I’ve been getting really frustrated lately. In all honesty, I’ve been frustrated almost since I started writing. Writing, indeed, seems like one long exercise in frustration. When you think everything is going swimmingly, it seems to be an almost sure-fire sign that you haven’t the first clue about what you’re doing. The minute you get said clue, everything becomes so freaking hard. Every little thing becomes a struggle and every time you look up thinking, oh thank god, at least that’s that sorted, you see someone in front of you who was apparently born knowing all of this and just published their thirteenth book to rave reviews.
Or am I the only one who feels that way?
Oh well, I’ll assume you recognise this feeling (otherwise this would be a very short blog post – “Oh, you don’t feel that? Excellent. Carry on.”) and continue.
The thing is, with maths you know when you’re improving. You get addition and subtraction, multiplication and division. Long multiplication and long division take a little longer (I was about 25 when I finally mastered long division – please don’t ask why I was still trying at that age) and then you hit things like quadratic equations. Geometry. CALCULUS. There is an order of progression. If you can do calculus, it’s pretty safe to say you’ve mastered 1+1.
But the arts aren’t like that. There are people out there who, having not just written but released books, appear to have only the skimpiest awareness of spelling rules, but we’ll gloss over that for the moment.
My point is, with the arts you often don’t realise you’ve achieved what you’d set out to until someone comes up to you in tears, goes down on their knees and begs you to kill them because they just finished your book and they’ll never read anything better so they might as well end it now and by your hand would be the most fitting way.
(No, this has never happened to me. But I have high hopes.)
Okay, seriously. You have goals. You want to be published. Read. Appreciated. Admired? Maybe. Loved? Maybe. So you work at it. You blog. You write. You go on social media. You attend cons. You talk to people. Or slur to people, depending on how much time you’ve been spending in the bar at the aforementioned cons. And you keep writing. And from time to time (or every ten minutes if you’re me) you look around and think…
OH MY GOD EVERYONE I KNOW IS GETTING PUBLISHED OR HAS AN AGENT OR HAS RELEASED THEIR THIRD BOOK AND WHAT AM I DOING WRONG???
And then you get invited to submit to an anthology because one of the friends you made via social media or a con knows someone who’s putting one together. Or one of the friends you made via social media or a con is putting an anthology together and asks if you’d like to submit. Or you get introduced to someone’s agent and someone else’s editor (this happens a LOT at cons) and suddenly you look around and realise you’re going to be published. Or that you have someone waiting to look at your work because someone else told them you were good and worth looking at.
Maybe these things haven’t happened to you yet, but they will.
If you keep working.
I don’t know if there’s a mathematical model of it (there probably is) but it seems if you put a consistently high level of effort into something, eventually you will see returns. This is probably the origin of the saying “Practice makes perfect”. It doesn’t just apply to tying your shoelaces. It applies to everything, particularly artistic endeavours. If you keep writing, and working at your craft, your writing will get better. If you keep putting yourself out there and talking to people and meeting people, you will get known. People will know you because, apart from anything else, you’re there to know. You’re visible.
And one day you’ll look around and realise, you are the person getting published. You are the person with an agent and an editor.
And if you’re me you’ll then bitch that you obviously aren’t working hard enough because THAT WOMAN HAS EIGHTEEN BOOKS OUT WHY DIDN’T I START WRITING SOONER? But in general you’ll realise all your hard work up to that point has finally paid off. You can’t see it building up. You only see the result. So keep on working, because those results are building right now. You just can’t see them yet.