In spite of the title, this post is really intended to encourage you. :)
My friend Beth Bates lives in the Indianapolis area, and through her I have been lucky enough to meet, in one way or another, several of her friends, writerly folk she knows from her time spent at Butler University getting an MFA. Smart, interesting, delightful, all of them.
A few years ago I went to a writers’ conference in Indy. At that point, I’d published a handful of short stories and was several years deep into a novel, but didn’t have much to show for that project—no end in sight, no agent, and certainly no contract. I felt low, lost, a never-would-be. Sitting in the middle of an auditorium, I looked at the people on the stage for a panel discussion, the Real Authors, lit by footlights, and I thought: God, what I wouldn’t do to be up there instead of out here in the dark. What I wouldn’t do to be one of them.
After the panel discussion was over, the rest of the audience got up to leave, but I just sat there. I was tired, in every sense. And then something strange happened.
The panelists climbed down from the stage and settled into the comfortable seats of the auditorium. I pretended to study my program. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but the acoustics in there were incredible and—okay, I meant to eavesdrop. I’m glad I did, too, because what I heard changed the way I look at writing.
One woman who had six novels to her credit talked about how she was setting aside a book she’d been working on for ten years. “It’s just not going to work,” she said. A guy with more than a couple serious prizes to his credit said that he had more books out of print than in print. Another guy, a prolific crime writer, told the others that his publisher had just canceled his contract. He said, “I don’t know if I’ll ever write another book.”
This wasn’t energetic bitching. They were just reporting the news. They sounded tired, too. …
When I hear about other people’s troubles, especially if they’re somehow related to my own, it makes me feel less alone. When I found out that these writers—Real Writers! With Actual Books!—were eating a shit-ton of failure, I felt totally relieved. Oh, thank goodness, I thought. I’m not the only one.
It’s true: writing is hard work—and even “real” writers struggle with it. There’s plenty more where that came from. You should definitely read it. And you can connect with Furuness on Tumblr or Twitter.
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