but I hope the following inspires you to make a renewed commitment to your writing this year:
“I promised that I would try to be brave about it, and grateful, and as uncomplaining as I could possibly be. I also promised that I would never ask writing to take care of me financially, but that I would always take care of it – meaning that I would always support us both, by any means necessary” (p. 140).
QUESTION: What is your dream for your writing in 2021? How do you maintain your joy of writing?
*There’s a lot of secular content and some foul language. If you’re sensitive to those elements, you may want to check it out of the library first before you order it.