Sunday, April 5, 2009

Legitimizing Writing

All my life, well, since I began writing stories intelligibly, I have had to deal with individuals who don't grasp the concept of the creative writing process.

When I was a child, I wrote stories for fun - mostly fan fiction. My parents and teachers would become frustrated with me for writing all the time. At first they were encouraging, but when I filled notebook after notebook and used up dozens of typewriter ribbons, they didn't praise as much. I'd get caught writing in class and be scolded for it, even though I never made less than a "B" until I reached college. Friends helped here. They read and enjoyed my stories, and pushed me to write more of them, and of course, my inner muse wouldn't shut up.

In college, my parents would ask what I planned to DO with all these stories. I told them, "Nothing. It's for fun." Fan fiction, after all, is not something one can usually sell. I kicked around the idea of submitting some of my Ninja Turtles stories (yes, I WAS unusual in college) to the comic book which was very hot at the time, but I never did. And then I got the idea for a series of novels of my own creation, fleshed out the ideas and added characters conceived by a close friend, and started writing them. She even wrote with me for a time, though her calling was in veterinary medicine, and she eventually didn't have the time for it. (This would become the Agency Files series.) My parents were not particularly pleased when I chose Creative Writing as a college major. They couldn't believe I could make a living at it. And they were right, at least at that time. I got my teaching certification as a fallback.

Now that I am an adult, I get the impression that my "hobby" confuses some of my peers. Fortunately, I am in education, and a lot of teachers seem to have the "writing bug." They "get it." But there are always a few who want to know why I don't just self-publish. I could be published tomorrow, they tell me. Yes, that's true. But what's the point?

Now, don't misunderstand me. Self-publishing is perfect for a lot of writers who simply want to see their work bound in a nice, presentable cover that they can give to friends and family. And there are certainly those success stories about a self-published book rocketing to the top of the Bestseller List. But those are much, much rarer than many new writers know. And unless you have the funding to self-promote your self-published book, it becomes virtually impossible to do anything with it. AND, once it's self-published, almost no legitimate agent or publisher will touch it.

But for me, it's also about what others think. (Yes, I know. Writing is an art. We should do it because we love it, not because we are trying to please other people. And we should believe it's good because we created it.) Right. Sure. All that aside, I want someone else, someone well-respected in this crazy business, to tell me it's good. This has already happened to me several times with contest judges, author friends, agents, and agents' assistants. Those people have kept me going. I appreciate my husband's and friends' praise, too, but it's not quite the same as having a professional tell you you can write. Now, if I can only convince an agent to like it enough to take it on, and a publisher . . .

Ironically, now, my parents are behind me again. They've bought into my dream and ask me every time we talk how the writing is going. I think they needed to see the professionals praising it as well. They still don't quite grasp that the house doesn't get cleaned on "writing days," though. Ah well.

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