Sending Messages Back in Time

I sometimes blog about things I’ve learned along the way about writing and publishing. I don’t do this because I consider myself an authority. Further, I believe so many different ways exist of approaching these things that anyone presenting themselves as an authority, or their advice as definitive, is probably not to be trusted or believed.

I write about these things partly because it’s fun to look back at my own entries from years ago and see how much I’ve progressed. The biggest reason is that I remember how useful it was, when I was much less experienced myself, to find blogs in which more experienced people explained things they’d come to understand along the way.

In particular I remember blog entries by Paolo Bacigalupi, Jay Lake, Elizabeth Bear and Laird Barron, back in the last 2000s. Blogs about process, about gradual breakthroughs and continuing frustrations. I remember meeting Jay Lake and David Levine at a writers’ retreat and being surprised to hear they both still often received rejections (at the time, Lake was being published everywhere, and Levine had won a Hugo award) and still experienced their share of defeats.

On social media it sometimes seems people are posting everywhere all about their latest acceptances and upcoming publications. People don’t talk nearly so much about their rejections. I think in fragile moments, a writer may be tempted to believe they’re the only one still getting rejected among their peers and the writers they follow and admire.

Anybody can fall into the trap of thinking, “Now that I’ve begun to get some traction, and found some editors who like what I do, I’ll never fail again.” When you find this isn’t true, that it isn’t so easy, it can be painfully disruptive to a developing writer’s confidence.

The bottom line is that making any progress as a writer is much harder than anyone imagines in advance than it might be. Once you start publishing a little, building on early successes will take a longer time and more arduous toil than you might guess.

Even if you work harder than ever before, improve your skills, refine your voice, write better stories, and get your name out there in front of new editors and publishers, advancement will still probably be slow and halting.

If the improvement is real and your diligence doesn’t wear down, that hoped-for progress will be made. Just nowhere near as easily, as quickly or as smoothly as you might hope.

Keep going anyway. Work harder. Don’t stop.

Maybe I can’t send this message back to myself in 2011 or 2012, when I could’ve really used it. At least I can leave it here for someone who’s at the right stage in their progress to possibly find these observations of some use.

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