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Happy Writer Guest: Eileen Cook

[To find an example of a funnier, more dedicated writer, look no further than my pal, Eileen Cook!  Her books are fabulous and her attitude and drive to write and keep writing are to be emulated whenever possible.  Hope you’re all as inspired as I was by her guest post.  – Shannon]

Every writer I know, including myself, has quit at least once. Many have quit multiple times. “I’m not going to take this (insert swear word of choice here) anymore!”   Quitting may be accompanied with excessive wine consumption, crying, and/or flinging oneself down on the bed in a dramatic “Go on without me- I’m not going to make it” type manner.

The reasons writers talk about quitting vary, but rarely have to do with the craft of writing. It’s usually a failure to get an agent, a book that didn’t sell, a book that sold, but had “disappointing sales.”  Someone may have been dropped by their publishing house, or gotten a review so blistering it could have been used to remove paint.  There may have been a query or pitch that got a lousy response (or worse yet-no response) or a letter from a reader who took the time to write because they wanted you to know just how much they hated your last book. Sometimes an unlikely writer has multiple lousy events pushing them towards the edge.

A writer friend told me, writing is craft, but publishing is a casino.  You might be able to play the odds to increase your chances of success, but there is still an element of luck.  If you plan to stay in the casino you have to accept that you can’t win all the time and your ability to win may have NOTHING to do with your actions.  You might go on an extending losing streak, that’s the way the dice bounce. Just because you may win once doesn’t mean the next hand of cards will be as nice. For me the trick to remaining happy in the casino of publishing, or at the very least content, was a change of perspective.

If you are smart enough, and hard working enough, to write an entire book, you have the ability to pursue a wide range of occupations.  Many of these professions will have regular working hours, a steady income and possibly even benefits. (Some jobs even provide free donuts!)  Since I could do other things, and I continue to return to writing, this means- I AM CHOOSING TO BE A WRITER.  I can’t control what happens to me on my publishing journey, but it is my choice to keep going.

I write because I love the process of creating stories.  I like making up characters and living in a world of my own imagination.  I love the “a-ha!” moment when a critical story element clicks into place.  I like when I crack myself up with my own writing. I get giddy when I have a new story idea, and I am in awe with how much I can still learn that makes my writing better. The truth is, I’ve worked in other fields, but none of them have been as much fun as writing.

I write because I love it, because I can’t imagine doing anything else.  I choose to stay in the casino, but this means accepting that I don’t get to win all the time. I could leave, but I choose not to.  This mental shift moves me away from feeling that publishing is something that happens to me, and instead reminds me that I’m the one in control.

I do this work because I want to, even though that means accepting that there may be days (or weeks, or months) when it isn’t going well.  When that happens I focus on what I like about writing.  I remind myself why I choose to do this work. I stop thinking about the casino of publishing and remind myself that it’s supposed to be about the craft. I may not control the publishing, but I do control the writing.

Remind yourself- what is it that you love about the process of writing? Why do you choose it?

Eileen Cook is a multi-published author with her novels appearing in six different languages. She spent most of her teen years wishing she were someone else or somewhere else, which is great training for a writer.  Her latest release, Unraveling Isobel, is out in Jan 2012.

You can read more about Eileen, her books, and the things that strike her as funny at www.eileencook.com.  Eileen lives in Vancouver with her husband and two dogs and no longer wishes to be anyone or anywhere else.

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