College of Writer Life

When I first sat down at the kitchen table with a crazy idea for a story and my laptop I had no idea what I was getting into. Does any writer? Seeking publication is a pretty nutty thing to do with your life after all. I can remember hearing stories when I was only 20,000 words into that first manuscript about how long it takes to get published. I also remember thinking, not for me. I’ll be different. I’ll finish my first manuscript, send out one query letter and become wildly successful…that was four long years ago.

In those early days I was looking at writing as a get rich quick scheme. [Insert laughter here.]  Truthfully, when I started writing my first manuscript I just wanted to pay off my car. I was a stay at home mom and needed the extra income to help my family make ends meet. I thought I could put a story together, throw it out into the world on submission and the money would start rolling in. They would even option my book for a movie! I would be famous! This plan had worked well for a small handful of writers in the world, why not me?  I don’t think I’m alone in the lies I told myself. All writers do it, thinking you’ll write one manuscript and hit it big, win the first contest you enter, sign with an agent from your first pitch. I admit my delusion on this subject lasted into my second manuscript—before I rewrote it and then rearranged it 3 times. At some point along the way I fell in love with the writing of these characters, seeing the plots come together and the publishing industry as a whole. I wanted this to be my career, my life and I wanted it all right now. Enough with the waiting game!

It wasn’t until a family get-together much later and a talk with my brother that my view changed. He’d just finished reading Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. He told me about the rule of 10,000 hours. Basically, according to the study in this book, it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert on any given topic in life, 10,000 hours to rise above the pack and reach success. So, of course, being the OCD girl that I am, I immediately sat down with a calculator. Where was I? How far did I have to go to reach the point of success? How many more hours would I put in before some fabulous NY publisher would track me down and demand I publish my amazing stories? But, calculators tell no lies…I discovered if I write like it’s my job or 40 hours per week, I’d hit 10,000 hours after 4.8 years.

It struck me that this endeavor I’d started with the thought that I would be an overnight success was actually more like going back to college.

I also found some comfort in the fact that when put into those terms, I was a junior in this college scenario. This meant one day I would graduate. One day I would get a job that paid real money! I would have readers and books! Digital books, paper books, whatever, but books nonetheless! Real books! I still keep this definition in the back of my mind and pull it out when I’m anxious for the phone to ring and the next step to finally happen. You see, I’m a senior now. I signed with my fabulous Agent, Michelle Grajkowski, in May. And, I’m waiting for the phone to ring all over again, only this time with the news I’ve worked so hard to get for 4 years now. I want to hear those words that are so sacred, I’m afraid to even type them here in print. I want to graduate to publication; but while I wait, my stomach clinching at every ring of my cell phone and blinking red light of my email, I’m writing. So, my advice is this: never stop writing. Never stop learning. Keep going and you’ll hit your graduation day. Just write your story! Then write another one. And still another. And another…

How many hours have you been writing? What year are you in within this college of writer life? I’d love to chat with you about your journey.

XX –  E. Michels

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