Excuses Excuses Excuses

I believe that sometimes we (authors) are our own worst enemies.

To become a specialist in any occupation a certain amount of time, effort and investment is expected. Yet, as authors we seem to jump in with both feet, do nothing to prepare ourselves for the business aspect of our chosen career and then blame all of our troubles on a fickle little muse.

Why not take a break from the world you’ve created and take a few moments to assess where you are and where you’re headed (career-wise).  If you are serious about becoming and remaining a published author you cannot fly by the seat-of-your-pants and expect to realize your full potential.

You want to become a published author, but have you ever invested the necessary time to find out whether you have marketable talent?  Have you entered contests, joined critique groups, had your work evaluated by a professional editor?  How much time and effort are you willing to expend on your dream?  Your answer to this one simple question could very well be the answer to what stands between you and a successful publishing career.

“I’ve tried,” you might say. “I’ve sent my work and been rejected,” you moan.  But, have you evaluated the feedback, made changes and resubmitted or did you allow your own misgivings to stand between you and your dream.

I am speaking from a fair amount of experience.  My own publishing career began just a few short weeks after high school graduation.  I was definitely on the right track after one of my teachers encouraged me after I took a short story writing class he taught.  Young, inexperienced and full of self-motivation, I was at the beginning of what I knew would be my own successful life and was anxious to get started.  I sought out a writer’s conference, sent my little novella in for a critique that would tell me if I had marketable talent (or so the brochure said).  I then packed my bags and headed for the conference.  I was the youngest writer in attendance and scared half to death.  I wanted to know if I had even a spark that could be developed into a publishing career.  What I found out was that the author who critiqued my work had just won a big award, was multi-published and from the way he talked to the author just ahead of my appointment, not at all afraid of hurting anyone’s feelings… Again, I was terrified.  The first thing out of his mouth when I sat down was “I have never read anyone else’s work that reminded me of my own writing at your age.”  To say I was shocked would be an understatement.  I left that conference elated and determined to take the publishing world by storm!  I would be the next brilliant author and future literature classes would study my words and dissect them as I had the classics.

Instead, I let what another attendee and author told me influence the course of my career, make me second guess myself and delay.  You know it doesn’t take much to discourage a young person or an author.  This woman was also multi-published and I took a class on writing romance that she taught.  After the class she laughed and said “Honey, you need to go out and live a little before you can write about it!”  Alas, an excuse…something I could tell myself when I should have been writing and when I should have been moving forward toward the goal.

Ok, you say, you are confusing me!  Didn’t you just say that we should find out if we have talent… Why, yes I did!  My point is that once you do that you have two choices: move on, or collect excuses.

For me, that was the first excuse.  I should live a little before I could write about it. (I was convinced that talent, research and a love for the craft were less important than being old)  I soon found out that just because you are old does not mean that you can write nor does being younger mean that you can’t.  Unfortunately, by the time I realized that I was on to another excuse.  Impatience, I convinced myself that just because I wasn’t making money with each proposal or query I sent out, I should just not send any more.  Just because the agents and editors had response times that were slower than Christmas, I had a great excuse to just do nothing.  Sure, I sent out the occasional query, contest entry and proposal, but then I just waited and waited and ran a business because we did after all have to eat.

Just about the time I joined a local writers group and really got serious about my career again I had a baby and therefore another really good excuse.  Life literally, took over, but I did find a way to use my writing to make money.  I began publishing local magazines and it was great. I was finally making money with my writing.  I discovered that I could write small non-fiction titles, put them on the internet and still make money off some of my earlier careers.  I am still making money off many of these ebooks.  These were long before Kindle or Nook and sold anywhere I could advertise them.  My fiction, however, lingered in musty boxes and on forgotten computer disks only to see the light of day on occasion When I was feeling nostalgic about my longed for career as a storyteller I’d pull them out look at them and play around for a while then ultimately put them away.

I know that I have been my own enemy, a slave to the whims of life that face each of us.  Once someone told me that I was more afraid of success than I was of failure, looking back I believe there is truth in that statement.

I can’t say that no one ever believed in me.  My advice to you is to allow yourself to believe in what you want to do and just do it.  I’m not advocating that you abandon your familial responsibilities. I’m suggesting that you organize yourself so that while you are carrying out those responsibilities your queries and proposals are always out there.  Learn to multi-task so that you don’t waste time afraid of the time you’re wasting.  I haven’t used my time wisely. I should have been writing while I was waiting. I should have looked into e-publishing of fiction earlier. There are a lot of things that I should have done or could have done and I would probably be writing this as more of a seasoned author instead of a debut fiction author, but then I you wouldn’t be able to benefit from my experience and might be destined to repeat some of the mistakes I made along my own pathway to success.  So, I don’t believe in fretting over what might have been.  I have learned that you miss the joys of the present if you are still living in the past.

I hope that this blog post will help you move forward, reach for the stars and find your own happily ever after wherever that may be.

If you enjoy a little suspense, and don’t mind a love story in the mix, I hope you’ll consider reading the excerpt of my debut novel. It’s a time travel romance with plenty of plot and twists and turns that will keep you guessing.  ISLAND OF SECRETS has finally found a home as an electronically published novel that currently has five stars at Amazon.com. It’s been in the top 100 in Books-Romance-Time Travel several times since it was released and I’m pretty excited that after all of these years I ran out of excuses and did something about the career I dreamed of way back in high school. I encourage you to do the same….

Happy Writing, Tammie Clarke Gibbs

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