The Reality of Being a Writer

freelance-writing-typewriterHello, my name is Milton Hooper and I am a writer.

No, I am not in some sort of 12-step program for writers but I should be.

I’m a writer and I can’t help myself.

Yesterday I received yet another rejection email from an agent. I have done this for so long that I have lost count. I really don’t want to know.  Still, I continue to send out queries for my book and it’s still in manuscript format.  In the “olden days” I printed out my manuscript and slapped a query letter on top of it and enclosed a self-address stamped envelope. I have a file cabinet full of rejection letters on paper too.

I have had some success with magazine articles when I first ventured out into freelance writing. I remember the time a magazine editor said they were going to pay me $1,000 for a feature article. I have not had that kind of payment since then.  Beginner’s luck I guess.

Being a writer is the practice of slow torture. You write and wait. You wait for that one agent or one editor to accept your work.

That’s another thing. It used to be that you would query an editor at a publishing company. Today they won’t even talk to you unless you are represented by an agent. So now I am querying agents like I used to do for publishers and it is still the same result.

I also get a routine call from those vanity press people who want you to pay them to publish your book.  Yes, I’m all over that one.  I will pay thousands of dollars for someone else to publish it.

I have done the self-publishing process too. I got all excited when I self-published my first book and put it out there on Amazon. I just knew that it would sell a few hundred copies and I would have some extra money. Three years later, I haven’t even sold 50.  Just because you publish something doesn’t mean that people are going to buy it.

I have learned never to assume anything.

A Hollywood agent was interested in one of my manuscripts a few months ago but I have yet to hear back from him.  The initial excitement has become yet another disappointment on this writer’s journey.

I continue to write. I can’t help myself. Maybe I should be in a support group. I probably need help for this self-induced torture.

If you were to ask me why I write, I would tell you that I feel like I have to write. It is just inside of me. I have book ideas in my head. Thank goodness for this blog. At least I have some sort of outlet to provide me with therapy.

Am I seeking to be popular? No. I want to be successful in that I would like to have extra income.  I’m not interested in doing book signings or being the next J.K. Rowling.  Well, I’m not stupid either.  If it happened I would be okay with it but that isn’t my goal.  After attending a local writer’s conference I know that there is a lot of competition out there.  It was a humbling experience.

If you asked me what my dream would be in this craft, it would be as a successful Christian fiction author. I have a lot of stories in my head. I would like to share them with people. I want to inspire people with my writing.

Even though I haven’t been published by a real publisher, I am still a writer. That’s just who I am.

The first fiction story I remember writing was in seventh grade. I was fascinated with a television show called “The Fantastic Journey”. I rewrote the story to include my fellow classmates.  I never let anyone read it.  I just liked doing it.

I never pursued writing for anything else except as a hobby. I would often write my own sports articles and make up statistics of games and leagues. I didn’t know at the time that I would one day work part time as a sportswriter.  That experience was a lot of fun and probably re-ignited the writing fire inside of me.

I published my own newsletter which I called AMEN! for several years. It was a monthly publication where I would try to inspire people. I never had the thought that it would make me known or successful.  That’s not what I had intended it to be.  I just wanted to inspire people about knowing a real God for real life yet, you know how people can be, it was assumed otherwise.

That’s another part of writing — criticism.  You might think being a writer is a glamorous hobby until you face the haters.  Most editors will be gentle but some have come down hard on me while some readers have responded negatively to something I have written.  I have learned to let it go. People have their causes and many things in this business are subjective anyway.  At least they are reading my stuff.

And when I tell you I’m a writer, don’t assume that I am an expert at English.  I won’t always get my punctuation in the right places and often leave some participles dangling.  Thank goodness for spell and grammar check but when it comes time to edit something I really do not enjoy that part of writing.

Such is the writer’s life.   The reality of writing isn’t so glamorous.  Inspiration hits at odd times and then there are times where I have to force myself to sit at the computer and write.  I’m still puzzled at the difficulty in doing that.  It’s quite a mental tug-of-war with myself.  It’s funny that when I sit down to write that I find it more interesting to organize my sock drawer.  It’s madness I tell ya!

I write because that’s who I am.


I’ve Lost The Writing Mojo

writerThere…I have confessed.  My writing has lost its steam.  I was rolling along pretty well with writing a page-per-day or 1,000 words each day working on my next novel.  Now it seems I look for every reason NOT to write.

“I MUST click on that link about what happened on the Andy Griffith Show that no one knew.”

“There must be a cat video I haven’t seen yet on YOUTUBE.”

“I need a nap.”

“I need to shop for a new (add tech gadget here) to help me with my writing.”

Here’s a good one…..”I will even read about writing.  I just don’t want to write.”

What’s wrong with me?

Apparently every writer goes through this.  Well, I don’t like it.  In fact, I would rather write a blog post than work on the novel that’s just sitting there laughing at me on my to-do list.

This is terrible.

The easy answer is to just sit down and write.  So why can’t I do it?

I think one huge thing is the lack of success in getting an agent or getting published.  It is difficult to stay motivated when you put a lot of work to submit what the agent/publisher wants only to be rejected.  If you think it’s just simply the work of submitting your manuscript, let me tell you that it’s more involved than that.  For the last submission, the agent wanted the following:

  • Two-page synopsis on the book
  • Query letter
  • Book marketing plan (isn’t that their job?)
  • Chapter summary
  • First five pages of the manuscript
  • My writing resume

Each agent wants something different so it isn’t that you can simply prepare all of this ahead of time and send them out to every agent.  Oh no.  Not so fast my friends.

So you spend time working on these requirements, send them in and immediately – thanks to the power of technology – receive a rejection email which was probably an auto-reply.

And you wonder why I have lost some steam?

It gets old.  When I first started this writing hobby (I call it a hobby because it isn’t my full-time job nor have I been published by a real publisher) you could submit your manuscript with a query letter to the publisher.  Now the publishers won’t even talk to you unless you have representation of an agent.

So, instead of being rejected by publishers, the rejections come from agents now.

The most common reason for rejection is:  “This is not what I’m looking for right now”.

I will tell you that writing is a very subjective and a very competitive venture.  One agent got bent out of shape on how I used the word “parsonage” in one of my manuscripts.  I was happy that she even gave me feedback.

So, yes, the lack of success of finding an agent/publisher has worn me down.

Another thing is that I work a full-time job.  It is difficult to carve out writing time when you work a real paying job.  I have tried several ways but none seem to gain any momentum at all.  I don’t want to get up earlier than I have to and I run out of gas at the end of the day.

So why even do it?  Why bother writing?

Oh, believe me, I have asked myself that question many times.  Why do I put myself through this?  Just work my job and let that be it right?  The problem is that I can’t do it.  I feel the desire to write.  I can’t seem to turn it off.  It’s not that I think I’m so good.  That’s not it.  It’s not that I want to be successful – although I wouldn’t turn away the extra money from it.  For some reason, I just HAVE to write.  Maybe it’s my “calling” or my purpose in life.  I just can’t stop doing it.

So what’s the answer?  Well, I’m not liking the answer.  It’s going to take discipline.  I KNOW that’s the answer but I don’t like discipline.

It seems I can find every reason NOT to write.  I need to re-discover reasons TO write and then DO it.